Seminarians for the Diocese of Camden spoke about vocations in several churches of the diocese on the weekend of Nov. 7-8. Following is an excerpt from Dan Palmieri’s talk.
“Growing up, faith was always a part of my life, but like most teenagers, not a very big part. I would say a prayer before I went to bed, and occasionally go to Mass on weekends with my family, although many times I would secretly hope my parents would “forget” to go so I could get a few more hours of sleep! Throughout high school, I was mainly interested in sports, friends, girls, and grades rather than in my relationship with God. I also remember having a very peculiar idea of priests; I really respected them for what they did, but I always had the thought that the priestly life would be boring, and that it certainly wasn’t for me because of my strong desire for a girlfriend and a future family.
“When I turned 19, however, I had a series of experiences that changed my life. That year, while my friend and I were teaching religious education, the new pastor of the parish took a genuine interest in our spiritual well-being. This made a very strong impact on me, because it was the first time I had ever been reached out to by a priest. Moreover, this priest soon introduced me to several other very down-to-earth, happy, yet devout and holy people, including a really dynamic youth minister, and the family of Servant of God Maria Esperanza, who one day may be canonized a saint of our Church.
“Through the witness of these people, I was able to see the joy that comes when one truly lives out the vocation God has called them to, be it married life, single life, or religious life. Moreover, through the example of the priests of the parish in particular, all of the stereotypes that had accumulated in my mind about priesthood began to crumble. In these priests, I saw happy, personable, balanced, enthusiastic men who loved their vocation and were positively affecting the lives of many people. I eventually became a youth minister there during college, then director of youth ministry at two separate parishes after graduating.
“Through all of these experiences, I also began to understand the joy that comes from bringing the Lord to others, especially through the way He was able to change the hearts of some of the youth I had the privilege of working with. At the same time, I was slowly beginning to see the way God had affected my own life, by giving me a deep sense of peace and joy that I had previously never felt.”