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I’ve been blessed with parents who were devout in their faith. I come from a family of seven and we were all raised in the faith. The first seed that was sown within me to consider the religious life as my vocation was when we visited Subiaco in the fifth grade. I was fascinated with the routine of the monks and their devotion to God through their work at Subiaco. However, as I grew older I began to feel a strong call to help others.
My dad was a pediatrician. Witnessing how he impacted the lives of his patients and their parents with each visit (unique to the medical field) left me aspiring to study medicine.
Throughout high school, I began to become complacent with my faith. Although I attended Mass and participated in the sacraments, I did not nurture my relationship with God. I wish I could say I was questioning my faith as that would mean I was actively searching for the truth and answers, but in reality I was indifferent about my faith.
This is typically the part where the story would end, but God truly works in wonderful and mysterious ways. As I entered Vanderbilt University, a secularized, private school, I wasn’t intending to grow my faith life and would not expect to do so at a university that had removed the Catholic community from its campus. Typically, I would not put myself out there and attend events, but a friend of mine, who was Catholic and went to Bentonville, encouraged me to attend. Begrudgingly, I agreed and went to meet the other Catholics at Vanderbilt.
Instead of seeing a small, quiet group of 10 or so people, I was met with 40 to 50 people bursting with joy about their Catholic faith. At Vanderbilt, I received an outpouring of love and support from this Catholic community and they helped me bring God back to the forefront of my life. During my time at Vanderbilt, I met many sisters, brothers and priests and across all of them the one thing that was consistent was their unabashed joy in living their lives for Christ.
As I attended more retreats, I felt that I was possibly being called to the priesthood. I began to talk with the FOCUS missionaries on campus as well as other students and priests about this calling. In my sophomore year, I was blessed with the opportunity to live with four other students who were discerning the priesthood and this experience greatly helped my discernment process, but I was still nervous about making the decision to enter the seminary.
At a retreat that I was helping put together there was a vocations talk and afterwards I met with the priest and he told me, “At some point you need to stop discerning your own feelings and start listening to God's call.” During adoration that night, I felt God’s presence and made the decision to enter seminary. The love and joy I experienced at Vanderbilt is something I want to show others.
I am no longer looking to become a medical doctor, but I have realized that with the priesthood you are able to help others even more than within the medical field. Priests are able to help treat the soul and reintroduce God to our lives. They are the hands and feet of Christ and interact with others to help heal spiritual and personal wounds. You can find God anywhere and everywhere, but to me he is most present within others.
After my first year in seminary, I am amazed how God has worked in my life and continues to do so. Throughout this first year, I had the opportunity to meet different people throughout the diocese. I was astounded at the amount of love and support they gave me and my brother seminarians. I hope to reciprocate all of the love and support I was given through my vocation. If there is one thing I have taken away from this year it would be to always trust in the Lord. No matter the situation, trust that God has a plan and watch as he works in your life.
If you wish to contact Andrew Schaefer, please e-mail Georgina Pena in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published Oct. 8, 2021. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.