“James O'Neil . . . the North American College, Rome.” When Bishop Conley sat down with the senior class of St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, NE, these were words I didn’t expect to hear. We had been looking forward to receiving our assignments for many weeks, and it was with both excitement and some trepidation that we waited for the bishop to turn to each of us and tell us where we would be spending our next four years of seminary. I was last in line, and by the time the bishop turned to me I thought I knew what he would say. I certainly did not.
Before entering seminary in 2014, I attended the University of Nebraska. I was only in Lincoln for one brief year, but that year has decidedly shaped my life. On beginning college I joined Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity, and there I found something I hadn’t fully experienced before—men my age who were active in the faith and dedicated to living it out. In this environment, it was easy to get involved in the Newman Center. I began attending daily Mass, and through Newman Center events like community nights and Koinonia retreats I made many good friends.
It was also through the Newman Center that I decided to enter seminary. A powerful prayer experience on a FOCUS retreat—really, a unique encounter with the Holy Spirit—convinced me to try it out, and less than two weeks later I sat down in Fr. Matya’s office and he handed me an application. Now I’ve been in the seminary for three years, and have four years still to go. It’s been challenging, but fruitful. And soon I will begin the next stage of my discernment in my new assignment in Rome. While the reality of Rome has not fully sunk in, I am honored and excited for the unique experience of living and studying in the Eternal City. I will leave for Rome this summer, and, God willing, after four years I will be ordained a priest of Jesus Christ.
I ask that you keep myself and all of my brother seminarians in your prayers as we continue our studies and our discernment! Know that you are in our prayers as well.