The following is a reflection given by our seminarian and college senior Erik Sanchez after communion to the student community at St. John’s University at the October 25 5:30 pm Mass. Our theme for this Sunday’s Mass was to promote religious vocations in the Year of Consecrated Life. The seminarians of the Miraculous Medal House sat together ‘en-masse’ and were introduced by Erik at the end of his talk. After Mass, they manned a table with information and ‘giveaways.’ Erik Sanchez is a senior philosophy major. His words were simple, direct, and moving. They elicited a very positive reaction at St. John’s from the students and campus ministers who attended this Mass. This is his reflection:
“Good evening my brothers and sisters in Christ. My name is Erik Sanchez and I am originally from Honduras. I was asked by our vocation director, Fr. John Maher to share with you my vocational journey as a seminarian with the Vincentian community. My vocation journey began in my home country of Honduras, but I will share with you the part of my journey as it developed from when I arrived in the USA in 2005. I arrived here intending to support my parents financially and to help my two brothers and sister to continue their education. My plan was to work for three years and then return to Honduras to finish my studies. After arriving, I lost interest in following a religious vocation, as I was making good money to send back to my family in Honduras. I thought it was not necessary for I was doing well without it.
In 2009 I was invited by Hugo Medellin, a Vincentian to participate in a discernment meeting at the Vincentian Seminary here in Jamaica, Queens. As I heard a Vincentian priest speak of the priesthood and as I experienced the loving, peaceful seminary environment, my vocation interest in the priesthood awoke again. I participated in other discernment gatherings that year. In February, 2010, I was asked by the Vincentian Bishop Alfonso Cabezas if I wanted to enter the seminary. I was ready to say yes, so I did not have to think much about accepting his invitation. I was ready! Then on September 25th 2010, I entered the Vincentian seminary here in Jamaica.
When I reflect on my vocational journey, I never regret having made the decision to enter the Vincentian seminary and prepare for a priestly vocation. Entering the seminary has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. For through the formation I have received so far, I have come to know that God is always accompanying me, and always accompanying my brother seminarians. I realize that if I trust in Him completely I will never be disappointed. Sometimes I ask myself the question: Am I really going to be a priest, a Vincentian priest? But I cannot answer that question truly, at least not right now, for I have come to realize that God’s calling is always a mystery and discernment is a lifelong process. All I know is that I will respond to Him in whatever way he wants me to do – for he will never leave me alone. I have come to know that if I trust in God and pray enough to Him I will be capable of anything. As St. Vincent said: “Give me a man of prayer, and he will be capable of anything.”
In May, I will graduate from St. John’s; God willing I will start my novitiate in Philadelphia that summer with two other seminarians I live with. All I ask you is to pray for me, my vocation, and the vocation of the other Vincentian seminarians that we can open our hearts to God and listen humbly to His calling, whatever it may be. And I also want to encourage those who have thought about the priesthood to listen and trust in God’s calling. For with God’s help, we can achieve many things, such as helping the poor and the sick as did St. Vincent. Accepting God’s calling requires opening our hearts to him so he can dwell in us and work and through us. In closing I ask you to pray for me and my brother seminarians here today. Pray that we Vincentian seminarians may one day serve Christ and the poor as Vincentian priests. Thank you!”
This first week of November, the Church celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week. The words of Erik, along with the enthusiasm of our seminarians and the quiet but firm witness of our elder confreres all speak volumes of the mystery and gift of the Vincentian vocation that is ours. As we pray the “Expectatio Israel” ( a traditional prayer used in the community to pray for vocations) this week, may we reflect on and cherish our vocation story, giving thanks to God for all that has been given to us in community and ministry in the Little Company. During this week, why not share some of your vocation story with someone?