Ordination Profile: Deacon Sean Wilson
The men scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood May 21 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in downtown Cincinnati responded to questions from The Catholic Telegraph to profile their background and journey to the priesthood. TheCatholicTelegraph.com will publish profiles each day this week leading up to ordination.
I am the middle of three boys. My dad, Mark, grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and lived there until his early 20s when he moved to Dayton for a job. In Dayton, he met my mother, Peggy, who grew up in Riverside and attended Carroll High School. My older brother, Joshua, is a year and a half older than me. He now lives in Atlanta with his wife, Amy, and their 7 month-old son, Nathan. Trevor is two years younger than me and is currently serving in the U.S. Navy and is stationed in Guam.
I grew up at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton. I went to public school K-12 in the Vandalia-Butler school district. I graduated from Butler High School in 2008. After high school, I attended the University of Dayton and majored in mechanical engineering for one year. Beginning in the fall of 2009, I attended Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary. We took classes on the campus of Marian University and I graduated in May 2011. That fall, I started at Mount St. Mary’s of the West Seminary.
• What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood?
I never considered being a priest growing up and the thought didn’t cross my mind. Despite my pastor’s not-so-subtle encouragements to every altar server, I didn’t think that the priesthood was for me. It wasn’t until the summer before my freshmen year at the University of Dayton that I had some inclination about the priesthood.
My discernment began as a small attraction toward the faith. I began praying the rosary every day, going to daily Mass whenever my class schedule allowed, and reading religious books. It wasn’t really discerning at first, but I was deepening my friendship with Jesus Christ. I started taking my relationship with Him seriously and attempting to live the radical life of holiness that each and every one of us is called to.
Over a couple months during that freshmen year, I realized that the Lord might be calling me to be a priest. It was in prayer that I heard the Lord’s call to serve Him in the priesthood. It was an invitation that I was over-the-top excited about. I was scared, nervous, and intimidated. I didn’t tell anyone that I was thinking about it, not my friends nor my family. I prayed furiously asking for the Lord’s guidance and I searched Google for answers.
Eventually I called the vocation director and met with him. After talking about things with him, I told him that after my four years at UD I would call him if I was still interested. It turns out that I called him about six weeks later to tell him that I wanted to enter the following fall. After one year at UD, I entered Bishop Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.
• What has the journey been like as you near ordination?
The journey in the seminary has been nothing but a blessing and grace flowing from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The seminary isn’t heaven, though. There have been plenty of challenges and questions with my own vocation, but the seminary is the perfect place to ask these questions. There have been many crosses to bear, but these are absolutely essential to the formation of a priestly heart because this is the path of our Lord.
The friendships that I have made while in seminary formation have been incredible. I am constantly surprised by the quality of young men that Our Lord calls to serve at His altar. The have been a source of solace in difficulty and a blessing in times of joy. One of the incredible things is how generous many of these men are and they have constantly encouraged me to be a holier man and hopefully a better priest.
The priests who have given so much to the formation of future priests have been a great blessing also. It is at the seminary that I really understood why we call priests “father.” Like all of our biological fathers, they aren’t perfect, but the care and concern they show the seminarians is really extraordinary. With a father’s heart they have led me closer to Jesus Christ and taught me the truth of the Gospel. I am humbled to soon call them my brother priests.
• Was there a single person who greatly influenced your decision to become a priest?
The obvious answer is yes. The one person who has completely shown me the path to the priesthood has been obvious throughout my years in the seminary. I know without Him, this journey to the priesthood would be impossible. Jesus Christ is the one person who has called me to serve Him and His church in the radical way, and to Him I am incredibly humbled and grateful.
Other than Him, there have been many other people who have encouraged me. The pastor of my parish growing up, Father Lee Sciarotta, S.M. was never shy about suggesting to the altar servers that they should consider the priesthood or religious life. He was a great example of sharing in the mission of Jesus Christ by generously offering the sacraments, visiting the sick, welcoming refugees and helping the poor. He really was a great man.
Also many of the priests at UD were very insightful. Fathers Joseph Tedesco, Gerald Chinchar, and Jim Schimelpfening, I got to know fairly well and they were always very encouraging, kind, and helpful.
