Announcing – New Blog and Website!

October 21, 2014

new re blog 2014
We are pleased to announce the launch of the new The Rome Experience website and blog!  (This blog will no longer be updated.)  Please visit us at:  Grazie!


“Postcards” from the Class of 2014

June 9, 2014


I refer to the following three highlights as “The Triduum”:

Sunday, June 1, 2014
After going to Mass at a beautiful Franciscan church just to the side of St. Peter’s Basilica, I along with a few others went to the Regina Caeli led by the Holy Father at St. Peter’s Piazza. I have never been to Rome nor seen the Holy Father in person so I was excited to see the Pope – though not as much as I had anticipated. About five minutes before the Pope was scheduled to appear, I distanced myself from the group and began to pray on what is the significance of seeing the Pope in person is. (The fruit of this prayer is posted below.) Then, as he made his appearance from the window of the Papal Apartments, I found myself having to hold back the cheers I wanted to express for the Holy Father. I found myself with arms up welcoming the Holy Father as he looked at us from his window.

It was the solemnity of the Ascension and he spoke that day of God’s continual presence with us – in particular, he mentioned those persecuted Christians who suffer so much quietly. He asked us all gathered in the piazza if we believe that God is with us. He asked us this same question twice and then had us say out loud: “The Lord is with us!” The Pope also said that Christ offers his wounds to the Father and so we must do the same.

Monday, June 2, 2014
On Monday, Fr. Roger Landry from the diocese of Fall River, led us on tour in St. Peter’s Basilica. We had Mass in the crypt of the Basilica. While the whole morning was full of blessings, I particularly would like to share the experience of participating in the Scavi Tour. This tour is of the excavations that have been done under the structure of St. Peter’s. We walk through what was once the necropolis next to Nero’s Circus. The highlight of the whole tour is the sight of the bones of St. Peter. We stood about 10 feet from where they were returned (where they were originally located) after being examined after they were discovered. They are kept in a see-through container.

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Reflections from the Rome Experience Class of 2013

July 19, 2013

Top 5 Highlights of Week 6
Luis Pavon
Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Miami

1 – Saints . . . and more Saints

The first highlight of the week was really somewhat of a weeklong highlight. This last full week in Rome we were given plenty of free time in the afternoons. As such, I eagerly took advantage of these open time-slot opportunities to visit and pray at some particular churches in Rome that house the tombs of the saints. Among the many saints that I was able to “visit” were St. John Leonardi, St. Joseph Calasanz, Ss. Bartholomew, Ss. Philip and James, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi, St. Phillip Neri, Bl. Pius XI, St. Lawrence and St. Stephen.

Perhaps the most significant of these “visits” for me was the visit to the tombs of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen in the church of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls – this since I highly esteem these two saints. Indeed, their zealous love for the Lord has always particularly inspired me and, as such, I was eager to be able to pray to them and ask their intercession.

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Reflections from the Rome Experience Class of 2013

July 11, 2013

Basilica of Saint Agnes_06
A Review of The Rome Experience 2013

Matthew Biedrzycki
Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

It is about 6:00 AM on July 2nd and we have just arrived at the airport ready to begin our last day of travel on the Rome Experience. Since we’d embarked on our journey several weeks earlier we had traversed three countries, a mountain range, numerous major pilgrimage sites in Western Christendom, basilica after basilica after basilica, the tombs of martyrs, saints, confessors, popes and even found time to stop, pray and even eat some pretty good food along the way. We attended a general audience with Pope Francis, had the chance to pray with him as he celebrated the mass and Sunday Angelus. On its face the Rome Experience appeared a success and not a few of us were looking forward to sharing what we had learned and experienced with family and friends as we returned to the states.

On this last day of travel we were blessed with the opportunity to have Mass at the airport before setting out for home. Father’s homily that day threw our last several weeks of travel, pilgrimage and study into new relief. As Father began the homily he commented on the good fortune we had of hearing the Gospel passage where the Apostles cry to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” because their boat seemed ready to sink (Mt 8:25). Father said that the passage highlighted not only the trust we ought to have in Jesus, but also the importance of cultivating that relationship with him and his Church which truly was the focus of this experience. He highlighted a few of the major places we had been and memories we had made and reminded us that they will fade in time but it is that relationship with Jesus Christ that truly saves us and makes us the loving sons that God desires us to be.

