Andrew Gronotte

Learning to Hold on to Jesus.

What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us (1John 1:3)

My name is Andrew Gronotte. I am the oldest of three. My brother, Christopher, was born a little over a year after me, then came along my sister, Elizabeth, about two years after him. Christopher, is also a seminarian with the Legionaries. Elizabeth currently teaches children with special needs. I was born and raised in Kentucky, where my parents and sister still live today.

I grew up in a practicing catholic family. My mom was the guardian of the faith when we were young, where she would make sure we would go to mass and say the rosary as a family. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the first time (she was diagnosed again another 20 years later). I have a vague memory of my dad sitting with my brother and me saying we needed to pray for mom. In some way my mom’s cross those years marked the faith in our family.

As a kid, I loved playing sports. I played both basketball and baseball. Our baseball team was pretty good, we went two years undefeated. With my friends, we would play football and basketball in the backyard, dreaming of being stars in the NFL or NBA.

All seemed to be going well at my parish school until the 5th grade. That year, my parents decided to have me sit out of a sex ed class, and started looking into having us change schools. A friend of my mom’s, Melanie Wieck (RIP), asked her to help start a school with relation to Regnum Christi. Mom and Dad decided to have us start going to this new school called Royalmont Academy. We started in the basement of a Baptist Church in Cincinnati, OH. Here my vocation began to form. Before going here, I may have thought of being a priest a few times, but nothing concrete. I don’t know where it really started, but somehow God placed a little seed that has kept growing in me.

At school, I was introduced to Fr Matthew Van Smoorenburg and Br Louis Judd. They would come once and a while to visit the school. I esteemed them then, and continue to do today. They would hang out and talk with us. They invited me to go on a summer camp after the first year at school. The year following, I would go on monthly weekend retreats at what was known to us as the “Weisbrod’s house”. They were great! We would play, pray, and eat well. Later I found out, that I had to miss baseball practices and games because of this, but since mom took care of my “busy” schedule, I had no clue. I just went on with life.

Easter 1998, I was invited to visit a minor seminary in New Hampshire, ICAS (Immaculate Conception Apostolic School). I had no clue I would end up going there, but when I was invited by Fr Matthew, I told him I would love to.  Then I had to tell mom. By God’s grace, my parents let me go.

I ended up joining that following summer. Above all, it was the spirit that reigned that attracted me to go there. I felt at home, and wanted to be part of that. Looking back, I can only see it one way, God must have been so happy to see all the kids there eager to love Him and letting Him nourish that seed that He placed in us. It was hard for me to leave my parents. I know it was hard for them too, because they were more aware of what all this meant. But through it all, I only received support and help from them to follow God’s path. After a month or two, my dad came up for a weekend, he must have had business there. I remember as he left, I felt alone. I sat in the parking lot next to the gym and cried for a while. I didn’t know where to turn. Later I learned, I could only turn to Jesus.

It may seem that they were bad parents for having let me go, and a year later letting my younger brother go there too. The grace of God was the only thing that allowed them to do this. It doesn’t make sense, but God gives the support necessary. I am sure that as a family we have grown a lot, and are probably closer than if we would have stayed at home. Sacrifice always helps us to grow. Looking back I see how my parents made the sacrifice to send us there, trying to find ways to pay the tuition, not having us at home, and then traveling the 700 miles to come visit when they could. It is all worth it, because God gives back 100 fold. I think they can attest to that too.

After those four years in New Hampshire, I decided to join the novitiate. I received my cassock on September 14, 2002. I promised poverty, chastity and obedience, and to try to live according to the rules of the Legion. The next day I received my first assignment putting to test the promises I made the night before, I was asked to go to Monterrey, Mexico. Between learning Spanish, a new culture, and learning to be a religious; I was oblivious to what was happening for the first 6 months. Here in the many hours of prayer that we had during the day, I learned to hold onto Christ and to deepen in my friendship with Him.

After the two years there, I was sent to Cheshire, CT to study liberal arts, our humanities program. I was there for two years. In addition to going to classes, I was able to deepen in my awareness of my consecration with God. The habits I formed in the novitiate were put to the test in a different environment.

Then came my first period in Rome. I was sent to the Center of Higher Studies. It was hard for me to adapt during the first few months. I felt a little lost among the 400 other seminarians that were there. Once I got used to it, I was asked to change communities. One unexpected day, our general superior, Fr Alvaro, invited me to lunch with two or three other brothers. The next day, I was told I would go to the General Directorate.  I was nervous, but also excited for the new adventure.

At the end of my first year in Rome, God gave me a challenge that took about 8 years to figure out. I received a note from my superior that said, more or less what I understood to mean, that God didn’t want me to be a legionary but rather to be His, in other words this wasn’t the right path for me. It was hard for me to understand what he actually meant by this, because I thought I was doing fine. The next day, I went to my superior to ask him what he meant by this, and he explained that I was doing fine on this path and that the vocation is only a means for me to be united to God. The only problem was, that I kept the thought in my mind for a long time, and it wasn’t until after my pastoral years I was finally able to understand what this meant. It ended up being one of the greatest gifts.

After my undergrad in Philosophy, I was off to Washington DC to work with youth clubs – ECYD. Those years were tough, to say the least. All the structural elements that I had around me that gave me confidence, fell. Our founder was found to have started a private family and abused minors, my superior left the congregation, companions and friends left the religious life and Regnum Christi movement, some of the people I was working with looked on us with suspicion, and we were asked to look with a critical eye at our constitutions, and to re-write them. Amidst all this I was ask to keep the clubs afloat when some of their parents no longer trusted us. It was hard, but looking back at those years I knew God was in charge.

Coming back to Rome after the 3 years of pastoral experience, I was forced to re-encounter the difficulty that I left a few years back. I was blessed to have the same superior from the time I left Rome. I didn’t understand why that worry was still there.  At times, I felt like God was asking me to give up my vocation. I felt like I had given Him everything and the only thing that I was still holding on to was my vocation. How could He ask me for that? This was what was most precious to me. It was a childhood dream. It gave me an identity.  I couldn’t let go. In this turmoil, God gave me a boost in His Sacred Heart.

June 6th, 2013, it was the middle of exams finishing my license in Philosophy. After an exam in the morning about the metaphysical foundation of a realistic ethic, I went out with some Regnum Christi members from the States to show them a few churches in Rome. We were in the middle of the novena to the Sacred Heart. Every church we went in, I saw an image of the Sacred Heart. It was then that Christ gave me His vocation. It was no longer mine, but a participation in His priesthood. I had to give up my idea of what it meant to be a priest, and had to open my heart to receive what God really wanted from me. Everything for me was solved in the image of the Sacred Heart. He gave me His Heart and in that Heart, He gave me the priesthood, the Legion, the mission, and most important of all, Himself. For me to be a priest is exactly this, God choosing to be united to me in His priesthood. He can choose to give himself in many different ways, but for me it is in the legionary priesthood. God wants my heart and it is serving Him in the Legion, which is the best means for me to be able to give it to Him.

12046803_828415713941745_3401511286820081926_nMy name is Andrew Gronotte. I am the oldest of three. My brother, Christopher, was born a little over a year after me, then came along my sister, Elizabeth, about two years after him. Christopher, is also a seminarian with the Legionaries. Elizabeth currently teaches children with special needs. I was born and raised in Kentucky, where my parents and sister still live today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *