A Presumption of Permanence

When did you first know that you were called to the priesthood?

Thank you for your question. Honestly, in some ways, I don’t believe that I will really know whether I am called to be a priest until the act of ordination. At that moment there will be no doubt about God’s will. Before ordination there is always some degree of uncertainty. Every candidate for the priesthood is called to do one’s best to listen for God’s will in his life, and, further, the Church as a whole is called to do its best to listen as well. Both the candidate and the Church need to make a "yes" for ordination to take place.

Nevertheless, as a man considers the priesthood and enters into and progresses through the seminary, there is the expectation that he will grow in what is known as the "presumption of permanence." He should increasingly grow in commitment to the priestly vocation, turning himself over to Christ to be formed in what is necessary for the priesthood. Like most other men considering the priesthood, this is something with which I wrestle and in which I am continuing to grow.

Personally, it is hard to identify any single particular moment when that journey first began. I do know that when I was in fifth grade I wrote in a school project that I was interested in becoming a priest. I also know that during high school there were moments when that thought came back; though, I had no idea about where to go with that thought. I didn’t feel called to a normal career, and I knew that I wanted to serve God in a special way. When I was in college I struggled a lot with my faith; however, I still wanted to be open to God’s will in my life. I attended a couple of "seminary sprints" (weekend trips to nearby seminaries) that the Newman Center at the University of Illinois organized, and I also visited a few religious congregations, including the Jesuits and the Benedictines. Through these visits it was clear that I wasn’t at a point in my life where I felt comfortable making a decision one way or the other, and I chose to pursue opportunities for service and mission. Towards the end of my time in Ethiopia I took a private retreat, and it was during that time of prayer I felt that it was the moment to make a step. I felt comfortable and at peace about the possibility of entering into formation. It was not long after that retreat that I contacted the Archdiocese of Chicago to express my interest in submitting an application to enter formation for the diocese.

Stephen Lilly

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