Faculty, students, and Augustinians offer perspectives on how Malvern supports vocations to the priesthood.
“When I was a senior at Malvern, a priest came and asked me if I’d be interested,” Father Chris Drennen said. “I said, ‘no thank you,’ But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.”
Father Drennen joined the Augustinian Order and now serves as Malvern’s Director of Augustinian Identity.
Malvern prepares its students to go to college so they can become whatever they want: businessmen, engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Not many students go on to follow in the footsteps of Fr. Drennen to become a priest. Does Malvern have a direct impact on whether a student becomes a priest?
Senior Jimmy Faunce thinks that Malvern points more students towards the married life than the priesthood.[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]
There’s a wealth to most people that lies below the surface that you don’t discover until you have that conversation. Then you find out that the person is not really the person that they seem to be on the surface and they are actually much deeper underneath.
“Every year we have a man come and speak to us about the priesthood and how we should consider it and all those things, but you consider it for a day or so and then it’s gone,” Faunce said.
Faunce believes that for a Catholic school, Malvern is lacking when it comes to stressing the priesthood.
However, some alumni credit Malvern as the reason they have considered or entered the seminary.
According to a post made by the blog Seminarian Casual on May 5, 2013, Jason Buck, Malvern Prep class of 2007, said he credits Malvern for nurturing his vocation towards the priesthood.
Buck wrote, “When I entered the seminary in 2008, I felt the Lord calling me to the diocesan priesthood… I am so thankful for the education and formation from the priests at Malvern Prep.”
Buck now serves the Philadelphia Archdiocese as a priest at St. Andrew’s in Newtown, PA.
“I think [a vocation to the priesthood] is definitely part of our mission in both the theology department and also in campus ministry. Sure there are areas we could improve upon, but what I can tell you is we do talk about it in probably every theology class in the high school,” Director of the MECO program Mr. Andrew DiDomenico said.
Although DiDomenico does not believe it is the focus of every theology class, he does believe that the chapel services and MECO help a lot.
“I think through chapel services and through the MECO program, we are trying to challenge guys to truly think about themselves and what they want in life and through them thinking about that they’ll, I think, begin to discover what God is calling them to be … their vocation,” DiDomenico said.
Although relatively few Malvern students have gone on and become a priest or a deacon, some have considered the vocation.
DiDomenico said that while he thought about the priesthood while a student at Malvern, he first voiced the idea to Augustinians while a student at Villanova University.
“I would say at Malvern, the seed was planted for me and then at Villanova I really began to think about it— I really began to talk about it,” Didomenico said.
DiDomenico later began talking to the Augustinians at Villanova and began going to dinners with them.
“After I graduated from Villanova I became an Augustinian volunteer. I used that as a real year of discernment and what I discovered was that I was not being called to the priesthood. I was being called to the married life and I started dating my future wife,” he said.
Faunce, both a senior and a lifer at Malvern, has a slightly different opinion on how Malvern does when stressing the priesthood.
“Honestly, I think I’ve considered it, it has come into my thought process because I have, or at least I’d like to say, I have always taken my faith very seriously and I kind of think probably around the time of seventh or eighth grade I decided that I probably wouldn’t end up being a priest, but would consider being a deacon,” Faunce said.
Although that was the seventh grade, Faunce still considers the religious life, but not just the priesthood. He also considers becoming a Eucharistic Minister or another lay role in the Church. However, he does know that he wants to be involved in the church in whatever way he feels called to.
Instead of using college as a time to think about it, Fr. Drennen used it as a time to experience it.
“Right after high school I entered a program that we used to have that would take kids out of high school, and I went to Villanova University thinking I would get it out of my system and never persevere,” Fr. Drennen said. “And that was 1973 … [but] here I am still hanging around.”
President Fr. James Flynn is proud of the numbers of alumni who have considered a vocation in the priesthood.
Flynn believes that with five Augustinians involved in the school and campus life, they present many models to students as to what it means to be an Augustinian priest.
“We bring in all sorts of speakers; whether a classroom teacher will bring someone in or whether it’s the school bringing someone,” Fr. Flynn said.
Flynn isn’t quite sure how to rate Malvern when it comes to how they stress the priesthood in the classroom and on campus. He believes the students almost always end up in the career that best suits them.
“They might change majors in college because you don’t know going into college exactly what chemistry is going to entail at the college level. So you might start out in chemistry and end up in physics or biology or something because goals change over time,” Fr. Flynn said.
“There are some kids who have been interested that were not even on my radar, but it’s one of those things when you sit down and talk with someone at a deeper level than just, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ or ‘Good luck in the game today!’” Fr. Flynn said.
Those deeper conversations are always sacred to Flynn.
“There’s a wealth to most people that lies below the surface that you don’t discover until you have that conversation. Then you find out that the person is not really the person that they seem to be on the surface and they are actually much deeper underneath,” Fr. Flynn said.