The seminary is a call to service

On April 8, hundreds of thousands of people around the world remembered and paid tribute to Pope John Paul II buried one year earlier. Many of us could recall the feelings of disbelief, despair and loneliness of losing the only pope many of us had known in our whole life.

The day of the pope’s funeral was the day I made a pact with God to discern my vocation to the priesthood for the Diocese of Charleston.

Everything about this man inspired me. He was an athlete, a poet and an actor. He dialogued with Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Orthodox and atheists. He defended the unborn, the poor and the dying, labored to defeat communism in Eastern Europe without ever picking up a gun, visited and forgave his would-be-assassin in prison, and never ceased to be the head of the Church until his death – even while he was rolled around in a wheel chair.

This man was a living saint. He was Jesus Christ on earth. He had touched my hand and my soul when I visited his private chapel in March 2005 while on a spring break pilgrimage to Rome.

Many of my now 15 brother seminarians and I considered ourselves to be John Paul’s priests, inspired by his orthodoxy and right-thinking. We come from various backgrounds and family settings. Some of us come straight out of high school, some come from college and others come after multiple, successful careers.

We have struggled to discern between the vocation of marriage expressed in the mutual self-gift and union of body and soul between one woman and one man raising a family, and the priesthood of Jesus Christ also expressed in a mutual self-gift of one man and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church uniting and raising one enormous family.

After pondering the mystery of these two vocations and some of us living as much as 40 years, we feel we have a vocation or calling to the priesthood to serve the people of God and this diocese.

For our seminary studies we take anywhere from 4-8 years, earning a degree in philosophy so that we might engage and speak with modern culture, and a masters in theology to teach people the Catholic faith and to empower people to joyfully carry the cross of Christ.

Our daily life varies depending on which seminary we attend. Each seminarian’s life has common elements, however, that help him grow and mature intellectually, spiritually and pastorally.

During the daytime, we study and take classes preparing to be shepherds. We pray together, celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass and eat our meals in community. We have various pastoral assignments: working with the poor, visiting the elderly in nursing homes and the sick in hospitals, educating youth at Catholic schools, counseling at crisis pregnancy centers and altar-serving in liturgical functions at Catholic churches.

Our primary mission is serving people and their needs by studying to be good priests one day.

We would like to share our vocational stories, lives and wisdom gained from our studies with the faithful, in the hopes of promoting vocations, virtue and allowing you to know and build trust with your future shepherds and spiritual fathers.

Questions and requests can be sent to

David Nerbun is a seminarian with the Diocese of Charleston, studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio.