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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Lead Me Lord!
Testimonio vocacional del Fr. Josef Hare, L.C.

P. Josef Hare, L.C.
Fr. Josef Hare, LC.

It all started with a question that I couldn’t get out of my head. «Why am I Catholic?».  I remember well that evening sitting in silence in the back seat of the car watching the rain drops change colors in the passing head lights. As we pulled into the driveway, a phrase that I had heard a few times came to me, and surge of peace and security came with it. «You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church» (Mt 16,18). I was twelve years old and for the past year I had been involved in a Boy Scout troop based in the local Mormon Church. I had found a wonderful group of people with good values, and this stirred up questions that I had never asked before, and that I knew that I would have to find answers to.

The answer that I received on that evening would launch me into a search that would ultimately lead me across oceans and continents; it would take me to Rome and the heart of the Catholic Church and launch me on to the path of an enthralling mission in the company and service of Christ.

The first step was to discover the treasure of faith that I possessed, but had yet to fully discover. Faith was always present in my family, but the time had come for me to make it my own. In the early nineties in the United States there was a great resurgence of enthusiasm for the faith. There were a number of converts to the Catholic Church who presented an electrifying vision of what they had discovered. In 1993 John Paul II took the United States by storm in Denver and set off the chain reaction of the JP II generation of vocations. I
P. Josef Hare, L.C.
began to devour all that I could read about apologetics and the Catholic faith, yet the call to the priesthood was still to be discovered.

That all changed one 8th of September, seemingly out of nowhere a serene thought came, «I can be a priest». All it took was an instant to leave that seed planted. At that moment there was a rush of excitement. A whole new world of possibilities that I had never contemplated opened before my eyes. It was at once exciting and scary. For some reason I knew that this would not be a passing enthusiasm as so often had happened before with other things I thought I wanted to be growing up. .

The test of time and of difficult situations was yet to come. I was all of twelve years old with junior high and high school still before me. A series of events were about to occur that would bring me face to face with some of life’s tough questions. After two miscarriages my mother gave birth to my youngest sister just as my grandfather entered into his final hours of life. Almost immediately after the birth of my sister we rushed to California just in time to say our final farewell. This existential experience of life and death left a deep impression on me that was further increased when that same sister, a few weeks later was diagnosed with a life threatening case of whooping cough.

During this period I came into contact with a number of priests who would help shape my future vocation through there example and vocation. My parish priest, Fr. Ed Coleman, was a great example of closeness and pastoral care. In difficult moments he was close to the family and would show up on his bicycle, pray with us and stick around for a pickup soccer game.

I also had the grace of meeting a Maronite priest, Fr Jonathan Decker, whose profound life of prayer and knowledge and love of Sacred Scripture left a deep impression on me. His advice and clarity as to the mission of a priest continue to resound in my interior, and continue to guide me today.

It was around this time that I met a Legionary Priest for the first time. A local Catholic school put on a vocation fair and somehow word got around that I was thinking of the priesthood and I was invited. I was immediately impressed by the enthusiasm of the priest I met there, Fr. Dean Stasell, L.C. He spoke of Christ as a real person and friend, and his description of the mission of a priest was enthralling. I left that encounter with the clear conviction that I had to find out more, something just seemed to click. In a series of providential coincidences my best friend from childhood had met up with another Legionary priest in California and told him of my interest in the priesthood. We were soon in regular contact and his advice was a key aid in navigating the five years that would intervene before I entered the novitiate.

High school brought with it new opportunities and challenges. Though homeschooled since second grade, I was able to participate in sports and other programs in the local public high school. I was soon involved in the school soccer and swim teams. Athletics have always had an important role in my life. Team spirit, camaraderie, and a healthy sense of competition have always been very attractive for me. I greatly enjoyed the thrill of success. My sophomore year I broke a school record and backstroke that I would go on to break five more times in the following two years.

At the same time I began to seek a deeper contact with God. I was especially attracted to Eucharistic adoration which I was able to participate in regularly. There was something about just being in the silent presence of Christ that spoke volumes to me.