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Rome Experience Alumni News – Class of 2011

May 6, 2013

Ron Cattany Ordination CardOrdained to the Priesthood

On May 18, 2013, Rev. Mr. Ron Cattany (Rome Experience Class of 2011) will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Our heartfelt congratulations!

May you always be a “faithful, devout, learned, committed, and happy priest” (St Josemaria Escriva).

May Our Lady,  Mother of God and Queen of Apostles, protect you always as you spend your life at the service of her Son, Jesus Christ, the eternal Priest.

Meet the Class of 2011

February 23, 2011

Rome Experience  2011 Seminarians:

AMTHOR, Bryan Christopher,  Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
CATTANY, Ronald Wayne, Archdiocese of Denver
DERIVERA, Raj, Diocese of Sacramento
DUQUAINE, Stephen James, Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana
GERNETKE, Christopher Edward, Diocese of Madison
HAVERLAND, Nathan Paul, Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas
KEEGAN, David Michael, Diocese of St. Augustine
KOSTER, Ryan William, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
KUSHAMBA, Tafadzwa Ronald, Diocese of Madison
LOVE, Lawrence, Diocese of Tyler, TX
MICALE, Christopher, Diocese of Burlington, VT
PULLIKUNNEL, Justin Z., Archdiocese of Kingston, Ontario, Canada
SANTOS, Jeremy, Diocese of Sacramento
SCHMITZ, Daniel Patrick, Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas
VALENTYN, Scott Daniel, Diocese of Green Bay
VOGEL, Curt Manuel, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph



Bryan Amthor

From seminarian Bryan Amthor:

   “You take care of the paperwork, and I’ll take care of the souls.”

I was born November 7, 1985 in Fairfax, Mo and baptized Catholic.  While growing up, my mother often took my brother and me to Mass on her own; my father was technically a Presbyterian at that time, though not really practicing any faith.

My brother, younger by three years, was my only sibling.  Living out on the farm, we generally had nobody but each other to play with, and let our imaginations run wild, using sticks as swords for “duels” in the yard.

During elementary school, my Catholic faith was not all that important to me; I was the only Catholic in my class and found CCD boring.  It was not until my current pastor arrived at St. Paul’s in Tarkio, MO, that things changed.  My mother, the parish secretary, introduced herself to Fr. Reginald, who told her, “You take care of the paperwork, and I’ll take care of the souls.” Later, I realized that remark was one of the first sparks of my vocation.

Fr. Reginald preached persistently about the need for priests, and I noticed, though I swore it wouldn’t be me.  As I learned through his homilies about the Real Presence, the Trinity and other aspects of the faith, I became more and more intrigued.  Finally, at the end of 8th grade, I told Fr. Reginald I felt I might have a calling; I’ve had his full support ever since.

During high school, my Dad converted to the Catholic faith, which was a very wonderful and healing experience for my family.

For three years, I attended Conception Seminary college, but needed further discernment and some growing up.  I transferred to Benedictine College in Atchison, KS where I was especially active in pro-life activity; during this time, I had a good friend who became pregnant out of wedlock.  Helping her opened my eyes to how hard it is to be a mother, and how unwed mothers are in dire need of support.

I think the Rome Experience will help me see the Church in a wider, more universal way, and help me love Christ and his Church more deeply.


From seminarian Ronald Cattany:

Ronald Cattany

Today I provide post-communion reflections; tomorrow, I will provide homilies.

My grandparents came to the US in the late 1870s from Italy and Austria.  My dad lived to age 94, my mom to 99 and a half. Though both came from families of 10 children, I am an only child and today have no immediate family but many close friends.

