Meet our seminarians: Tamiru Atraga

Tamiru Atraga Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

Home Parish: St. Anne, Dorchester. Home Country: Ethiopia. Seminary: St. John’s Seminary, Brighton.

High School: Minor seminary in Ethiopia with Vincentian Fathers. Hobbies: Spiritual reading, lives of

the saints. When was the first time you thought of priesthood?

I was 14 years old when I went to the minor seminary. It was always in my heart to become a priest and to serve God and His people. There have been a lot of difficulties and challenges on my way, but God is always helping me to pursue my vocation with great zeal. I pray always to respond to God’s call. What were major Catholic activities you participated in prior to the seminary?

I participated in seminary retreats and vocation office retreats to make the right decision for my life.

What is your favorite Scripture

passage? Why?

I like to read the call of the prophet Samuel. I like it because God had a great plan for Samuel, but it was not all clear for him until Eli told him that God was indeed calling him. I believe that many young people want to serve God, but they need someone who can help them as Eli helped Samuel.

Who influenced/inspired you to priesthood? Please explain.

Many people inspired me since childhood to become a priest. I had great priest friends to talk with about my vocation.

What would you say to a young man who thinks he may have a vocation?

I would say it’s worthwhile to give one’s life to Jesus because He first gave His life for us. There’s nothing greater in life than to love the Lord and to love His people.

Please tell us, what are some of the most important parts of discernment?

One of the most important parts of discernment is to know what is from God and what is not from God. As Scripture says, the devil is the father of all lies. It is important to know Jesus. It is important to come to know God and His Word. ‘‘To be ignorant of Scripture is to be ignorant of Jesus’’ (St. Jerome).

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Some Ethiopian people would be surprised to know that I am studying to be a priest for Boston. They know that to be a priest in Boston is more of a challenge than to be a priest in Ethiopia with the different culture and language. But it is God’s work, not ours.

What activities would you

recommend in order to foster

a culture of vocations?

I would recommend a good spiritual director and a year of discernment of living in the community. The more young people know of the life of the saints the better to love God and His Church.

Did anyone invite you to consider priesthood? Please explain.

My parish priest was always encouraging me and helping me in my discernment process.

What influence (if any) has Pope John Paul II had on your vocation?

John Paul II was a man of prayer. He was in love with God and His people, especially with the young people. I was influenced by his book ‘‘Theology of the Body.’’ I believe that it would be a great help for young people to read this book to remind them that we are created for love as a unity of body and soul.

How did you come to know

Jesus Christ?

I grew up in a very devout Catholic family and I was in formation for a long time. Above all, Jesus Christ came to my life and saved me from my struggles and temptations.

What were the spiritual events or activities that helped you develop and shape your personal relationship with Christ and His Church?

Receiving the holy Eucharist, regular confession, reading spiritual books, [and] consulting with spiritual people greatly shaped my personal relationship with Christ and His Church.

What are some of your favorite and most important spiritual readings/books/passages?

I like to read the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul, Theresa of Avila, John Vianney and St. Alphonsus Liguori.

What is your day like in the seminary?

The day is full. We start with morning prayer at 7 a.m., then we have Mass at 7:30 a.m. We have class in the morning until noon. Some students have an elective class in the afternoon. We have adoration between 5-6 p.m. Some days we have human and spiritual formation in the evening. The rest of the time is spent reading and writing papers.

Through the cardinal, God is calling you personally to help rebuild His Church. How must the priest respond to this mandate today?

I believe with the guidance of the cardinal we all need to help to rebuild God's Church. Let us use the people who have the gifts in various areas of spiritual life. I think we need more of a strong sense of unity and working together in order to rebuild God’s Church. God is in charge and our enemy will be defeated if we all work together as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Anything else?

I think we need to follow the examples of the holy martyrs who have gone before us. People will hate us and reject us, but we need to prepare to give our life for the sake of Christ and for the salvation of souls.

The Pilot, in cooperation with the Office of Vocations, is publishing a series of brief profiles of the men preparing for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston. For other profiles or if you think God may be calling you to a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, visit the Vocations Office Web site at

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