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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Because Christ called me
Testimonio vocacional del Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, L.C.

P. Nicholas Sheehy, L.C.
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, L.C.

I was born June 18, 1981, at the Navy hospital in San Diego, California, paradise on earth. Although still somewhat young, my parents were very excited about me, their first child. Now we are eight. At the same time I was born very sick and spent the first few days in intensive care. Eventually I was able to go home and was soon healthy, thanks be to God. Looking back, I think this was a very important moment in my life, though I do not remember it, since I think Mary looked out for me in those days when my mother was forced to stay away.

I remember starting school at 5. I was excited because one of my friends was at Kindergarten with me. Our mothers had met at adoration, when we were both still babies. 27 years after starting Kindergarten together, we graduated from theology and Fr. Josef Hare is being ordained a priest in my same class. God has been watching out for us.

I know that I was thinking of being a priest when I was 8 years old. Something has always attracted me to the priesthood. I remember being at mass in my home parish and looking up at the ceiling and thinking how great it would be to be close to God as a priest. I also wanted to be a scientist, or a lawyer, or an English literature professor, but the idea of the priesthood was always present somewhere in my imagination.

Often, I felt bad that I had not been born 300 years earlier, as I would stow away and make my life on the sea. As I moved into middle school, my heroes landed and I became very fond of the saints, admiring their impressive feats. I remember being inspired by the courageous actions
P. Nicholas Sheehy, L.C.
of the French Jesuit missionaries, who would return to America being sure of their own martyrdom. St. Francis impressed me deeply, as did St. John Mary Vianney, patron of parish priests. I also loved the story of Pope John XXIII and wanted his name for confirmation. As he had not yet been beatified, I settled for another John, the Cure of Ars and have been well-accompanied by him since.

Middle School was very important for my vocational growth. I had a serious prayer life, praying the rosary every day, as well as morning and night prayers. I read some from the lives of the saints daily and began going to confession every month. God was getting me ready for a moment of grace. A friend of my mother’s talked to me about some dynamic priests she had met, called the Legionaries of Christ. I looked at the calendar and was impressed by these guys who lived in Rome, loved the Pope and Mary, and had the look that they knew what they wanted in life. «Give God the first shot». It seemed like a pretty good plan to me.

In 7th grade, I went to a retreat with a diocesan priest from San Diego. He did a lot of work with the poor and was famous for his charity. One night, he told us the story of his vocation. Being somebody who did so much good, one could think he would identify the priesthood with service. But the advice he gave us has accompanied me down through the years. «If you want to help people, become a social worker. The only reason to become a priest is because God calls you». So, I have always tried to listen to God’s voice and figure out where he wants me to go.

In 8th grade, I finally met the Legionaries and made some friends in San Diego who ended up going to the Apostolic School. I remember being invited to Rome and to visit the Apostolic School, but always felt like it was similar to being invited to the moon. It is cool, but not going to happen. God wanted me to stay with my family and continue maturing my vocational decision.

For High School, I was at a little Catholic start-up school, founded by some great Catholic laywomen with spiritual guidance by Legionary priests. I was able to serve Mass when the Legionaries would come through and began helping out at the boys’ retreats they would offer in the area. These retreats were great for me. We had an incredible amount of fun, had good companionship and preaching from a Legionary priest and had fellowship with other good Catholic young men. I joined ECYD and was excited about this commitment to Christ.

In 1997, I had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Paris. It was a great trip, and the first time I saw Pope John Paul II, one of my models for priestly sanctity. Coming home, I enrolled in public High School for the last two years, bringing up new challenges for the faith. In an effort to avoid the more worldly influences, I made friends with some Evangelicals, who liked to debate on the true church. Some of their arguments had me wondering, until I heard an attack of the Blessed Virgin. That snapped me back to my senses and I knew that if they rejected Mary, they could not have the truth. It was a good moment of maturing my faith.

I was very interested in a priestly vocation, but kept it away from most of my friends. I went to visit the diocesan seminary, and talked to the vocations director, but did not see much happening there. My last December at home, the Legionary priest I knew invited me to a retreat just for older boys after Christmas. I thought: «This is going to be great! We won’t have to take care of the kids, so we will have even more fun». I still remember the homily the first night: «So, in these days of silence, we want to pray…». We all looked at each other. Later, I found out that only one guy there knew we were going on a silent retreat. My little brother passed me a note saying maybe he should not be there. I just wrote him back, telling him to talk about it with Father. That retreat changed my life. I had a real experience of Christ in prayer and remember telling Father in Spiritual Direction that I wanted to visit the novitiate in Cheshire. I am sure he was delighted, after accompanying me for nearly 4 years.

So I went to Cheshire for Easter. I paid for my plane ticket myself, as I had an after-school job. I told my friends and teachers that I was visiting a college back east, in order to explain why I was not doing any of the crazy Spring Break trips. After getting over the initial shock of arriving and feeling the silence of the house, I really enjoyed those 10 days in Cheshire. I lived the Easter Triduum intensely and knew I had to come back for the summer candidacy and give Christ in the Legion first dibs on my life.

Perhaps the greatest difficulties in my vocation came after joining the novitiate. There were a lot of difficulties in my heart that I had to work out, with the help of the Holy Spirit. I am very grateful to the men who helped me get through difficult times.

I joined the Legion, not to travel, not to learn languages, not to save the world, but to be close to Christ. Over the years, I have had a lot of incredible experiences and have grown tremendously in my love for souls and my desire that all can share the great gift of the Catholic faith. I am grateful for the opportunity to seek to live very close to Christ, resting my head on his heart. I thank my family for the very real sacrifice of giving a son and brother to the Church. Though I have not often been able to be with them physically, I accompany them each night in my prayer to the Blessed Virgin. May God bless them all.

Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, L.C., was born in San Diego, California, United States of America, on June 8, 1981. He entered the Legionaries of Christ as a novice in Cheshire, Connecticut, U.S.A., on September 15, 1999. He studied humanities in Cheshire, Connecticut (USA). He has a license in philosophy and bachelors in theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He collaborated in youth ministry in Washington, D.C. He is currently serves as the youth minister in El Salvador.



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