My parents actively lived their faith and made sure, on a very modest income, that I attended Catholic grade school and Jesuit high school.  By age 8, I said I would be a Catholic priest. That call was to be delayed by some decades, though I did not know it at the time.

The Catholic faith has always been at the center of my life – first through the example of my parents, and ultimately as a personal decision.  It is no coincidence that the two parishes to which I have belonged my entire life are dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

My mother had a particular devotion to Mother Cabrini – an Italian-born saint my maternal grandmother had met – and that devotion grew during some of my childhood illnesses.  For the last 12 years of my parents’ lives, I was their caregiver, and had the blessing of being with them when they went to be with the Lord.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in mineral engineering and a master’s in mineral economics.  For 35 years I was natural resource advisor to the last four Colorado governors and taught at the University of Denver.

Over the past 25 years, my volunteer work has included Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado – serving as board member, chairman, and member of the national governance council – and the Metro Denver Salvation Army, serving as chairman of the board and Board chair of its capital campaign. I am past District Governor of Serra USA which fosters vocations.  I served on my parish council. At 50, I asked the Lord what he wanted me to do next in life.  On Valentine’s Day, 2009, observing a small baptism at Mary’s Altar in Denver, I felt a sense of joy and consolation, and knew I was being called to the priesthood.

For 35 years, I have been a public speaker, historian and raconteur.  Today I provide post-communion reflections; tomorrow, I will provide homilies.  Italy is the center of my family heritage; now it is the center of my vocational heritage, and is as relevant to those to whom I minister as it is for me.

For Scripture to be relevant, it must be alive in one’s life, heart, mind, time and place.  The Rome Experience will provide that context.


From seminarian Raj Derivera:


Raj Derivera

He planned his life in detail, but God had a different idea

 My dad was in the Navy and my mother was an accountant.  Life with my older sister, parents and both grandmothers was rich with memorable experiences:  great meals, spontaneous vacations, board game nights – I truly felt I had a good foundation of love.  I was in Little League, volleyball and martial arts;  played trumpet, sang in choirs and was heavily involved in theater.  At 14, I assembled my first computer, which led to my later attempt at a computer science and engineering degree at the University of California.

My family always went to Sunday Mass together and prayed the Rosary, but it wasn’t until I was challenged on my faith that I grew deeper in love with it and with the Eucharist.  I began to notice my grandmother’s deep faith, and it inspired me.  I met great young priests and youth ministers, and people encouraged me to pursue the priesthood.

But the priesthood wasn’t necessarily attractive to me; my girlfriend, on the other hand, was.  She and I were introduced by a dear mutual friend; we went to prom together, and during college we happily prepared for a future together.  She was going to be a nurse, I an engineer.  We were going to have two kids, one dog, and season tickets to the San Diego Super Chargers.  That was our plan.  That was my plan.

It wasn’t His.

After our breakup, I thought again of the priesthood, but part of me said “wait”.  Soon after, I went to Cologne, Germany to celebrate World Youth Day with the Holy Father.  Part of the pilgrimage took us to Lisieuex, home of St. Therese.  As I prayed there, the words of the saint echoed in my heart, “At last I have found it …My vocation is love.”

For three more years, I dove back into my work.  Then during a Lenten retreat in 2008, more of St. Therese’s words came to me:  “I fear only one thing—to keep my own will.  Take it, my God, for I choose all that you choose.”  Through His grace, I am now a seminarian for the Diocese of Sacramento.


From seminarian Stephen Duquaine:

Stephen Duquaine

“I think you have a vocation”

I am one of eight children; my mother converted to Catholicism shortly after marrying my dad.  Though we went to Catholic school through 8th grade, my father wanted to make sure we were retaining what we learned, so he gave us weekly Catechism instruction. As a family, we had the habit of praying the Rosary every Sunday, and the Rosary quickly became an important part of my prayer life.  Of course my parents were and are great supporters of my vocation.

I have a great relationship with my siblings; because there are so many, I will only write about one.  Mike, two years older, was my playmate and closest friend growing up.  We shared a room, played sports and collected baseball cards together.  I looked up to him, and he continues to impress me with all the work that he does in the pro-life movement.

