Seminarian snapshots: Different journeys, but a shared call for six men preparing for the priesthood for the archdiocese
Sept. 27, 2018
On the Archdiocese of Washington’s Seminarian Day in August as the new school year was about to begin, Cardinal Donald Wuerl said it “is a gift to me” to spend time with the archdiocese’s 88 seminarians studying for the priesthood, “to hear from you what this all means to you, and where you are on this journey.”
That same day, six of the seminarians studying to be the next generation of priests for the archdiocese were interviewed by the Catholic Standard newspaper and reflected on their vocational journeys. They came from different backgrounds and were on different stages of the journey – two are preparing for ordination to the priesthood next year, two just entered the seminary and two others were continuing their studies – but they expressed a shared desire to follow God’s call wherever that led them.
Brothers in the seminary
Deacon Brendan Glasgow from St. Peter Parish in Olney has a younger brother, James, who is also a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington. Brendan, 26, will be completing his studies this year at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, while James is studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
But Deacon Glasgow – who was ordained to the transitional diaconate in June and is on schedule to be ordained as a priest for the archdiocese next year – also looks upon all his fellow Washington seminarians as brothers.
“It’s been a great group of brothers, and I can call them brothers, in the chapel, classroom and sports field. They’re my brothers in Christ,” he said.
The second oldest of seven children, he was homeschooled through high school, and then in 2011, became one of the pioneer students at the archdiocese’s Blessed now Saint John Paul Seminary when it opened.
“It definitely still feels like home when I come back,” Deacon Glasgow said, praising the spirit of joy at the seminary.
His greatest blessing as a seminarian, he said, has been to experience God’s presence in his life through a gradual process of discernment and prayer. “He’s gradually brought me to where I am today, year by year, step by step,” he said.
This summer, Deacon Glasgow served at St. Elizabeth Parish in Rockville, and as a deacon, he was able to preach at daily and Sunday Masses for the first time.
During his years in the seminary, his outside interests have included skiing, playing doubles volleyball and Ultimate (a team game with plastic discs originally called Ultimate Frisbee), and accompanying other musicians on the Djembe drum, a West African instrument.
Now he hopes to finish strong in his last year of seminary studies and apply what he’s learned to his parish ministry as a deacon and then as a priest. That vocational journey alongside his brother and seminary brothers “is really the fruit of prayer,” he said.
From Germany to the U.S.
Deacon Stefan Megyery’s journey to the priesthood began in his native Germany, where as a child he thought about becoming a priest someday, to the United States, where he has followed that calling after coming to this country for his doctoral research.
In studying the foreign policies of Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, the German native researched at their presidential libraries, and also at the National Archives in Washington. At the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in the nation’s capital, he was inspired by the priests serving there.
“I saw all the joyful priests, how they lived their faith and the priesthood,” he said.
After attending a retreat in Kansas, Eisenhower’s home state, Megyery decided, “I would give it (studying for the priesthood) a try.”
In June, he was ordained as a transitional deacon and is on schedule to be ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington next year. This summer, Deacon Megyery, who is 37, served at two Southern Maryland parishes – Holy Angels in Avenue and Sacred Heart in Bushwood, and he was moved by “the love the people have for priests and seminarians,” whom he said they take care of. “It’s great to know there are people praying for you and supporting you,” he said.
Now as he prepares for his ordination to the priesthood, he will continue his studies at Theological College in Washington and serve as a deacon at St. Joseph Parish on Capitol Hill. And Deacon Megyery said he continues to be inspired by the joyful spirit of the priests that he has witnessed.
“They resemble the ‘joy of the Gospel,’ what Pope Francis has spoken (of), you can see,” he said. “They stood fast in their faith, they have this joy in their heart, and radiate that joy.”
Hollywood to Rome
Hollywood has been called the dream factory, but Patrick Agustin – who worked as a financial analyst at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Los Angeles before entering the seminary – has dreams of his own as he prepares for the priesthood.
This year he’ll be studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and he hopes that some day as a priest, he can be an “instrument of God in this world, to bring His love and His mercy to His people.”
Agustin’s home parish is St. Columba in Oxon Hill, and his outside interests include singing, hiking and surfing. Before entering the seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington, he earned degrees in finance and international business at the University of Maryland in College Park. After being employed by Fannie Mae in Washington, he worked in the home entertainment division of Sony Pictures, specializing in international budgeting and forecasting for Sony’s movies and TV shows going on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes and Netflix.
Later as a seminarian, he got to witness star-power of a different kind, when Pope Francis visited Saint John Paul II Seminary and encouraged the young men studying there to adore Christ in their prayers and by their lives. Agustin wrote an account of the papal visit to the seminary for the Catholic Standard.
