Meet our seminarians: Eric Bennett

Eric Bennett Pilot file photo/Gregory L. Tracy

Home Parish: St. Patrick, Natick. Seminary: St. John’s Seminary. High School: Bishop Hendricken High School. College: Boston University. Hobbies: Sports, reading, hiking, camping.

What were major Catholic activities you participated in prior to the seminary?

I was a CCD teacher during high school. I was on a retreat team during high school that led retreats. I sat on the pastoral council at Boston University for the Newman Center for three years.

Who influenced/inspired you to priesthood? Please explain.

The first person that I saw the beauty of the priesthood through was Fr. Paul Helfrich, BH. He was my spiritual adviser during college. It was getting to know him as a person and observing all that he did that I began to see the beauty in the priesthood.

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

Pray every day. Go to Mass as often as possible. Find a spiritual adviser who is a priest and loves the Church. Talk with that man and do not leave a stone unturned. Whether you have a priestly vocation or not, you will be richly blessed to discern what God is calling you to do. You will discover a sense of peace and comfort in the presence of God when you hear and respond to whatever your call is.

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

Spending time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, going to daily Mass, having a spiritual director, and praying daily.

Is seminary formation what you thought it would be? How is it similar and different from your expectations?

It is what I thought it would be. It is refreshing to see attention be given to all details about the formation of a man into a priest. I did not know that I would have two advisers (spiritual adviser and formation director).

What activities would you recommend in order to foster a culture of vocations?

More talk of it in the parishes by the parishioners and the priests. I think that more retreats during the year specifically for vocations would continually bring a guy closer to God. I think also a contact person who could check up on guys in discernment to make sure they are well, answer any questions, and to make sure that they have a spiritual adviser.

Did anyone invite you to consider priesthood? Please explain.

The Brotherhood of Hope encouraged me to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. By doing that they got me to a point where I started thinking about how I might respond to the call of the Lord according to his plan.

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

His ability to reach out to all the people of the world and have some type of positive influence on each person amazed me. It was really his emphasis on the universal call to holiness that opened my eyes to the fact that I am called to be a saint. Seeing his final moments allowed me to hear more clearly Christ’s call to discern priestly life.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ?

Through his Church. Through receiving the Blessed Sacrament regularly and prayer. I would not have been able to know God had I not acknowledged, through prayer, his presence in my life. It was through the work and evangelization of the Brotherhood of Hope and college friends that I got to know Christ.

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

Prayer, daily Mass, eucharistic adoration, personal retreat, Newman Center at Boston University.

What was your career or background before entering the seminary?

Physical therapist. I worked primarily in a hospital and nursing home. It was a field that I could minister to people by helping them achieve the highest function possible whatever state of health they were in. It was during those treatments that I got to know these people and they would sometimes reveal so much about themselves. It was [through] these conversations that I began to truly see God in my life by revealing himself through other people.

What signs led you to believe that God was calling you to be a priest?

My restlessness in my life was pronounced. I was searching to find my niche in so many places. I started to notice that I was at peace the most when in Mass, adoration, or found myself thinking about the priesthood. I had a few powerful experiences during adoration in my conversations with God as to what he wanted from me -- since I was not finding it on my own. I also had a powerful experience during Holy Thursday that year that brought me to one of the most joyous times in my life. There were conversations that I had with priests, co-workers, and especially patients in the hospital that really pointed to God trying to get my attention.

Please describe the importance of prayer in your life?

I could physically go through the day without prayer -- I have unfortunately done it before in my life. However, I learned that the day, however good it may seem, was incomplete. Prayer and the Eucharist are the sustenance by which God strengthens me to wage battle against the attacks of the devil. I love God and I want to be with him. Prayer is the way in which I respond to the Lord and develop a more intimate relationship with him.

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

“Fire Within,” “He Leadeth Me,” and “Story of a Soul.”

What is your day like in the seminary?

It is busy but a good busy. I enjoy the structure of the day around prayer and Mass. It helps me build my day around the presence of God in my life. Even though the days go by fast and I am busy, there is a sense of peace that I have knowing that I am discerning this call. I also enjoy the fraternity at meals and in the evenings.

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

The priest must be serious about his formation and not stop forming himself. He should be always reading and looking for the opportunity to lay his life down for the Church. The priest also needs to be able to evangelize his parishioners and those in his local community. The priest needs to be part of a united front through the leadership of the cardinal. The priest needs to be a man of prayer and not be afraid to “put out into the deep.” Self-abandonment.

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 www.VocationsBoston.org.

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