Brendan Foley

Home Parish: St. James, Johnson City
Year in Formation: Theology II
Place: St. Mary’s Seminary

Favorite color: Blue (but go SU Orange, and Purple for my University of Scranton Royals)
Favorite book: I’m not a big reader, but for spiritual reading pretty much anything by Jacques Philippe. He’s very easy to read, but at the same time he offers a lot of depth and things to think and pray about.
Favorite food: I could eat pizza or anything with Buffalo Chicken almost every day
Favorite Band(s): Dave Matthews Band, The Avett Brothers
Favorite hymn: O God Beyond All Praising
Favorite Gospel story: One of my many favorites would have to be John 21—disciples miraculous catch of fish and Jesus’ conversation asking Peter if he loves him. (Giving the Old Testament some love: Genesis 22 (Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac) and Isaiah’s Servant Songs (Isa. 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12)—both are good for understanding what a servant of God looks like)
Favorite saint(s): St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Calcutta
What’s your opinion on cats? I don’t mind them, but thank God for dogs.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited? Hard to choose just one, but something recent that comes to mind is the Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine in Beirut, Lebanon. (You should Google it)
If you could go to one place in the world, and money was not a concern, where would it be? Ireland
What is your favorite church in the Diocese of Syracuse? St. James Johnson City! (Editor’s note: This is Brendan’s home parish!)

What surprised you most about your first day at seminary?
Probably meeting the other seminarians and realizing the variety of ages and backgrounds that were present: young and recently out of college as well as many people who had worked for a while and decided to come to seminary to see where else God might be leading them. I thought most would be around my age.

What do you look forward to most about priesthood?
Celebrating the Sacraments, having opportunities to minister to/be there for people when they need it most, helping people encounter God in his Word/Sacred Scripture, and in general I’m looking forward to the unknown plans that God has in store. You never know how God will call you and use you to be an instrument of his presence. It has been very humbling so far as a seminarian to see the opportunities God has opened up for me, I can only imagine how much more God has in store in priesthood.

What advice would you give to someone discerning priesthood?
It’s all about being open to God leading you, and sometimes that means taking a risk or a leap of faith. If you allow yourself to trust, I firmly believe that God will lead you on the path intended for you. I remember how daunting the thought of priesthood (or even entering the seminary) was, but to be honest once I let go of my hesitations and decided to give seminary “a try,” discerning became much easier.

I reached a point in my discernment where I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to move on in my life after college the way I wanted unless I found the answer to whether or not God was calling me to serve him as a priest—so I came to the seminary in hopes of finding the answer, or at least to discern the answer to that question more intentionally. One of the misconceptions that I think is out there is that once someone enters seminary, that’s it, he’s committed to the priesthood. Time in the seminary is first and foremost a time of discerning God’s call. I would say many in their first or second year of seminary are still “figuring it out.” Just because someone enters the seminary does not mean that they finish and become a priest. Occasionally a seminarian, after much prayer and discerning, finds the answer at the seminary that God wasn’t calling him to the priesthood. However, the time for that seminarian was not wasted: God led him to a place where he could spend a lot of time in intentional prayer, meet some incredible people also trying to get closer to God, deepen his prayer life and spirituality, and allow him to leave with a better understanding of God’s plan for his life. Obviously, the hope is that seminary confirms what is in the heart, that someone is called to the priesthood and that that call grows louder and stronger each day for that person; but at the time that I entered it was comforting for me to know that I didn’t need to have my answer the day I walked in the door.

In my case, since I took the intentional step to discern at the seminary, it has been much easier to see where God is at work in my life. A few years ago when I entered, I never would have guessed that I would be as open as I am now to the possibility of priesthood and living my life in service to God and his people. To me, it would be very humbling and a great privilege to be called by God to serve him as a priest, especially having looked up to many great priests in my life. So my advice is to be active in your discernment, but also patient at the same time. Everyone is different, but talking to others who have gone through or been involved with the discernment process can really help someone to gauge where he might be at in hearing “the call.” For example, things took off for me once I visited St. Mary’s Seminary with a few other guys who were discerning and I spoke to many of the seminarians and learned how they reached the point of when they were ready to enter. (BTW, most never felt they were fully ready to enter when they did.)

Concrete ways of getting to that point: pick up some good spiritual reading that may improve your prayer or your desire to live for God, attend daily Mass during the week, get involved with service opportunities, try to find a spiritual director/a priest who can help you see where God is active in your life, reach out and get to know the priests on the Vocations team (and go to their events), and always feel free to reach out to the seminarians with questions you may have.

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