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Staff Member: John Rumpza

John Rumpza

Deacon
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My Path to the Seminary

Life is full of surprises. Growing up, my little brother loved going to church – as a toddler, he would raise his sippy cup and mumble baby words during the consecration. Naturally, my family imagined him as the future priest of our family. Meanwhile I was on the other side of the pew, bored out of my mind! I was much more concerned about sports and about getting to know the young ladies in my class. I chuckle to remember this. My brother is now happily married with kids, and here I am on the path to priesthood.

The way God called truly did surprise me. However, the seed of this priestly calling was planted long ago in 4th grade, when my humble father took me aside one day, explaining it was time to begin discerning my vocation. He encouraged me simply to ask God what He wanted me to do with my life and to listen. He told me that God’s response might not be audible or immediate, but would come as a growing desire and peace in my heart over the years as I continued to ask. Dad instilled in me a simple trust that I would be happiest seeking God’s plan, even if it was surprising. I didn’t sense a call or a desire for the priesthood, but simply kept this question open as I grew.

The surprise of the calling is encapsulated in 3 particular instances. The first surprise was after college, when I became profoundly unfulfilled in the workforce, even in positions where I should have excelled. I had the kind of business career I had always wanted, but it seemed like the more I tried to succeed and press forward, the more my goals slipped out of reach. I also was dating during this time, looking towards a future with wife and family. But I ran into a similar block here. Things would begin wonderfully, but the closer we got, the more my heart would begin to feel restless and uneasy. I was asking myself…why was nothing working out?

The second big surprise happened in 2015. I had moved to San Diego for work, and soon after experienced a corporate restructuring which eliminated my position. I was now frustrated and discouraged, but couldn’t forget my dad’s words from 4th grade. I began praying and searching all the more. Little did I know, the searching itself was changing me and preparing me, and after some months, there was a moment of piercing clarity, where, to my amazement, I understood that God was calling me to be a priest! (there’s another full story behind this part...) I was very surprised, and a bit nervous – it would mean giving up my dreams of a career and marriage. I was also worried that the life would prove too difficult. But, thanks again to that 4th grade conversation with dad, I decided to give God everything. I took a deep breath, said “Jesus, I trust in you,” and applied to the seminary.

And this was when the third big surprise came: From day one of seminary, I experienced an entirely new kind of peace. A new creativity and joy began flowing out of my heart. Painful difficulties became treasured opportunities for God to bring increased healing and joy. My deepest fears and heartaches were no longer something to hide, but something to pour out to Jesus, where I began receiving His strength and courage to overcome them. Life was changing and deepening, and through all the trials and joys, it was becoming a rich adventure!

Even though I had always trusted my dad’s words, it still surprised me to find that in giving up what I thought I wanted most to follow what God wanted for me, I am more bursting with life and joy, more myself than I could have ever imagined.

So my encouragement is this: Give God permission to be a part of every aspect of your life. This adventure will cost you everything, but you will receive incomparably more in return!

Photo of John Rumpza