Graduates enter postulant program, discern joining Congregation of Holy Cross
Cate Von Dohlen | Friday, May 17, 2019
As graduates of the class of 2019 leave Notre Dame’s campus to move towards their professional lives, some will simply be hopping across the St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s Lakes to Moreau Seminary where they will join the Congregation of Holy Cross’ postulant program. The program is the first step in the process of discernment related to joining the priesthood.
Fr. Neil Wack, vocations director for the Congregation of Holy Cross, said postulants have made the first commitment towards joining the religious community.
“[They are] not officially part of the community yet, but they are in the process,” Wack said. “They have been accepted, they have gone through the holy application process, but they have not taken vows yet.”
Senior Chris Mulholland, who will graduate with a degree in electrical engineering before becoming postulant, said the purpose of the program is to help postulants discern whether the novitiate is right for them.
This year, either nine or 10 men from the tri-campus community and other walks of life will form the new postulant group, he said. Some are current students at Notre Dame who will move to the Moreau Seminary directly from Old College for their senior year.
Before coming to Notre Dame as a freshman, Mulholland said the question of religious life was already something he already considered since he grew up in a religious family surrounded by members of the clergy.
“For a lot of people, I think examples of priests and religious [figures] are what draws them [to the religious life],” he said.
Though Mulholland was familiar with the priesthood and religious orders, he said he had never been around Holy Cross priests prior to attending Notre Dame. Mulholland said he appreciates the consistency throughout Holy Cross clergymen despite a wide range of personalities.
“There was a very consistent theme with all of them,” Mulholland said. “[They are] very committed people who really lived out the mission that they represented.”
Mulholland said much of his discernment process in the past few years involved asking himself questions surrounding his vocation.
“I realized early on in college that for me to answer that question, I was going to have to grow in knowledge of self,” he said. “That came from generally maturing, prayer, staying close to the sacraments … and also talking to people about it.”
Mulholland also said the spiritual direction he received from an adviser at Notre Dame was a crucial part of his discernment.
“Once a month, I had to articulate my thoughts, and most of the time, I surprised myself with what I said,” Mulholland said. “By going consistently, it was a way of tracking my progress.”
In the end, Mulholland said his calling would never go away unless he addressed it. Entering the postulant program is another step in a longer process.
“It’s not like you do all this discernment, and then when you’re done with the discernment, you enter the seminary,” he said.
Wack said it is important for people to recognize everything from discernment to entering the religious life is a process.
“Part of the stumbling block for people when they are considering a vocation to be a religious brother or sister or priest is that they think they have to have it all figured out,” Wack said. “But really what you are discerning is if God is calling you to spend one year looking at this a little deeper in formation.”
Wack also said the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Church can be a challenge for some postulants, but the men he talked to hope to be a part of the solution.
“They acknowledge the awfulness of [the crisis], but they also see a real desire to be part of the solution because they have experienced a lot of goodness in the Church,” Wack said. “I think those that have been drawn to it, it has made them all the more determined [to follow a vocation].”