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Dennis and Diannia O’Connor are long-time parishioners at Seton Parish in Pickerington. They were not surprised when their younger son Brian decided to enroll in seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in August, 2008 to prepare for the diocesan priesthood.
“Brian talked about a possible calling to the priesthood when he was in high school, but we encouraged him to consider college first. He was 18 and the priesthood is a very serious calling. We didn’t want to discourage him, but we wanted to give him options,” said Dennis. We encouraged him to try college and he agreed. After 3 years at OSU, the calling was still with him and he talked to us about it again last summer.”
“You know your own son,” said Diannia. “Being a priest is a lifestyle, it is not an occupation. We wanted him to experience the world first.”
Brian enjoyed college, but he kept changing majors, and according to Dennis, “it seemed like he was searching.”
His parents believe that the turning point for Brian was when he spoke at a Youth Rally and chaperoned at NCYC. After speaking at the rally, Brian realized that “his whole being” was being called to serve Christ.
When he decided to enter seminary, family and parishioners were not surprised. In fact, a lot of Seton parishioners had been praying for him to be open to a religious vocation.
“Diannia has worked at Seton Parish for 17 years and it has been Brian’s second home,” said Dennis. “He has had a great relationship with many priests and he feels extremely comfortable in Church.”
Brian taught SPY and was involved in Youth Group and the Leadership Team, and even while in seminary, Brian still helps out as much as he is able.
During the summer of 2008, before entering seminary, Brian volunteered in the Youth Ministry office at Seton. He volunteered 5-6 hours a day assisting with curriculum development. His parents believe that this experience gave him a real view of working in the Church.
Brian has had a very smooth transition into seminary and his parents did too.
“Anytime we go to the Josephinum, we feel very welcomed. We had a great time at the Irish Festival.” We have many opportunities to see Brian since he is so close. He is very happy,” said Dennis. “The priests at the Josephinum always encourage family members to visit and be part of the activities there. Parents can be as involved as they want to be and we enjoy being part of the process.”
“It is great that when we go there, they know who Brian is, and they know how he is doing. Everyone is very friendly and nice,” said Diannia.
Diannia has this advice for other parents whose sons may be discerning a call to the priesthood. “Take your time and listen to your son. Be supportive. Talk to your parish priest or youth minister. Encourage parish involvement. Brian was also an altar server.”
Dennis reflects that if it is a calling, “Go for it. You’ll never know for sure until you try.”
“Don’t be afraid to encourage them to wait to see if the calling gets stronger. If they are active in their Church, but tentative, God will keep calling,” said Diannia.
Both Dennis and Diannia believe that the seminary open houses and weekend live-ins help the men experience what seminary is really all about. They encourage families to talk to teachers, priests, and other seminarians and to continue to keep open communication as the discernment process is ongoing.
“Brian knew seminarians from our parish and he spent time talking with them,” said Dennis. “We feel that we can call Fr. Jeff (Vocations Director) anytime with questions.”
“It is important to encourage seminarians to make time for recreation and hobbies – it helps them to be more focused and balanced,” said Dennis.