Discerning to join the seminary took an incredibly long time and only five months in, I asked myself “Why did I wait so long?” I remember climbing to the top of the dome of St Peters Basilica’s on a pilgrimage in 2012 and saying to God “I feel that you have always wanted me to enter the Seminary but let me finish my degree first!” (At that stage, I was studying a Bachelor of Theology). Even after this experience, I still kept putting it off and kept asking myself the profound questions that everyone asks themselves in their young adult years: Who am I? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What does God want me to do?
Then in 2015, I graduated with my degree but I had another excuse. I had a job in the family business and I felt I was not ready to join yet. Therefore, I kept working but I was restless and only found “peace” being involved in Church activities, being involved in the Mass and helping with Youth Ministry at my Parish. During this period, many people were asking, “when are you going to join the Seminary?” I kept deflecting the question until it struck me one day that I will never be happy until I gave it a shot. It is almost as if St Augustine himself came to me and said, “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
By mid-2016, I knew it was time but I was still uncertain, I no longer worked in the family business and travelled to World Youth Day 2016 Poland via Italy. While in Rome, I made my commitment to join though I was still unsure. This caused a roller coaster of emotions but through my work at Catholic Youth Ministry and the support of my friends, I was reassured that I had made the right decision.
On the first day of seminary, I was driving from Masterclass in Busselton to the Seminary in Guildford and had a sense that “I am not ready for this, maybe it’s not the right time, and maybe I’m called to do something else”. I had so many butterflies in my stomach I could not eat breakfast or lunch. I was nervous because I did not know what to expect, how the other seminarians would be, and whether I would fit in, just to name a few.
These first five months have gone so quickly, I’ve been learning how to pray the liturgy of the hours (the official set of prayers for the Church), learning more about the Priesthood, History of the Church in WA, and Latin through in-house units, just to name three. In the first few weeks, I struggled with community prayer and especially sung community prayer. I had never experienced community prayer for more than a couple of days at retreats, but slowly I’m getting used to it and now look forward to praying as a community (even though sometimes I sing the wrong line!). Trying to meditate in silence, at first, would drive me crazy just sitting there. However, it is just about being mindful (even if you fall asleep sometimes) and concentrating on actually having a conversation with God, and forgetting all the work that needs to be completed! I used to avoid reading at Mass, so much so I would ask other people to do it for me, but now I actually look forward to reading at Mass.
Matt and his fellow seminarians and priests at St Charle’s Seminary in Guildford, Perth. (Photo from Matt Tloczek)
So being here, I have grown a lot, not only in faith and my prayer life but also as a person. I am surrounded with other young men who are working towards the same thing – to become closer to God, and perhaps one day to be priests. We support each other not only in study but in life in general. The rector (Fr Philip) and vice-rector (Fr Jean-Noel) support us (you can almost say) like good parish priests who are kind and loving but also firm.
Even only being here five months there are some difficult times, such as learning how to live in community with people who are different to me and going back to study. But going back to the Saint Augustine quote, I can honestly say that my heart is not restless when I am here.
If you are a young male and think that God might be calling you, I’d encourage you to contact us, come out, and see! And of course, if you know a young man who has been discerning, thinking about, or putting off a perceived calling, then support and encourage him! Sometimes that one small word of encouragement is all we need.
As seminarians, we greatly appreciate your prayers and know that we prayer for you!
Matthew is a first-year seminarian at the St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford, Perth. He is passionate about Youth Ministry and liturgical aspects of the Catholic Church. He also enjoys building complex Lego structures.