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Called to Life: Experiencing the Best of Both Worlds
U. S. A. | RESOURCES | TESTIMONIES-LEGIONARIES
Fr. Gregory Francis Heslip

Fr.  Gregory Francis Heslip
Fr. Gregory Francis Heslip
From a very young age, I discovered that life is a gift and all that I am and have received are from someone else. God created me and my parents always helped me to see that He had a plan for me. Seeking out God´s plan for me is the most important thing in life because this plan is surely what I will do best and it will make me happiest, very contrary to what we breath, learn and live in our modern day society. These words of wisdom were coming from a man and woman who were told they would not be able to have children… and brought into this world fourteen children.



I was born on October 31, 1980, in Howell, Michigan. I am number eleven. As if it was not exciting enough to have so many brothers and sisters, just imagine that of the fourteen children, ten were boys. My father worked for several years with Ford as a mechanic and then became owner and manager of two Midas Muffler and Brake shops. My mother was home taking care of us. Mom and Dad always did their best to teach us the faith and help us to be good Catholics, above all with their example. We all went to a good, private Catholic school, which was no small sacrifice for such a numerous family. We went out to eat about once a year, on Mother´s Day, so that mom could have a break from cooking. We never knew a new car and the most common place for solving clothing needs was the closet or drawers of an older brother or sister. Did this make me jealous of my friends who came from much smaller families and had all new things in abundance? Yes, but as life went on, this changed. I would never change such a beautiful family experience!



Priesthood as a Possibility



Even though I grew up in a Catholic family, the idea of the priesthood was not that present. I knew my parish priest who was elderly and at the point of retirement and I knew the priest who celebrated daily mass at the private, Catholic school, St. Thomas More Academy in Burton, Michigan, which I attended, but never had the opportunity to speak with them. It was not until I got to know a younger priest from the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Lorenzo, that the idea of the priesthood became a possibility for me. For the first time, I got to know a priest outside of Mass and saw that they are normal, like the rest of us, and that they do everything out of love and desire to respond to God´s love. By the age of eight, God started to show me the beauty of the priesthood through the testimony of several young Legionary priests. On the other side, my dreams for the future became more numerous: professional football player, doctor, any big, money making career and last of all the priesthood. But this last one stood out. Why? The priesthood had nothing to do with money. Priesthood is about living for others and their needs, living for Christ and what He wants. This seemed much more heroic, much more generous and so it would probably bring much more happiness.


Christ´s Call



As my family got to know the Legionaries, my older brother Tom and I began to get involved in different youth activities that they organized. From the age of ten to fourteen, I was very active in the boys´ youth group. I participated in several spiritual retreats, door to door missions, helped out at soup kitchens of the Sisters of Charity and visited the minor seminary and novitiate of the Legion of Christ in New Hampshire and Connecticut. When I was eleven, my older brother, Tom, entered the minor seminary of the Legionaries in Cheshire, Connecticut. His decision had great influence on me since he was the closest in age of my older brothers. This was another motivation for visiting the seminary several times and that really moved me to think about the vocation to the priesthood more seriously. My brother only stayed in the seminary for two years and then, before entering the novitiate, decided God was not calling him to the priesthood and returned home. This made me reflect a lot about what I was going to do with my life. Was God calling me to the priesthood? The fact that my brother gave it a shot, even
Fr.  Gregory Francis Heslip
Fr Gregory in 2009 giving a Gospel reflection to a group of pilgrims during a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee in the Holy Land.
though it wasn´t for him, in the end helped me to see that I should give God a chance. I attended World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado in August of 1993, and after hearing the words of Pope John Paul II, I was convinced I had to give God a chance to see if He was calling me to the priesthood. The decision was to wait until high school like my older brother had done.



From August of 1993 until August of 1995, when I entered the minor seminary of Legionaries, I continued to be active in the boys´ youth club. These were two years in which I had to renew my decision to enter the seminary many times but I always found special strength in moments of adoration and on weekend retreats. I will never forget one adoration in which God spoke to my heart in a very special way and gave me the grace and strength in order to leave behind my family so as to enter the seminary. I attended a weekend retreat in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and as usual, there was a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to do adoration. Normally the shifts lasted about ten minutes, but for some reason, the one scheduled to go after me never showed up. I ended up staying for about half-an-hour. I did not realize how much time had gone by. For a fourteen year-old that is not a short time. I remember asking Christ if he was calling me to the priesthood and if so, to show me because it would be very hard to leave home. I remember crying for a moment because something inside told me He was asking this of me and it was not going to be easy. Could God ask this much from a fourteen year-old? This was the spring of 1995. 



