CHARLESTON—The beginning of the new school year means a new group of seminarians begins studies for priesthood in the Diocese of Charleston.
This year, nine men start on their journeys to become priests under the direction of Father Mark Good, vicar of vocations. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and bring with them many different life experiences. What they all hold in common is a desire to serve God.
They join nine others who continue their studies this year, including Andrew Fryml, Rhett Williams, Francisco Onate-Vargas, Jimmy Touzeau, Michael Cellars, Will Frei, Patrick Judd, Matthew Curley and Matthew Bauer.
Here is a look at the nine new seminarians:
Bruce Barnett, 59, comes from St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville. He will begin first theology at Pope St. John the XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass. Barnett, who retired from the Bosch corporation, said he realizes he is different because he discerned his vocation later in life. He studied for the permanent diaconate for two years but determined that his life would take a different path.
“God was just planning everything for me all along, so I said I would serve Him any way He wanted,” Barnett said.
Justin Damask, who was unavailable for an interview, will begin first college at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas.
Alex Foley, 18, is the son of Mike and Frances Foley from Greenville, and is a member of St. Mary Church. He will attend first college at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas. Foley said he first thought about becoming a priest around seventh grade when he was on a Boy Scout retreat studying for one of the religious awards available to Catholic Scouts. Parish priests and others he encountered while in middle and high school helped him discern his vocation.
Rafael Ghattas, 30, returns to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Texas, after a year off. He begins his second pre-theology studies. He is a member of St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach and the son of Dosha “Tony” and Sahar Ghattas of Myrtle Beach.
Kyle Lesmes, 32, spent nearly 10 years in the U.S. Army, including deployments in South Korea and Iraq. He strayed from his faith after being raised Catholic in Illinois, but he met a military chaplain in Iraq who challenged him to come back to the Church.
“Once I had truly embraced the faith for what it was, the Catholic priesthood became an attractive option for me,” he said.
Lesmes is the son of George and Jacey Lesmes, and a member of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville. He will attend first pre-theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.
Erik Roman, 18, will begin first college at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas. He is a son of Jesus and Erika Roman and a member of St. Anne Church in Rock Hill. Roman said his vocation comes naturally to him because he hails from a very religious family. He decided to answer the call to priesthood after a priest at a diocesan retreat asked him if he had considered a vocation.
“I’m just excited to begin studies and learn more about the Church,” he said.
Nicholas Shiver, 20, attended the United States Military Academy at West Point for a year before deciding he wanted to become a priest. Shiver is the son of Michael and Quincy Shiver and attended Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant. He said beginning second college at Holy Trinity in Dallas is an exciting milestone in his life.
“Once I submitted my will to God’s will in my life and learned what He wanted, everything fell into place,” he said.
Pedro Silva, 21, is the son of Marcos and Claudia Silva of Bluffton and has worked as a youth minister at St. Peter Church in Beaufort. He starts first theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.
“My work with the youth makes me really want to reach out to young people and families through the priesthood,” Silva said. “I want to minister to people where they are.”
Stanislav Watson, 20, will attend first college at Holy Trinity in Dallas. He is the son of John and Lucille Watson of Mount Pleasant, where the family attends St. Benedict Church.