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The Story of a Rejected Candidate for Seminary

IF YOU'RE NOT A "NICE GUY," YOU DON'T HAVE A VOCATION

By Jeffrey R. Jackson | November 2003
Jeffrey R. Jackson earned a B.A. in Political Science from Rhode Island College.

Searching for one’s vocation in life is a most daunting task. This is especially true given that society today is not only apathetic, but perhaps hostile, to the meaning of the word “vocation.” It is no longer within the standard definition of the term “success” to have found a vocation. Oftentimes, a man of faith searching for his vocation, perhaps with lack of encouragement from his family and certainly no help from society, will turn to his diocesan vocation office for much needed wisdom and guidance on these critical matters. The expectation is to find spiritual fulfillment there — not officials with agendas seeking uncritical conformists.

It was to a degree my misfortune to have taken this path, for being a critical thinker, my critical thought led me to fully embrace the truths of Catholicism as taught by the Magisterium. My loyalty is unswerving, particularly when confronted with the shifting whims of the world. This was my position as a seminary applicant in a place that has long since abandoned its Catholic identity — the State of Rhode Island, which, ironically, has the highest percentage of Catholics, both practicing and non-practicing, of any state in the nation. I was confronted with certain grim realities upon applying to the seminary formation program in the Diocese of Providence (Rhode Island) a few years ago, when I would join several applicants in recent years in that Diocese and elsewhere to be rejected for an outward embrace of orthodoxy. It is time for me to speak out about this experience, and about the state of my home diocese.

A Novel Approach?

I do not stand in opposition to media campaigns on the part of dioceses for recruiting vocations, so long as the media venue is appropriate, and the advertising does not take precedence as the recruiting method. However, Providence is a novelty, because it advertises on the Music Television Network (MTV), a soft-porn channel that epitomizes the cultural, moral, spiritual, and intellectual degeneracy of today’s youth. Any diocese that makes a point of pitching priestly vocations to the lowest common denominator, which comprises the better part of MTV’s audience, opens itself up to particular scrutiny. The basic message of the Providence Diocese’s commercials was and is: Hey, come be a priest; it’s cool. The Diocese also expanded its ad campaign in 2002 to include ads for priestly vocations in the preview portion of popular films, specifically those that appeal to young adults (and I don’t mean G-rated ones). Such recruitment tactics are definitely not in line with the time-tested methods that successful, orthodox dioceses utilize in their recruitment strategy. Given all this novelty, it is the right of anyone to question the caliber and spiritual health of those recruited for seminary as a result of these campaigns.

Some have mentioned to me that they believe this media campaign is not a bad thing in itself, if only because it perhaps represents the “New Evangelization” — i.e., is consistent with the Pope’s mandate to use all means to evangelize. But this is completely beside the point. I have no problem with using all avenues of the media to evangelize, and in doing so reaching all populations with basic tenets of the Truth. But here’s the rub: Many in Rhode Island, myself included, have a major problem with advertising on MTV for vocations, because it opens the gates of a priestly formation program to potential candidates who, chances are, have not even been evangelized. Nor will they have reformed themselves, in many cases, of what are flagrantly deviant lifestyles and habits — particularly those promoted by MTV. A seminary is not a place to conduct CCD — or Al-Anon or any other such cleansing period.

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