When I was younger, I didn’t think about being a priest, only that, unlike my brothers, I really enjoyed altar serving.  My brothers tried to get out of serving, whereas I looked forward to it!

Near the end of high school, I started thinking about the priesthood, but pushed it to the back of my mind because I was focused on college and winning a full scholarship.  When the winners were announced and I wasn’t one of them, I thought it was a sign that maybe God was directing me to the seminary instead of college.  I discussed it with my dad, who was encouraging but not overbearing, and left it up to me.  Finally, I decided to attend Purdue and figure things out there.

At Purdue, I quickly forgot about the vocation idea until one evening when I went to pray before the tabernacle.  At that moment, I heard God tell me for the first time that he wanted me to be a priest.  I was stunned, but sure that this was what I had to do.  Soon after this, one morning after daily Mass, a person I had never seen before approached and said, “I think you have a vocation.” This stunned me, since it was shortly after I had decided to pursue the priesthood, and I hadn’t told many people yet.  Despite all these signs, I began to get cold feet and grew anxious at the thought of taking the big step.  I told myself I would finish college and then enter seminary if God was still calling me.  During those three years, I attended a weekly Bible study and Benediction.  As a senior, I heard God’s call again and decided the time was right.  I graduate from Purdue in 2008 and started at Mount St. Mary’s seminary that August.

For about the last six years I have been very involved in the pro-life movement.  It seems more and more urgent to spread the message of life during this period in our country’s history, when young and old are both threatened by legislation that promotes a culture of death.  I think the Rome Experience will help me grow intellectually, spiritually, pastorally and as a friend, deepening my love for God, the Church and Sacred Scripture.


From seminarian Christopher Gernetke:

Christopher Gernetke

When the girl you want to date tells you you’d make a good priest – it’s a sign!

My mother always wanted to be a teacher, but when my five younger siblings and I were born, she realized God was calling her to be a stay-at-home teacher; she is now homeschooling my three sisters.  Though she has never said so, my mother has modeled her life after the Virgin Mary’s since I can remember.  My dad tells me often that he loves me and has made a strong effort to raise us well not only financially but morally, emotionally and spiritually. I thank both my parents for their love and their support of my vocation.

In eighth grade, I felt called to the priesthood, mostly because of the faithful and joyful example of Fr. Eric Nielsen, who was our pastor at the time and has always been a close family friend. However, I dismissed the call because my school peers  thought being a celibate priest was “stupid”.

I began dating as a high school junior and continued to date a few girls during college before it occurred to me I might not be called to married life. A girl I was interested in dating asked me about the Church’s teaching on abortion.  When I explained it to her, she told me I would make a really good priest.  This was hard to understand at the time, especially since I thought she realized I wanted to date her! I soon realized I needed to ask God what he created me for if I was to be happy.

One night as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in the campus chapel, I told the Lord I just wanted to know whether I was called to marriage or priesthood, because I still desired in my heart to be married.  But He told me, almost with an audible voice, to go into the seminary.  So I applied and was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison.  The Lord has since confirmed and strengthened me in His calling.  I look forward to The Rome Experience and regard the opportunity as a great honor.


From seminarian Nathan Haverland:

Nathan Haverland

A lifelong desire to know God

As I grew up, my family never went to Church, and God was rarely spoken of.  Both my mother and stepfather had gone to Catholic schools, but fell away as teenagers.  Consequently, my sister and I were not baptized or educated about the faith.  In spite of this, I always seemed to have a desire to know God.  I can even clearly recall praying at night in my teens, especially during high school, even though I was never taught to pray or how to do so.

During my freshman year at Benedictine College, I attended my first Mass.  I slowly began to learn and like the Catholic Church through the school’s required theology classes and through seeing true Catholic lives lived out on campus. While I studied physics and astronomy in college, my stepfather died in 2003 after suffering various illnesses for many years.  The same year, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and began chemo and irradiation therapy in 2004.

