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Getting to Know Your Seminarians: Joseph Brodeur

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Learn more about the Office of Vocations at catholicpriest.com

Get to know a little more about the men you are praying for as they continue to prepare for the priesthood.

Age: 22

Year of Study:  First Theology

Home Parish: Saint Pius X, Westerly

Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and raised in downtown Westerly, just up the road from our parish church, where my family was always heavily involved. My three older siblings and I were all blessed to attend Saint Pius X Catholic School from Kindergarten to eighth grade, from where I went to Westerly High School. After graduating in 2016, I entered formation for the diocese at Our Lady of Providence (OLP) Seminary. I recently graduated from Providence College in May of 2020 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and the Classics.

How did you discern your vocation to the priesthood?
Priesthood is a vocation that was always deeply revered and respected in my home growing up and so the thought of being a priest was present to my mind from a very early age. It was not until high school, however, when I became a regular member of our parish youth group and attended the Franciscan LEAD Conference (a week-long leadership retreat associated with the Steubenville Youth Conferences) that I developed a firm commitment to personal prayer and began to hear the Lord beckoning me to priesthood. The more I came to know and love the Lord, the stronger the conviction on my heart became. I attended several discernment retreats at OLP and read several books on priesthood. With the guidance and encouragement of many good priests, friends and mentors, I finally made the decision to apply. Even now in seminary, discernment is ongoing, as I get to know the Lord, myself, and his priesthood more and more through the four dimensions of formation: human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral.

What is something that readers may not know about what it is like to be a seminarian?
Seminarians are required to take at least two years of philosophy courses before going on to study theology. This time of preparation is very important for laying a proper intellectual foundation. Philosophy teaches a man how to construct, analyze and respond to arguments of different forms with clarity and prudence. It also provides valuable insight into the prevailing systems of thought which have shaped and undergirded the development of Western culture. An effective priest must be able to perceive and inhabit alternative—and even contrary — points of view if he is to draw souls to Christ.

What would you say to a young man discerning the priesthood—or maybe hasn’t even considered it at all?
To the man already discerning a priestly vocation — take that next step, whatever it is; whether it’s asking your pastor about his story, calling the vocation director to introduce yourself, attending an upcoming discernment retreat, or applying to the seminary. In the words of Father Brett Brannen: “God can’t drive a parked car. Move!” There is never a perfect time and it is always going to involve a leap of faith. The Lord does not ask us for certainty or perfection, he asks for our trust. And remember, seminary is not a permanent commitment. If you seriously believe the Lord is calling you to be a priest, there will come a point when you cannot discern any further without giving seminary a shot. That would be like trying to marry a woman you have never even courted! And if you don’t go on to be ordained, you will only be a better man and disciple of Christ for having given that time to the Lord. God is never outdone in generosity and wastes nothing. As for the man who has never considered priesthood — can you imagine a better life than being the hands and feet and eyes and lips of Jesus Christ, speaking mercy and healing to the most wounded souls?

Favorite Hobbies and/or fun fact about yourself:
I am a proud Eagle Scout of Troop 16, Westerly, and so I very much enjoy outdoor activities: hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, canoeing, or passing a football, baseball or frisbee. I love being out in nature and sharing good conversation with friends, especially walking along the beach or on forest trails. I’m always up for a good board game (especially Catan!) or card game. I also enjoy cooking and baking in my free time. Most recently, I have been trying to pick up tennis again.

How do you feel we can best support seminarians?
Please pray and fast for us. The Church needs holy, humble and zealous priests fashioned after the heart of Christ and for that to happen, we need the help of grace! I have also appreciated the occasional hand-written note of encouragement and support, especially from children and families. Other than that, ask us questions, get us involved, and keep us linked-in to the life of the domestic church!

What is the most surprising part about being a seminarian?
For me it has to be encountering the many different faces of our local church here in the Diocese of Providence. For such a small state, there are so many diverse communities, each beautiful and vibrant in its own unique way.

Are there specific life changes that you have had to make to be successful at seminary formation?
Seminary formation is often compared to a desert — a time of relative isolation in which we freely withdraw from the midst of the world in order to be alone with the Lord and listen to His voice. This withdrawal requires a certain detachment from the things we are most familiar with. The Lord works at expanding our hearts by inviting us to stretch ourselves and go beyond our comfort zone, whether by entering more deeply into the life of community, being fully transparent with a spiritual director, or accepting a challenging pastoral assignment.

Is there any person or saint whom you credit with interceding on your behalf to God for your vocational discernment?
Father Ray Suriani, pastor emeritus of Saint Pius X, has been a true spiritual father, mentor and friend to me from the very beginning of my life, modeling priestly virtue and witnessing to the joy of the gospel through his simple ministry of presence and accompaniment. Saint Joseph is my hero. His fatherly protection, provision and guidance has showed up time and again in my discernment, teaching me how to embrace divine sonship ever more fully and fruitfully. My friendship with Saint Thomas Aquinas (my confirmation patron) has also deepened considerably through my studies of his writings with the Dominican friars at Providence College.

— Photo and interview by Laura Kilgus


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