The final years of high school were crucial in shaping my response to God’s call. As the time to make a definitive choice as to the direction of my life drew closer, the interior experience of following a call that demands setting aside what many consider the normal course of life became more intense. On the one hand I was very happy with the life I was living. I had a great family and great friends.  I was doing very well in school and in sports. I had a girlfriend, a wonderful person and a practicing Catholic. Yet on the other hand I felt the gentle voice of God drawing me toward something beyond my comfort zone. He was asking me to leave my life in his hands. He was waiting for me to ask him to lead me.

In the month of December of my Junior year of high school I had the opportunity to make a three day Ignatian silent retreat with the Regnum Christi Movement, preached by Fr. Thomas Maher, a Legionary priest who had been helping me in my discernment during the previous years. During those days of prayer I was given the grace of an experience of Christ that stays with me to this day. I would not say that it was anything extraordinary in the sense of voices or visions. It is something that it hard to describe, a sort of deep and consoling conviction that God and his love are real, and that in his mysterious plan he wants me to be a part of making that love known. I remember leaving that retreat with an overwhelming desire to help others to experience what I had experienced.

In the following weeks I made the decision to visit the Novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Connecticut. I had no idea what to expect. During Easter of 1998 I traveled across the country to test my call. The days I spend there were wonderful and challenging at the same time. What for some years now had been a thought and an ideal that perhaps someday I would follow was now a startling reality before my eyes. The example of the Novices and Priests was very edifying, and their simple yet joyful way of life was very attractive. At the same time the questions arose in my mind as to whether I would be able to live that out, and I started to face the real renunciations I would have to make. My comfort zone was challenged to say the least.

I returned from my time there with a more clear vision of what lie before me if I chose to follow that path and a deepened conviction that it was the path that God had in mind for me. Still the question of how to know for sure if this was my call rattled in my head at times. In the months that followed I spontaneously sought light in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I would often pass by the parish Church for a couple of minutes with a very simple prayer,: «Lead me Lord, show me what you want of me».

My junior year of high school came to a close and senior year began. I was more and more decided to enter the novitiate the following June, but at the same time was putting off the steps I needed to take to make it a reality. One afternoon I had a conversation with my mom, and in a way that only she could, made me realize that I needed to make a decision. I knew that deep down the thing that I wanted most in the world was to be a priest no matter what difficulties that might entail and that the time had come go through with it. 

The months that followed were filled with anticipation at what awaited me in the seminary. At the same time the sense of God’s leading me increased. Many of the worries and concerns began to fade as I learned to trust more and more and follow God’s lead. The fourteen years that have followed since I entered the novitiate in September of 1999 have been years of growth and deepening of my call.

The things that are most worthwhile in life are most often those that most challenge us and stir us to give our best. This has certainly been my experience in the years of formation leading up to my ordination. At the same time it is incredible how God places people on our path who encourage and support us along the way, and he gives us the chance to help others which is more often than not the best antidote to our own small worries and difficulties. I have a huge debt of gratitude to all who have accompanied me along this path and who continue to sustain me with their prayers. There are so many people who deserved to be mentioned by name, but here I will have to be brief. In a special way I thank my parents and family for their unconditional support. My gratitude goes out to all of my superiors and formators in these past years for their patience and constant guidance. Undoubtedly I have a very great debt of thanks to all of the legionaries and consecrated members of Regnum Christi for their company, support, and encouragement along the way. I can’t forget my extended family and friends

My prayer as I take my first steps in this incredible vocation is that God continue to lead me with his grace. In the words of St. Paul, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me”. (Phil 3,14)

Fr. Josef Hare, L.C., was born on October 31, 1981, in San Diego, California, United States of America. He entered the Legionaries of Christ as a novice in Cheshire, Connecticut, U.S.A., on September 15, 1999. He studied Classical Humanities in Cheshire. Has a degree in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Ateneum Regina Apostolorum. He has been member of the team of formators of the noviciate in Cheshire (U.S.A) and  the Center of Higher Studies of Rome. He currently serves as Territorial Secretary of Venezuela.



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