During the difficult summer of 2003, I decided to enter RCIA. On April 18, 2004, Divine Mercy Sunday, I entered the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist with great joy.  To my delight, my mother returned to the Church a short time later, after an absence of over 40 years.

Next, I went to the University of Michigan to do graduate study in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences.  I became very active in a young adults group at my parish, got to know the two parish priests fairly well, and began to see what priesthood truly was through them.  In 2006, I moved into a men’s house of discernment associated with the parish, where morning, evening and night prayer with the priests was a staple.  During my last year in Michigan, it seemed I couldn’t go a week without being asked if I was a seminarian, or whether I was thinking about becoming a seminarian.  Eventually, I took it as a compliment that people thought I would make a good priest.

Since entering Kenrick-Glennon seminary in 2007, I have become more certain each day of my vocation.  Recently, following a long illness, my mother passed away.  Though I had a full course load, I was able to be with her through much of her suffering and in her last days of life. The experience was a challenge, but one grace is that my sister and I have become closer. My mother was a wonderful lady, and was never shy about telling everyone she met that she had a son preparing for the priesthood.

By participating in the Rome Experience, I hope to become a man more closely conformed to Christ, the bridegroom, so that one day in the near future I may be a better priest.


From seminarian David Keegan:

David Keegan

I spent so many years running away; I am now filled with joy as I tirelessly run toward the Father.

I was born into a typical Catholic family in southern Louisiana.  I am the fifth of six children and would often ride my bicycle to serve at as many Masses as possible. My dad, a quiet, no-nonsense kind of guy, taught us the value of dedication and hard work.  My mom stayed at home and displayed a simple trust in the Church and her teachings – with a particular trust in St. Anthony, because with six children, something was always lost!

During second grade, I informed my classmates that I wanted to be a priest when I grew up, though I am not sure why, because this was never discussed at home.  Just before I entered sixth grade, my dad’s work transferred him to the heart of the Bible Belt in Alabama, and there was a loss of the explicitly Catholic culture we had in Louisiana.  My faith soon became more superficial — and I became good at compartmentalizing it.  As I grew older and started dating, and especially during college and beyond, the faith grew less and less important.  I never lost or denounced it; it just did not have a major impact on my daily decisions.  I was definitely part of the “me” generation.

That all changed when I moved from Birmingham, AL, to Jacksonville, FL.  I relocated to be closer to my parents, and at a local parish men’s retreat I met Catholic men who were living lives dedicated to the Church, their faith and their families.  My life has never been the same.

I dated in high school, assuming that I would one day marry, and as I let myself become more and more consumed by popular culture, my life was very self-directed.  But after the retreat, a transformation began inside me.  I would often hear the Lord’s voice gently saying, “David, be a priest”.  Once I got to know Him in a personal and profound way, the decision was easy.  I spent so many years running away; I am now filled with joy as I tirelessly run toward the Father.


From seminarian Ryan Koster:

Ryan Koster

Vocation support from Catholic and Protestant family members alike

A lifelong musician, I have played violin since I was three, and viola since age 16.  I have composed music and performed in countless concerts and at Masses, weddings and funerals.  Music is very important to me because it allows me to give to God and others, and I offer up my gift to His glory.

I attended a Jesuit high school, which brought the faith into my daily life. Liturgically, it was not very sound – but my family was, and this made me more conscious of the faith and what it meant.  At school, I also encountered many who were very anti-Catholic, and defending the faith against them made it more important to me.   I first felt the call in high school but paid little attention; lack of knowledge more than anything kept me away.  By the time I entered college, the call was too loud to ignore.  It was at an ordination that I felt the call most strongly.  At last, I got the information I needed and made the right choice.

Both the Catholic and Protestant sides of my family have been enormously supportive of my vocation; their constant encouragement is a blessing I am very happy to have.


From seminarian Tafadzwa Kushamba:

Tafadzwa Kushamba

Nuns taught him even the very young can be saints

Originally from Zimbabwe, I am the youngest in a family of three boys and two girls.  My Catholic education in Africa and the strong faith of my family helped me realize my calling to the priesthood.

