New seminarians begin their spiritual adventure

As summer winds down, three men are preparing for their own version of “back to school.”

These new seminarians will begin their studies for priesthood in the Diocese of Charleston later this month.

The men have spent the past few months working, spending time with family and friends, and preparing themselves mentally and spiritually for this immense challenge. All three said they know it will be a life changing and demanding experience but believe they are ready. They’re supported in their journey by a fraternity of 10 other seminarians.

Michael Cellars, 31, is not a novice to the seminary. He initially started studies in Ohio in 2004 but left after 18 months because he realized the time wasn’t right.

As he prepares to enter St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Cellars said he’s been praying a lot and attending Mass as often as possible.

“It’s definitely exciting, something I’ve been looking forward to a long time,” he said. “Leaving is also bittersweet because I’m leaving behind family and friends. My brother and his wife are expecting a baby and I won’t be around for the birth, for instance.

“The whole idea of dying to self has become more apparent, and that’s a good thing. Everything is all in one — the anxiety and the excitement!”

Cellars has been spending a lot of time with loved ones, including several trips to Atlanta with his father and brother to catch Braves games.

The Charleston native attends St. Mary of the Annunciation Church and is a son of Karen and Mike Cellars.

Rafael Ghattas, 28, spent the summer working long hours with many double shifts at a hotel job in the Myrtle Beach area. He helped management there train new employees in advance of his departure for seminary. To relax ,
Ghattas hit the gym for workouts and spent plenty of time in prayer and reflection. He will also study at St. Mary’s Seminary.

“I’ve been praying offering my day to God in the morning and asking Him to give me the grace to be ready for my new experience,” Ghattas said.

He wonders how he will handle the responsibility of being back in the classroom, his ability to study and to “change, to be humble and be obedient.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to just find more time to spend with God, to have the chance to be alone with Him and to pray more for his grace and for the Holy Spirit to change me,” Ghattas said.

He is the son of Doshra “Tony” and Sahar Ghattas of Myrtle Beach, and a member of St. Andrew Church.

Patrick Judd, 17, recently completed nine weeks in the great outdoors, working as a counselor at Camp Chosatonga, a boys’ wilderness camp near Brevard in western North Carolina.

“We spent the in the mountains and paddling on the rivers,” Judd said. “I love the outdoors so it was definitely something I enjoyed.”

After returning from camp, Judd spent the rest of his time with his family and on activities at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, his home parish. He is a son of Derron and Alice Judd of Aiken.

Judd said he doesn’t know quite what to expect when he arrives at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas.

“It’s just a very exciting time for me,” he said. “I’m excited to see what seminary is like, and to be living within a community of guys who are all pursuing Christ.”

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