Finally, my parents were the ones who brought me to be baptized into the love and truth of Jesus Christ and they kept their promise that they would ensure my formation as a disciple of the Lord. They are great examples of generosity, faith, and love.
• What message would you offer to those who want to serve God but do not know how?
Don’t over think it. The Gospel message is simple: love God and love your neighbor. There are an abundance of ways to serve God in your family, parish, neighborhood, and workplace. The best way to serve God is according to your vocation. If you are a parent, husband, or wife, selflessly love your children and spouse. If you think God is inviting you to do more, take food to a homeless person downtown and listen to the story of how they ended up on the streets. Encourage someone to go back to the sacrament of reconciliation who hasn’t been in a while. Invite the people in your life to encounter the love of Jesus Christ.
• How has being a deacon (or your internship) influenced the type of priest that you will be?
I have spent the past three years as both an intern and a deacon at Guardian Angels Church in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Cincinnati. It has been an absolute blessing and I can’t adequately express my gratitude toward the people and Father Tom King, the pastor. One of the things I learned from him is the importance of doing little things of kindness for your people. He does little acts of kindness for all of his people and they appreciate these little acts of kindness and they are part of his spiritual fatherhood.
My time in a parish has reinforced and provided practical implications of things I have learned and thought about while in the seminary. The greatest role of the priest in the parish is to be a father to this family. The priest is present for so many important moments in the life of his people like baptisms, first Communions, weddings, illnesses, and funerals. He gets to share these important events along with the daily joys and blessings of family life. My time with the people at Guardian Angels gave me a great example that the priest is the father of this spiritual family and he is given the opportunity to lead them into the love and truth of Jesus Christ.
• What are some of your thoughts about beginning priestly life?
I am excited to be a priest in the Lord’s vineyard. I have spent seven years of learning, praying, and attempting to form my heart after the Lord’s and it is finally time to go out and share the Gospel. It is with joy and humility that I get to begin as a priest.
Also I am grateful to the generations of priests that have gone before me. I am looking forward to learning from those priests who have been communicating the Gospel to God’s people for 10, 20, 30, or 40 years. It is exciting to enter a presbyterate, a group of brother priests who share in this great life.
• What advice would you offer about discerning a vocation?
Do not be afraid and trust in the Lord! It is that simple. Compared to many others, I didn’t spend much time discerning my vocation before entering the seminary. Around Christmas time, I began seriously considering it, and by April, I decided to enter the seminary. If we believe that the Lord is in charge and He will lead us, we have nothing to fear. God is a Father to each and every one of us and, if we aren’t in the right spot, He will let us know. Have no fear and trust in the Lord. He will take care of us in joys and difficulties.
• What will you miss most about your seminary preparation time? What will you value the most?
There are three things that I think I will miss. First, the camaraderie amongst the seminarians has been a blessing, source of joy, and consolation. They are my brothers, and I will treasure their friendships for the rest of my life. Secondly, having the time and ability to read and study. I have been given six of the last seven years of my life to pray, study and learn about theological tradition of the Church. Finally, I will miss the guidance of the priests at the seminary. They are readily available to offer aid and direction throughout my seminary formation. It has been a blessing to have so many holy and wise priests living in the same building as me.
• What types of jobs have you had?
In high school, I worked at a Kroger store for two and a half years. At UD, I worked in the campus mailroom. The summer between my two years of college seminary, I worked for the Butler Township Service Department. Other than that, everything I have done has been at a parish.
• What sort of extracurricular activities did you enjoy in college?
Since I was only at the University of Dayton for a year, I wasn’t involved much. I did participate in a vocation discernment group and the Catholic Life club. Other than that, I did a lot of different intramural sports.
Other Profiles (Date published)
Deacon Chris Geiger (May 16)
Deacon Jason Williams (May 17)
Deacon Timothy Fahey (May 17)
Deacon Alex McCulough (May 18)
Deacon Matt Feist (May 19)
Deacon Eric Roush (May 19)
Deacons Reagan, Bertke and Smith (May 20)
This seminarian profile first appeared in the May 2016 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.