In grade school we had Tuesday religion classes, and I remember very well the sisters always taught us we should imitate the saints.  Their teachings were about mainly young saints, and they would always challenge us children to be like them – and see that age should not be an obstacle to sainthood.  This helped me realize the importance of putting one’s trust in God and offering oneself to the mission with which Christ entrusts us at Baptism.

The desire to be a priest intensified when I graduated from high school.  My parish priest had a great influence on my vocation.  He always told me that, if you put all your trust in the Lord, nothing is impossible, and He will always be with you.  I also knew other priests and religious whose joy and holiness opened me to see the joy of the priesthood.  Speaking to them and sharing my feelings about my vocation helped me appreciate my call.


From seminarian Christopher Micale:

Christopher Micale

“Sojourn in the wilderness” led back to God, revealed hidden vocation

My vocation was a hidden one.  I grew up faithful, but distant from the priesthood.  My family has influenced me the most, beginning with my grandparents.  Their struggle in coming to the United States from Sicily, and their stories of hardships endured and obstacles overcome left a lasting impression on me, and the homespun practical wisdom and values they shared shaped who I am.

My parents  were  loving and lived holy lives, but never explicitly fostered the vocation to which the Lord has called me.  My parents fostered a spirit of unity, never giving preference to any one of their three sons, so we find it easy to support and communicate our feelings with one another.  This love and unity has been a great gift and comfort for us all.

During adolescence, I began to drift and seek other avenues to knowing Christ.  The journey home started by my asking one simple question:  who do I go to Church on Sunday?  I slowly concluded that, without the Eucharist, Sunday worship was empty and self-serving.  Without Christ’s presence, man is in danger of constructing a reality to his own liking and personal taste; he determines how to approach God rather than how to receive Him.

It was quite a sojourn in the wilderness. Returning to Mass one Sunday after many years, I immediately felt at peace; I was home again.  I became increasingly interested in theological, doctrinal and liturgical matters of my rediscovered Catholic faith.  One day, my parish priest asked me the all-important question, “Have you ever considered the priesthood?”  Upon reflection, I came to see that my lifelong quest to know and serve God was the strong indicator that He had been calling me all these years.


Lawrence Love

From seminarian Lawrence Love:

Showered with blessings

I was born in 1945 in Minnesota to a devoutly Catholic family of Irish and French Canadian descent.  Anyone  can do the math and arrive at the fact that I am 65 years old and a seminarian!  What marvelous things the Lord can do!

My Catholic faith has always been a huge part of my life. My father is a retired Navy aviator, so we moved often, and  my parents sacrificed to send me and my brother and sister  to Catholic schools. In college at the University of North Carolina, I was active in the Newman Club, and went on to medical school at the University of Miami in Florida.

After marriage, two children, nine grandchildren, active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a physician – first as flight surgeon, then ophthalmologist – and a 30 year private practice in Paris, Texas, my beautiful wife Nancy died suddenly in July 2007 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. For several years I had been discerning the permanent diaconate, and in January 2009, I entered formation for the Diocese of Tyler. Within four months, the Lord was calling me to discern a priestly vocation, and in fall of 2009, I was accepted into Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts.

While I can say that I have been blessed in never having left the Church, looking back at my spirituality in the past has shown me that it was not very deep at times, but that has changed drastically.  The Lord seems to want me in a priestly role anyway, and I am grateful, beyond my ability to express, for the opportunity to, in few years, become a priest of Jesus Christ, God willing.


From seminarian Justin Z. Pullikunnel:

                    A thrilling intellectual journey

My mother and father are both faithful Catholics. From the earliest age, they taught my brothers and me how to pray. And despite our teenage protestations, they demanded that we recite the Holy Rosary together as a family each evening after supper. They took us to Holy Mass each week, and encouraged us to become altar servers. They fostered respect for the clergy, making us visit our parish priest whenever we were beginning a new task (say, starting a new school year) or returning for the summer. They taught us to pray whenever we got in a car or in a special way, to the Blessed Virgin whenever we left for a long trip. They gave us illustrated Bibles as gifts, probably unaware the strong impact Holy Writ had on me as I read it under the covers with a flashlight much of the night.

