Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Seminarians share vocation stories with Serran Club
the Inland Register
(From the May 19, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
The Serra Club of Spokane was thrilled to have two seminarians as guest speakers at its April 23 meeting: Chase Willcuts and Erick Ramírez.
Chase Willcuts (right) spoke first.
He said that his openness to think about the priesthood started with the first calling to consider the Catholic faith – he entered the Church just three years ago. His calling to priesthood wasn’t sudden, but gradual.
His father’s family was Quaker; his mother’s, Episcopalian and Baptist. Chase was raised as a Quaker.
The first encounter that initiated a curiosity of religious faith occurred when he was about 11 years old. He said he had just completed a Christian retreat, a retreat that he really wasn’t interested in attending, but he went because a friend attended. After the retreat, for some unknown reason, these words kept coming into his mind: “You have to become a disciple of Jesus.” This was an encounter he described as being emotional, psychological and spiritual.
He couldn’t leave this thought alone; or rather, this thought wouldn’t leave him alone. He started to read the Bible, and combined with his search to find out what is the will of God for him, another thought came to his mind.
He said, “We cannot divorce Jesus from the community he created – the apostolic succession.” This ultimately drew him to the Catholic Church.
Now, as a Catholic young man, he is discerning what the will of God is for him and whether he is called to be a disciple in the sense of becoming a priest for the Catholic Church.
At the conclusion of his talk, Sue Manfred, President of the Serra Club of Spokane, asked Chase, “What can we do to encourage a culture of vocations?”
“Get to know people our age and don’t let anything shock you,” Chase replied. “And, secondly, call your own family and ask about the youth in the family.” Vocation discernment, he said, “always starts at home.”
Next to speak was Erick Ramírez (right).
Erick was born in Mexico, but shortly after his birth his parents moved to the United States and settled in Pasco, Wash.
When Erick was very young, he had a curiosity about his parents’ reverence toward the Eucharist. His question: “Why did my parents make a big issue about a piece of bread?”
He recalled as a child that any goofing off at Mass was not tolerated and was met with serious redirection when he got home from Mass. To avoid any displeasure, he made sure he was perfectly reverent at Mass. This, he said, helped him focus.
When his family joined a group of charismatic Catholics, he began to learn more about the significance of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus. The Holy Spirit, through the reverence instilled by his parents and through the knowledge gained from the charismatic group, provided understanding.
Now, what was he going to do about the understanding? He wondered, “What does God want me to do?” He asked his pastor at the time, Father Daniel Barnett (now rector of Bishop White Seminary), “What is God calling me to do?” Father, he said, replied, “To be a priest.”
Whenever he asked Father Barnett in various ways about what to do with his life, the conversation would come to the same conclusion: To be a priest. Other people had questions of Erick: “Are you thinking about becoming a priest?”
Erick happened to hear about an Open House at Bishop White Seminary. Erick came, and he made a difficult choice to relocate far away from his close knit family to attend Bishop White Seminary and to see if the answer still is: To be a priest.
(The Serra Club promotes vocations to the priesthood and Religious life, and strengthens the spiritual life of its members. Serra is present throughout the world.)
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