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Until Christ Is Formed in Me
INTERNATIONAL | WHO WE ARE | TESTIMONIES
Vocational testimony of Fr. Matthew Summe LC

Vocational testimony of the Fr. Matthew Summe LC
Fr. Matthew Summe LC

The Growth of a Seed

The Gospel teaches us to judge a tree by its fruits; biology teaches us to judge the tree by the health of its roots, trunk, and branches. But upon deeper investigation, we discover that much of the growth and stability of the tree depends on conditions outside the tree itself, such as the soil in which it was planted, the rain that waters it, or the sun that nourishes it. My vocation developed in a similar way. I was the seed planted in the rich soil of a loving Catholic family, watered generously by the life of grace, and nourished by the warm rays of God’s light until our Lord was ready to transplant me into the new field of my Legionary vocation.

My family was a nursery where the delicate plant of my vocation could take root. It was rich in examples of authentic Christian life, beginning with my parents and extending to my aunts, uncles, godparents, neighbors and siblings. From them, I learned to pray, listen, share, sacrifice, give of myself, learn my faith and stand strong in its defense, and think and live by principles. In the domestic Church of my home, my mother and father forged the Christian virtues in my heart, especially through their own example.

My mother is contemplative and conquering, full of life, a woman of great yet simple faith. My dad is silent but strong, firm in his principles and gentle and constant in their application, especially with regard to Catholic faith and morals. My mother spoke frequently and from her we learned to live; my father spoke sparingly and from him we learned principles to live by; both were living witnesses of Christian life.

A Dreamer Facing Death
Despite this solid, harmonious and joyful upbringing,
Vocational testimony of the Fr. Matthew Summe LC
I was a very restless, pensive child. I loved to play, be with friends, and learn… yet nothing satisfied my restless soul. Even though I felt very comfortable around all my friends and my nine siblings’ friends, I often found myself seeking solitude and quiet where I could be alone with my thoughts, my dreams, my aspirations, and my prayers to God. I loved life, but I found my heart aspiring for something more, something permanent, a lasting legacy, and a transcendent mission. I recall two deep sources fueling the yearning for something more: my dreams and my experience of death.

            I was a dreamer, and my teachers, coaches, parents, and siblings could attest to that. In my dreams, I was transformed into a champion in sports, a heroic soldier saving the outpost, the knight in shining armor, the financial leader… the saint? Yes, I would dream of being a saint as I pored through the many lives of saints that my godfather, Uncle John, gave me as birthday presents. They were typically not my first choice for a present, but when all the hoopla of the party was over and I had retired to my room, those were the stories I read until my mom turned the light out. I do not recall dreaming about the priesthood, but I did dream of being like one of those saints.

Death was the other constant of my youth. In the short span of my tender years of development, many of my aunts and uncles died of heart failure or cancer. It marked me profoundly because I was always the altar server at these Masses. Through the tears, I found much to reflect on: the fleeting nature of life, the relative nature of all things that aren’t enduring, the great and unshakeable security of God. God became the one unshakeable rock of my life, the one sure hope of a life that would endure forever. In the face of death, I found an unwavering hope and trust in God, the Resurrection and the Life. Without a doubt, he was shaping my young heart through these experiences. He was there present even in the midst of loneliness, insecurity, and suffering.

The Adventure Begins

So what does all this have to do with my priestly and Legionary vocation? Everything! It was this driving restlessness throughout my childhood, high school, and first year of college that kept me searching, trying, and interiorly pushing for more while at the same time keeping me close to our Lord and my faith. But my second year in college at the University of Kentucky was a watershed year. Starting my second semester, our Lord and the vocation began to move abruptly into center stage; it is then that he clearly planted the question and the response: I have made you to be a fisher of men. Come, follow me.

At this time, I became acquainted with the mission of the Legion of Christ; yet I had not yet visited or made contact with a Legionary priest. It wasn’t until spring of 1993 that I met two Legionaries as I was coming out of a noon Mass on campus with a friend of mine. They had come to meet one of my friends who was discerning a call to the priesthood. This brief encounter left no doubt in my mind that this was God’s plan for my life. As it worked out, my friend stayed in college, finished his degree, married, and is now the happy father of a beautiful family. I, on the other hand, was off on the adventure of my life.

I participated in the summer candidacy program several months later and discerned there that this was I belonged. I found that peace of which St Augustine so famously writes, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh Lord.” One episode stands out in my mind. It happened on the last night of my home visit before officially starting my Legionary novitiate. During this home visit, I was surrounded by family and friends, many shocked by the sudden entry into the seminary. Toward the end of the night, one of my childhood friends pulled me aside and said, “Matt, I have known you all my life. You were always restless but now I see that you have found your place because you are at peace.”

My Legionary life has been the fulfillment of one dream after another: I have had great educational opportunities, I have preached all over the world on various continents as a missionary (in Europe, North America, and South America), and I have fought great spiritual battles, learning to love and be loved. But God has graced me to live a life with a lasting legacy. With God, our deepest dreams and ambitions come true in a way we could never imagine. He has also continued that great evangelical lesson so present in my youth: when we die with Christ, then we rise with him. It is the great lesson of dying to self so that Christ can live within me. Now at the threshold of my ordination, I wait for the moment when I will be transformed into another Christ, his priest in time and eternity.

Father Matthew Summe was born and raised in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky as the eighth of ten children.  He studied two years of chemical engineering at the University of Kentucky before entering the Legionary of Christ novitiate in Cheshire, CT in 1993. He did his novitiate  and studied classical humanities in Cheshire, followed by a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in Thornwood, NY. From 1999 to 2002, he did his apostolic internship in Brazil, and then went on to Rome to earn a license in philosophy at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and his bachelor’s degree in theology. In 2005, he began working as an assistant secretary to the territorial directorate in Atlanta. He is currently the superior of the new Legionary community in Houston, TX, is the local coordinator of apostolate, serves as chaplain of the Northwoods Catholic School, and is the Regnum Christi men’s section director and development officer for the Legion of Christ in the Houston and San Antonio area.

This testimony is part of the book “Ven y sígueme” (Come and Follow me). In January 2008 you can buy it at www.misionmultimedia.org. It contains 48 testimonies in Spanish, 11 in English and 1 in German.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2007-12-21


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