Despite not being theologically well-versed, they imparted to us the importance of the Mass and the necessity of making a good confession. I always suspected my mom of receiving infused wisdom, because despite not having read many books on the spiritual life, she transmitted to me divine truths about humility and loving God foremost.  When I was 4 or 5 and was being tucked into bed by my mom, she kissed me goodnight and traced the sign of the cross three times across my forehead, as was her wont, then gave me an impromptu one-question quiz which I’ll never forget. “Who should you love the most?” she asked, “Mommy and Daddy or Jesus?” Sensing for the first time something of a dilemma or a trick question, I cautiously chose the former. “No, honey. You must love Jesus above everyone, including your dad and me. By choosing him first, you love and honor us. Never forget this.”

Growing up in the early and mid-eighties, we boys of course adored Michael Jackson and thus tried to emulate his style by holding dancing and singing competitions in our family room. As we got older, our camaraderie would be evident in sports, whether in playing basketball or soccer. Even now, our bonds are very strong.

Surprisingly, my Catholic faith became important to me when I went, of all places, to university. I attended McGill University in Montreal, and the first Sunday after my arrival, I remember lying in bed deliberating whether I should get up and go to Mass. I skipped Mass that Sunday and the next.  On my third Sunday in Montreal however, I did end up going to Mass, but only because a very attractive girl in my residence asked me to go with her. We ended up going to the Newman Center, and this was the start of my relapse back into the faith. At the Newman Centre I found a vibrant, young, orthodox community of fellow believers, and a welcoming space where young Catholics could feel supported and encouraged and nourished by each other in their faith. Very quickly, I began attending daily Mass, going to adoration and praying the Rosary. It was also the start of a thrilling intellectual journey that has lasted to this day, leading me take all my electives in the newly created Catholic Studies department and discovering the theological and spiritual giants of our faith along the way.

My parish priest invited me over to the rectory for a drink after the beautiful Easter Vigil Mass. Our conversation somehow turned to the state of the church, and as was my wont, I lamented the difficulties facing the Church in Canada, particularly the lack of vocations to the priesthood. I then remember this priest turning to me and asking, nonchalantly, “Well Justin, if guys like you don’t consider the priesthood, who the hell will?” The remark wasn’t meant or said with any depth or sorrow or gravity, but I immediately remember thinking to myself that, well, he did have a point. That single off-the-cuff remark, for whatever reason, really ended up turning the table back onto me. And the following morning, I had resolved to apply to talk to our diocesan vocation director.

From seminarian Jeremy Santos:

Jeremy Santos

Eucharist Adoration and a mission to Mexico made his vocation “click”

It took some time for my parents to get used to the idea that their son would become a priest. They were very surprised and didn’t understand why I wanted to enter the seminary.  Once I entered seminary, though, I started to see a change in their lives.  Their faith grew! My parents started praying the Rosary, and my Dad read books by Pope Benedict and was excited to tell me about them.  They are now very supportive.

But I did not always know Christ or have him at the center of my life.  Despite the faithfulness of my grandparents, who took me to daily Mass and taught me the basic Catholic prayers when I was a child, I felt I was missing something very important in my life; this became clear during a young adult retreat in 2006.  A month later, I attended Eucharistic Adoration for the first time.  It was then that everything “clicked” for me.  I understood Christ was truly present in the Eucharist, and I felt God was calling me closer to himself, calling me to serve Him as a priest.

In summer 2007, I went on a mission trip to Mexico with other young adults from our diocese.  We built two house, painted a convent and assisted the poor families of the village.  This trip confirmed my prayers, thoughts and feelings about entering seminary.  A newly ordained priest told me, “You can only discern so much in the world.  There comes a point where you have to trust God and take the next step to enter seminary and truly discern your vocation. “ I entered Mount Angel Seminary that fall.


