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Turn to Jesus (Article)

“Are you willing to say ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ?”
Father Benjamin Cieply, LC (Columbus, Ohio)

P. Benjamin Joseph Cieply , L.C.
Fr. Benjamin Joseph Cieply , LC

Even as a young child, I always felt the calling to be a priest.

As my mother recalls: “When Benjamin was just 3 ½ years old, he was wearing his bright red, ankle-length ‘Superman’ cape when we were on an outing to the grocery store. The checkout clerk was quite taken with his outfit and enthusiasm and, with a smile, she asked him if he wanted to be Superman when he grew up. Benjamin stood up very straight, put his hands on his sides, looked squarely at the clerk and said in a very convincing voice ‘No, I’m going to be a priest!’”

Of course, as a kid, I was interested in many other things as well –sports, theatre, friends, and hobbies– but somehow, I always felt that the priesthood was where I should be. It was Christ who took the initiative from early on, and while growing up I always considered him my best friend. Consequently, I always felt an almost inexplicable drive to share him with others, and this quickly developed into my dream.

The Virgin Mary played a central role as well. My devotion to her grew especially during my grade school years; I remember frequenting our school church during some of the recesses after lunch and paying long visits before her statue. When I was in sixth grade, I began to go to a Marian prayer group in our parish, and in 1990 I accompanied my parents on a memorable pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Surely, Mary’s motherly care protected me during those years. Looking back now I clearly see how she took me by the hand and led me straight to her son. A priest once told me that there are many roads that lead to God – but for me, Mary is like a six-lane freeway.

When I was fifteen, the dream of one day being a priest continued, and I found a booklet promoting vocations in the back of my seventh grade classroom. Inside the booklet there were several postcards that you could fill out and send to the congregation of your choice to request more information. One night, I took the booklet home and nearly sent out all of them. Perhaps because I was still rather young, only two responded; and even the two that did respond merely made a few suggestions and asked me to write to them again when I was older.

Now the adventure begins!

The Legionaries of Christ were not one of the congregations in the booklet and I had still never heard of them until the spring of my eighth grade year when some friends of the family were hosting two Legionaries at their house. They invited us over to meet them and I was immediately impressed. I still vividly remember everything that took place that evening. After dinner, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the Legionaries, Fr. Kermit Syren, L.C., and I told him that I was interested in the priesthood. He told me that they ran a summer
P. Benjamin Joseph Cieply , L.C.
Fr Benjamin on the day of his ordination to the diaconate, June 29, 2008.
camp in New Hampshire for young men considering the vocation.

During the ride back home with my parents I spontaneously asked for permission to attend the camp. I was sitting in the back seat of the car, and when they both looked at each other after my question I remember thinking to myself, “Now the adventure begins!”

A few months later, I was on a plane to New Hampshire. The camp was fantastic – we climbed mountains, swam in beautiful lakes, played soccer, and even cooked marshmallows around campfires. But the most inspirational part was seeing so many other boys, all just as serious about the priesthood as I was. Their fervour before the Eucharist, unconditional love for the Church and fidelity to the Pope, filial devotion to Mary and spirit of authentic charity are some of the things that most attracted me.

Are you willing to say “yes” to Christ?

On that occasion, during an afternoon hike to Blackrock State Park, I was asked, “Are you willing to say ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ?” At first I was startled, and then I blurted out, “Yes!” – a response that would take me two years to truly fulfill.

Despite my positive experience at the apostolic school, I returned home and entered the local high school as planned. The change from grade school was enormous. I got involved with sports, made many new friends, and... I began to leave behind my prayer life and lose my focus on Christ. Things weren´t as “exciting” as I had thought they might be. But my “Yes” to Christ stayed in the back of my mind.

Somehow, during my sophomore year, my father heard that the Legionaries were organizing a Holy Week Pilgrimage to Rome, and he offered me the chance to go. I had lost contact with the Legion during the past two years, so I was happy to spend some time with them again. During the pilgrimage we toured several cities in Italy and spent many hours at the Vatican. During the liturgical celebrations we saw John Paul II up close, and during one of the papal audiences I even got to shake his hand.

But the most important experience of the trip was a moment I spent in silent adoration on Holy Thursday night. After completing a Eucharistic Hour at midnight, the priest told us that those who wished could stay up for a while and spiritually accompany Our Lord in Gethsemane. It was close to one o´clock in the morning when I felt Christ calling me again, and suddenly I found the strength I needed to fulfil the “Yes” I had initially given two years before.

God has a time for everyone. It was my dream to enter the seminary and I had always known that He was calling me… but only then did he tell me “now”.

My dream is God’s dream

Upon returning, I told my parents the news. I explained to them that I knew in my heart that God was calling me to be a priest, especially “now” at this point in time. Despite the normal sacrifices involved in allowing a son to enter a minor seminary, because of their great faith, my parents allowed me to join.

I entered the Legion’s seminary in 1994 and ever since it has been a constant adventure. By far, one of the highlights has been the tremendous grace to be able to study in the heart of the Church, Rome, so close to the Holy Father and in the presence of so many other seminarians from around the world who are preparing themselves for the same mission – the New Evangelization.

Now I am overwhelmed by receiving this great gift. I recall the text of St. Paul, which reads, “We have received this treasure in jars of clay, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). I will never consider myself worthy, and yet I am confident that God is calling me and has many things yet in store. I don’t consider the priesthood an end, but rather a beginning point; through the sacraments, I will be able to share Christ with the whole world… and my childhood dream will finally come true – a dream that is his dream, too!

Father Benjamin Joseph Cieply was born in Buffalo, New York, November 8, 1977. Still young, he moved to Columbus, Ohio with his family and attended St. Michael’s grade school in Worthington. Later he entered St. Charles Preparatory High School in Bexley. In August of 1994 he entered the Legion of Christ’s minor seminary, in Cheshire, Connecticut. In September of 1995 he travelled to Dublin, Ireland for his novitiate and in 1997 he returned to Cheshire to continue his studies in classical humanities. After two years of philosophy in Rome, he returned once again to Cheshire for his apostolic internship where he worked as an assistant of the novice instructor. He now holds a bachelor’s and license degrees in philosophy from Regina Apostolorum Pontifical College in Rome, Italy, and is currently pursuing an advanced degree in dogmatic theology at the same College.

This vocation story was originally published in the book "Vivir para Cristo"



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