As I near the end of my novitiate year, it is interesting to reflect back on how I came to the Augustinians. It is especially interesting since there are no Augustinian houses in my home state of Iowa. But, much like Augustine himself, the Lord walked with me down the winding paths I chose. It was the summer before or after my freshman year of high school that the vocation director for the Diocese of Iowa first contacted me. He took me out to eat and told me he was given my name from a former staff member of my grade school. I was honored, but was not ready to consider a vocation yet. He later invited me to a vocation weekend at Conception Abbey Seminary during the spring of my sophomore year. I did not come away sold on priesthood or religious life, but I saw the way some of my peers prayed and what seminarians are like.
The idea of priesthood simmered over the next year and half, and by the fall of my senior year I had decided to join the seminary. After visiting some of the seminaries my diocese sent to, I settled on St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. I went there for four years and loved it. It had such a dynamic life of studies, prayer, and service.
However, I found myself throwing around the idea of religious life during my last year at St. John Vianney and had thought about it off and on before. I felt myself drawn to the vocation of a religious brother, as well as to the communal life and prayer of a religious community. I knew that diocesan priests can be very isolated, especially in rural dioceses like my own.
Over the next three years, I jumped from place to place doing volunteer work, temp jobs, and a semester of graduate school, while visiting religious communities throughout this time. I was unsettled and doing a bad job of discerning my vocation. Having discovered the Augustinians through the Vision vocation website and the Order’s own website, I had contacted them once already but did not follow through with it. In the early fall of 2011, I looked them up again. I wanted to learn more and was particularly drawn by the life and example of St. Augustine himself.
Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A., the Augustinian Director of Vocations, and Sr. Ardis Cloutier, O.S.F., his assistant, reached out to me and I later went on the vocation weekend that October. I remember Fr. Tom calling me on Christmas Eve of that year and I told him I was ready to go ahead and start the application process. As they say, the rest is history.
Besides the communal life and prayer of the Augustinians and the desire to pursue the vocation of a brother, there were many other aspects that drew me to the Augustinians. For instance, I loved their history and tradition, as well as the variety of apostolates that Augustinians serve in.
Though my road has been a winding one, I know that the Lord has been with me along the way. Through people, events, and even despite myself sometimes, the Lord led me to where I am supposed to be right now.