From seminarian Daniel Schmitz:

Daniel Schmitz

A merely acceptable life was no longer good enough 

It’s unlikely I would have stayed faithful without my parents showing me the importance of religion – and their insistence on attending Sunday Mass, which kept me attending in college, even when I didn’t want to go.  My four siblings also affected me, but in different ways.  For example, my older brother married outside the Church, which shocked me.  That was the first time I prayed fervently for anyone, and it showed me what I was willing to sacrifice to help others retain their faith. In another instance, my sister, who has been married seven years, is expecting their fourth child.  Their openness to life has inspired me.

During college, I went on the March for Life in Washington D.C., and during Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I received the sacrament of penance for the first time in a.  Ever since that trip, I have desired to be more involved in the Church.

My original idea for my life was that, after college, I would get married and go from there.  But after graduation I was offered a position as a full-time loan officer at a bank – something I had long thought I wanted.  I realized it was merely acceptable; it wasn’t fulfilling.  I began praying about what would fulfill me in life, and the priesthood came more and more to the forefront.  I resisted for quite some time, substituting many ideas of what I do other than that to give myself to God, but they were all cop-outs – so I entered seminary.

Our Lady has been the biggest influence on my vocation.  When I began praying the Rosary frequently before the Blessed Sacrament, I began to be shown what will bring me happiness in this life and the life to come.  I hope The Rome Experience will allow me to share the beauties and treasures of Catholicism with others.


From seminarian Scott Valentyn:

Scott Valentyn

 Parental example:  father as leader, mother placed herself last

The influence my family has had on my vocation has been tremendous.  My father has been an amazing witness for me brothers and me in what it truly means to be a father.  He leads by example and has always served as the leader of our family.  My mother showed us what it truly means to love by placing herself last and doing anything she possibly could to give herself entirely to her family. Both have helped me discern my calling.

But my Catholic faith did not really become important to me until my second year at the University of Wisconsin. I grew keenly aware of how unfulfilling my life was.  Luckily, I was asked on a retreat, which began a transformation in me that quickly snowballed into a complete reversal of my lifestyle and desires.  About five months later, I began to sense a call to the priesthood.

The next summer, I was a staff member for Catholic Youth Expeditions, where I spent time with many priests who had a burning desire to serve Christ – something I simply could not understand at the time.  But their witness led me to see that the fire and love they had, and I wanted, could only be explained by the fact that they were no longer living for themselves.  It became clear that this was the way Our Lord was calling me, too, to serve him.


From seminarian Curt Vogel:

Curt Vogel

Joy, humility and clear-headedness:  the awesome life of a priest

I was born with a speech impediment.  After a car accident when I was six, I was healed, and always thought that since God had given me something, now I should try to do my best to give back in return.  I first felt called to the priesthood in sixth grade.  In high school, I was “caught up in the world”, which is when I realized how important the faith is, keeping me square and in charge of myself.  My mother and father have always loved each other, and taught me my faith, morals and how to live as a good person.  My only sibling, my brother Mark, is six years older and is a good role model, second after my father.   My fondest memory is serving Christmas midnight Masses in my home parish.  My religious education came mainly from my parents.  Our small parish didn’t have a school but we did have Wednesday night religion classes and a youth group. I participated in both.

The single greatest influence on my vocation was our parish priest, Monsignor Bradley Offut.  He is joyful, clear-headed and extremely humble, and showed me how downright awesome the life of a priest can be!  My whole extended family  have also backed me up in my decision and encourage my vocation.  I hope The Rome Experience will help deepen my spiritual life and love for Christ.



2010 in review

January 4, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2010. That’s about 29 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 111 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 130 posts. There were 246 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 83mb. That’s about 5 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was June 15th with 121 views. The most popular post that day was Meet the Class of 2010.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for maria goretti, vatican church, scala sancta, thomas ongige, and saint maria goretti.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Meet the Class of 2010 March 2010


Meet The Class of 2009 April 2009


Courses offered, 2010 March 2010


Heart of Western Civilization April 2009


Goal of THE ROME EXPERIENCE April 2009

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