SAN DIEGO — What kind of life would give me the most fulfillment? Who inspires me? What would be most aligned with God’s will for me?
For 24-year-old John Murcko, the answers to those questions took him to an “Explorer Day” to do what the name implies, begin to explore the vocation of priesthood.
That journey would lead him to being accepted last summer to the San Diego Diocese’s Priestly Formation Program. In August, he moved into its house of formation, the St. Francis Center at the University of San Diego. He is taking philosophy and pre-theology classes and participates in daily religious activities as he discerns whether the priesthood is his true calling.
If his answer is “yes,” and he meets all the requirements, he will attend the seminary at the Franciscan School of Theology, also at USD, where he will earn a master’s in Divinity. Ordination would follow, about six years after he began the process.
“I had a deep feeling inside me, a desire to go to the seminary,” he said one recent day before evening prayer and dinner with fellow seminarians.
“My parish priest set an example for me. He inspired me,” he added, noting he attended St. Timothy Parish in Escondido, led by Father Fernando Ramirez.
Murcko is one of 16 men of diverse backgrounds who are in the diocese’s Priest Formation Program. It prepares the men for admission to the seminary in four areas: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. Applicants complete a comprehensive process that includes attending monthly Masses and breakfasts; meetings with the directors of the program; a psychological assessment; and a criminal background check.
The program’s participants attend the seminary housed at the Franciscan School of Theology instead of one out of town, as was the case previously.
“They will be well-prepared to tackle the challenges of the priesthood right here,” said Father Lauro Minimo, director of Priestly Vocations.
Kyle Schanzenbach, 30, is in his fourth year of the program. He initially phoned Father Minimo to find out about the priest formation program. Within minutes, Father Minimo was contacting him.
He is impressed that its directors focus on forming a person who is healthy in all aspects, not just the spiritual one.
“They have a strong focus on shaping wholesome men, not just holy men.”
His recommendation for any man considering the priesthood? Go to Explorer Day or contact Father Minimo.
“It’s completely worthwhile.”