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Turn to Jesus (Article)

God was calling
Fr. Timothy Moran LC

Fr. Timothy prays in St. Peter’s square during the last days of illness of Pope John Paul II
"Prayer helps us always to find the light that led us from the outset of our priestly vocation, and which constantly guides us even though it seems at times to be lost from sight in darkness" (Pope John Paul II).
I grew up in Milwaukee, went to a Catholic grade school and then a public high school. I had a typical childhood, full of games and homework. Upon finishing high school however, I had a subtle pulling within me that I am at a lack of words to describe. It was similar to a deep down feeling like I was searching for something, and yet, I did not know what I was searching for.

I decided to join the Marine Corps. I had a myriad of reasons for this: I was patriotic and wanted to serve my country; I wanted to earn money for college; I had a sister that had joined the Marines and liked it. But the two biggest reasons were: first to become more outgoing, as I had always been a little shy, and; second, I thought I just might find an answer to this strange searching feeling. I signed up for six years of active service to the corps, but my dad strongly objected so I changed this to a reserve enlistment right before leaving for boot camp, thanks be to God.

I went to San Diego for my boot camp and earned the proud title of ‘Marine’ that I believed was what I was looking for, but I realized that was not it. I still had this searching feeling. I then started college in January of 1990, having finished my boot camp and infantry school (which was my position within the Marines). I thought that maybe by being on my own in college I would find what I was looking for, but no, the sensation remained.

I then thought, if I just got a girlfriend (I had never had a girlfriend throughout high school) then I would feel fulfilled. So I got a girlfriend, but that was not it either. I then thought that I was not far enough away from home and independent enough; this is because I went to college in Madison (Wisconsin) which was just and hour and half from my home and I would go home almost every weekend.

About a half of year later the Gulf War started. My Marine unit was activated and we were sent half way around the world to Saudi Arabia, but that was not it either, the feeling persisted – distance was not part of the formula. In Saudi Arabia our unit guarded the ammunition, and we had long shifts of guard duty sitting in bunkers with plenty of time to contemplate. This strange searching feeling continued to persist, so when I got home from Saudi Arabia I asked my mom about it: “Mom, I have this strange searching feeling that I don’t even know how to describe, it is faint yet unrelenting and its driving me crazy. What the heck is this, and how do I get rid of it?”

She said, “Oh, that’s simple; you are searching for God. That will never leave you until you die.”

“Oh great,” I sighed, “so what am I supposed to do?”

She said, “Pray more, get closer to God, and that will help lessen this feeling.” With that answer, I was satisfied, and continued on pretty much the same as before, and the feeling ceased to bother me.

I continued to go to college and not
Fr. Timothy (right) with Br. Emerson Belasque LC from Brasil
Fr. Timothy (right) with Br. Emerson Belasque LC from Brasil
long into it, this sense went away without me realizing it. What had actually happened was that I was not living the best of a moral life in college and I became spiritually deaf to it. My conscience had become numb. About a year later, I did three years of a CO-OP, which is where you work one semester in your career (mine was chemical engineering) to get experience before graduating and go to school the next, alternating between them. Then, about four years into college, I began to experience a slow but sure conversion. I was always Catholic, but now I started to really live my faith the way it was meant to be lived. As this conversion was happening this strange searching feeling started to come back again and growing stronger. This was now five years after the conversation with my mom, and by now I had completely forgotten what that feeling was.

During my last year of college I went on a retreat with the Legionaries of Christ in Edgerton, Wisconsin. During the retreat, Fr Matthew van Smoorenberg, “The only way you know you have a vocation is to try it out.” So in speaking with him in spiritual direction he suggested that I fly to Cheshire, Connecticut, to visit the seminary during my spring break and if the Legion seemed like it could be the right place for me, to go to their summer candidacy and try it out. That way, by the end of the summer I would know for sure if this is what God was calling me to or not.

I did just that: I flew out to Cheshire during my spring break for a second retreat and to visit the seminary. The brother that picked me up from the airport found out that I was in the Marines and excitedly said to me, “You were in the Marines?! You should talk to Br Daniel; he was in the Marines, too!” I said “OK”, but the retreat was in silence so I dismissed the idea.

During the retreat there was an opportunity for me to walk around with another brother and ask him questions about the congregation. He found out that I had been in the Marines and said the same thing, “You were in the Marines?! You should talk to Br Daniel; he was in the Marines, too!” I said OK, but interiorly I dismissed it: there were tons of brothers there, I was in a silent retreat, it’s not worth the hassle. During the whole retreat I prayed fervently that God give me a sign so as to let me know if this was my call, but no answer.

Finally, on Sunday the retreat finished. We all walked into the dining room (which holds about two hundred people) for lunch; this would
Timothy Moran was ordained a priest on December 23, 2006
Timothy Moran was ordained a priest on December 23, 2006
be the first time we could talk. I picked my own seat. It just so happens that the seat I picked was right next to Br Daniel. Having discovered this, I asked him how he discerned his vocation to the priesthood and he told me, “When I finished high school I felt like I was searching for something, but I did not know what it was; so I joined the Marine Corps. But that was not it. So then I thought maybe I will find what I am looking for if I get a girlfriend…” This story sounded quite familiar, but it wasn’t until after I finished lunch that all the pieces started to fall into place. I realized that this happened to him, until he joined the seminary, and that the same thing happened to me! And that he felt like that, until he tried to follow God’s call, and I was feeling like that too. It was then that I realized what that strange searching feeling was that I had from seven years past and was experiencing now with such force. God was calling me to be his own as a priest.



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