Graduating seniors to enter religious life, discern Holy Cross priesthood
Claire Reid | Friday, May 21, 2021
Director of the Office of Vocations for the Congregation of Holy Cross Fr. John DeRiso can often be found in the Duncan or LaFortune Student Centers, where he meets with Notre Dame students interested in discerning their vocation. DeRiso invites students who express interest in the priesthood or in religious life to consider the Congregation of Holy Cross. Each year, about two or three graduating seniors enter formation and so take the next steps toward discerning their vocation to Holy Cross priesthood, according to DeRiso.
This year, three graduating seniors will continue to discern religious life through the Moreau Seminary’s postulant and novitiate programs.
One of these seniors is Jacob Gorman, a joint philosophy and theology major from Evansville, Indiana. Gorman spent his time at Notre Dame as an Old Collegian — three years in the Old College Undergraduate Seminary and this past year in the Moreau Seminary’s one-year postulant program.
Rather than living in a typical dorm community, as an Old Collegian, Gorman lived in Old College by St. Mary’s Lake near the Grotto, alongside other Notre Dame and Holy Cross College undergraduates discerning and preparing for a vocation in the Holy Cross priesthood.
“You’re living in a very intentional community, a group of guys who are discerning and praying together, who are trying to explore God’s calling in their life,” Gorman explained.
Although the Old Collegians seek to form intentional community through a schedule that includes nights of prayer and formation, Gorman said they get to have a typical Notre Dame experience as well.
“We take classes with all the other undergraduates on campus. We have friends in the dorms. We can go to University events. We can play on intramural teams,” Gorman said. “So, a lot of the aspects of the Notre Dame experience are still things that we go through.”
Gorman said some of his favorite Notre Dame memories include going to football games, late night hangouts and bonfires with the men he has met through the Seminary. Like him, Gorman said, many of these young men felt called to the priesthood from a young age.
“It varies from guy to guy,” Gorman said. “But I’d say the typical experience… at least for the Old Collegians and for me, kind of around high school, you kind of feel a little stirring. You fall in love with something.”
For Gorman, that stirring occurred during his first year of high school.
“I got involved in my youth group. I had a really amazing group of friends,” Gorman recalled. “I was introduced to a strong prayer life, and that’s where I fell in love with Christ.”
As Gorman’s faith continued to grow throughout his high school years, he realized he wanted to pursue a future path that combined the things he values most.
“I knew that education was really important to me. I knew that family was really important to me. And I knew that the Church was really important to me,” Gorman said. “And when I was kind of looking around, I found Holy Cross. I found this community of priests and brothers who combine education, family, church and mission.”
After graduating, Gorman will advance in his formation journey from postulant to novice. He will enter the Holy Cross novitiate program near Colorado Springs for a year of prayer and discernment, largely removed from the distractions of the world.
“It’s a place where guys go and give up lots of things [such as] phones, and they have periods of silence,” Gorman said. “But it’s a time of really deep prayer and really intentional community, so that you can kind of discern ‘Do I want to take the vows, do I want to enter into this life?’”
If Gorman completes his novitiate year in Colorado, he will return to the Moreau Seminary and take temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He will renew these vows every year for four years and then he will have the opportunity to make those vows permanent. If he permanently takes the vows, he will be ordained a Holy Cross priest shortly thereafter.
Eddie Donnelly is another senior discerning the Holy Cross priesthood. Unlike Gorman, Donnelly did not spend his undergraduate years living in Old College.
A resident of Zahm Hall until this semester, Donnelly has majors in theology and classics. Additionally, Donnelly — who has been playing the piano since childhood and began taking voice lessons while at Notre Dame — will graduate with a minor in Liturgical Music Ministry. He said his favorite undergraduate experience has been being a member of the Notre Dame Drumline.
Following graduation, Donnelly will enter the Seminary’s one-year postulant program — the program which Gorman is currently taking part in — and begin the formation process.
Donnelly, too, said he felt called to the priesthood from a young age. He recalled an interaction he had when he was 5 years old, in which someone told him he would make a good priest.
“Five is a really strange time to hear that, but ever since then it stuck with me,” Donnelly said.
During his first year of high school, Donnelly said he met young, charismatic priests who made the vocation seem accessible to him for the first time.
“I also saw a group of Benedictines praying the Divine Office, which is the prayer of the Church,” Donnelly recalled. “It was in that moment that I felt like ‘I can see myself doing that.’”
By the end of high school, Donnelly said, he felt called to study theology. When choosing a university, he looked no further than Notre Dame. It was the only school he applied to. However, the New Jersey native was not initially accepted.
“I was mad for about 10 minutes,” Donnelly said. “And then, I remembered this guy Rudy did this thing where he went to a different school, then ended up at Notre Dame. So, I filled out the Holy Cross College application.”
The next day, Donnelly received a phone call from the College’s president, Fr. David Tyson. Through Tyson and others, Donnelly was introduced to the Congregation of Holy Cross.
“I got the privilege of getting to know the brothers of Holy Cross really well,” Donnelly said. “I lived with them for a summer, and got to discern the priesthood with a group of brothers.”
After his first year at Holy Cross, Donnelly transferred to Notre Dame.
Then, last year, just before the onset of the pandemic, he met with DeRiso to discuss his desire to serve as a priest. With DeRiso’s guidance, Donnelly applied to the Seminary and was accepted into the postulant program.
After graduation, he will move to Moreau Seminary — which he can see from his residence at the Sacred Heart Parish Center.
“I’m most looking forward to the community,” Donnelly said. “Living with a bunch of brothers bound by the Congregation of Holy Cross, praying together, living together and discerning God’s call together.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Eddie Donnelly had a joint theology and philosophy major. Donnelly is graduating with majors in theology and classics and a minor in Liturgical Music Ministry. The Observer deeply regrets this error.