This summer, Agustin, who is 32, served at St. Raphael Parish in Rockville, where he assisted at Masses and brought Communion to senior citizens at their homes and at assisted living facilities. “That’s been the greatest grace for me,” he said, noting that one day he was able to bring Communion to an elderly woman and chat with her in Italian. The next day, she died, and he was later able to serve at her Funeral Mass.
Next year, he hopes to be ordained as a transitional deacon on the road to his preparation for the priesthood. His main goal for this year, he said, is “just to be more conformed to the heart of Jesus.”
Seminarian John Lado has a special connection to The Catholic University of America. A rising senior at the Saint John Paul II Seminary, he is the seventh member of his family to attend Catholic University. And when he was a freshman there, he met seminarians who helped inspire him to follow a calling to the priesthood.
“It seemed like the right place. God wanted me here,” he said. “The men here seemed different – very happy and joyful.”
Lado is from St. Patrick Parish in Rockville and was homeschooled.
Now in his third year at Saint John Paul II Seminary, he said he has enjoyed the friendships and sense of fraternity there, and he added that his greatest blessing as a seminarian has been “prayer – the time spent with Jesus.”
Lado said the seminarians have “incredible role models,” including Cardinal Wuerl and the priest faculty members at Saint John Paul II Seminary. “They create a wonderful space where we can pray and be authentic to who we are,” he said.
This year as he completes his philosophy degree at Catholic University and continues his studies for the priesthood, Lado said he hopes to “grow closer to Christ, and to be a leader in the house, and a good example for the guys coming in.”
A new life at 45
Joe Gonzalez, a new seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington, noted, “I just got here yesterday” to the Saint John Paul II Seminary.
And he added that the next day, he would celebrate his 45th birthday.
Earlier in his life, he served four years in the Marines, including in Somalia, Singapore, Australia and Japan. In recent years, the Washington native worked in religious education and youth ministry in his home parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in Takoma Park. Eventually he felt called to the priesthood and became a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington.
“God is patient,” said the seminarian, who is now studying at Theological College. “…I feel blessed, because I’m twice as old as some of the guys here. Just hanging around them, I feel they’ve received me.
“I’ve lived my life,” he added. “God’s been good to me and let me do a lot of things. Life is short. I want to make whatever time’s left count, and this is what matters. This is best.”
His youth ministry work included serving with Tira La Red (“Casting the Net”), Hispanic youth ministry affiliated with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. Gonzalez said he has been inspired by the faith, the questions, and the prayerful example of young people. “They’re hungry for God,” he said.
In trying to help lead youth to God, they helped to do the same for him, Gonzalez said.
“The closer I got to God serving the youth, I wanted to be with Him and to be transformed by Him,” he said. Gonzalez, who has gone through boot camp and basic training as a Marine, is now ready for a new challenge – life as a seminarian. “He (God) has been preparing me for a really long time,” he said.
ER doctor, now a seminarian
As a physician serving patients who came to hospital emergency rooms in the Bronx and Manhattan, Dr. Ben Bralove treated people needing physical healing. Now as a new seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington, he hopes to pray and discern about possibly becoming a priest and bringing spiritual healing to people.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out,” he said.
The native of Chevy Chase said he feels grateful for the many blessings he has experienced so far in his life, from his family to his medical career.
After graduating from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, he was baptized and confirmed as a member of the Episcopal Church while in college.
Later, while an undergraduate student majoring in chemistry at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he was drawn to the Catholic faith.
“Eventually, it boiled down to what is true, and who has authority,” said Bralove, who believes the Catholic Church has both.
He studied the Catholic faith in the RCIA program and received his first Communion as a new Catholic at an Easter Vigil while he was at Cornell.
Later while attending medical school at Boston University and then during his residency, Bralove felt called to the priesthood, but he decided to complete his medical training and work in that field.
This past year, he prayed about whether to take the next step, and he did, calling the priest vocations office for the Archdiocese of Washington. Now he is living at the Saint John Paul II Seminary and studying philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
“My hopes are just to enter more fully into the prayer life of the Church,” he said.
Reflecting on his medical career, Bralove said, “I don’t regret the path I was taking. I think God in His providence wanted me to go through that.”
If he becomes a priest, Bralove said his experience as a doctor will help him, as he brings Communion to those who are ill and administers the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick to the dying, which continue the healing ministry of Jesus to people today.
While working in the emergency room, Dr. Bralove came in contact with people who were physically sick, but also spiritually sick, he said.
“While medicine can address physical ailments, it is not equipped to address the profound spiritual problems people are facing,” Dr. Bralove, now a seminarian, said. “The more I practiced, the more I felt called to heal people in a different way.”
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