Finally in August of that year, I went to the summer program for the minor seminary of the Legion of Christ. This was a moment to get a taste of the life in the minor seminary so as to decide if I would stay. I knew I was young and still had a lot of maturing to do and so even before I started the summer program I had decided I would stay for the whole school year so as to give God some real time to show me His plans.


The Best of Both Worlds: Which Did God Want of Me?



After two years in the minor seminary, I finished high school at the age of sixteen. These were two years in which I continued in my search to find what God wanted of me. At the end of this period, I still wasn´t sure but decided to continue on to the novitiate. This is a period of intensified prayer or the “university” where you get to know Christ. I needed to give God more time because I was still young and wanted to be sure to do God´s will and not my own. My two years of novitiate continued to be a struggle.



Before entering the seminary, some of my older brothers and sisters got married and several times I would baby-sit for my nieces and nephews. I saw the beauty of forming a family and how they were very happy. This experience created in me a deep longing for matrimony which I thought I could never set aside. I spent a lot of time with my spiritual director and even more time in prayer. Was the strong attraction for the married life a sign from God that I was not called to the priesthood or was it something completely normal? It seemed God had shown me the best of both worlds, matrimony and the priesthood, and I wanted both. Finally, at the end of my two years of novitiate I still was not sure what to do. Before making my first profession of religious vows I wanted to be sure God was calling me because for me the profession was a serious commitment, one which would be for life even if officially it was a commitment for 3 years. With the spiritual guidance of Fr Anthony, who had helped many young men discern their vocation, I was finally able to see that my strong attraction to matrimony did not mean God was not calling me to the priesthood. For the first time, it was possible to see that this attraction was so strong simply because it was what I wanted. Would I be willing to give it up so as to live completely for God?



Finally, a day before entering an eight day silent retreat in preparation for the profession of vows, I placed everything in God´s hands. I told God that yes, I would follow Him because I thought the priesthood was what He was asking of me. After giving Him my, “yes,” a great peace filled my heart. I had been looking for this peace for four years already. I made my first profession of vows on September 4, 1999. Since then, twelve years have passed by in preparation for my priestly ordination and never once have I doubted the call of God. Yes, there have been difficulties, but these are moments to grow which we all have to pass through in all walks of life. How is it possible that from one day to another, after four years of continual doubting, I was suddenly convinced God was calling me? This is the great mystery of God´s call. One must be willing to spend valuable time in prayer with an attentive heart so that God may speak with His love. God can only speak if we are truly willing to listen and He will only reveal His will to us when we are ready to receive it. For four years I struggled to discern God´s will, but God only spoke to my heart when I was ready to accept His will. These were four necessary years in which God prepared me, little by little, to embrace His will for my life.



God has shown me the best of both worlds, something which not all young men have experienced. I know God allowed this so as to prepare me for my future as a priest and I can never be thankful enough for this experience.


 


FR GREGORY FRANCIS HESLIP was born October 31, 1980 in Howell, Michigan. He attended St. Thomas More Academy in Burton, Michigan, for grade school and junior high. He entered the minor seminary of the Legionaries of Christ in August of 1995, at the age of fourteen. From 1997 to 1999, he did his novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut. He went to Rome, Italy to study philosophy in 2000. After two years, he was sent back to Cheshire, Connecticut, for apostolic internship: three years as a formator of novices and a fourth year as formator of minor seminarians during the founding year of Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. In 2006, he returned to Rome to complete a master��s degree in philosophy and studied theology. He was ordained a deacon on July 2, 2011. Now he is studying for a master��s degree in theology while helping
as a formator in the Legion’s Center for Higher Studies in Rome.


 









Los testimonios vocacionales de los legionarios de Cristo que recibieron la ordenación sacerdotal en el año 2011 han sido publicados en el libro "Dios lo da todo".


PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-12-12


 
 


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