Meet our seminarians: Sean Maher

Sean Maher Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

Home Country: Ireland. Seminary: St. John’s Seminary.High School: St. Michael’s, Lis. Limerick Tutorial Center. College: University of Limerick. Hobbies: Reading, Gaelic football, soccer

When was the first time you thought of priesthood?

Perhaps as a young child -- I have two uncles (both brothers of my father) who are priests. I remember putting on my brother’s altar-serving clothes and pretending to celebrate Mass using a small Mass kit that one of my uncles used out in the missions in Kenya.

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

I read at Mass as a kid. I attended a prayer meeting in my latter years in college. I went to two World Youth Days prior to entering seminary. I spent a summer in Paray-Le-Monial (France) working for a community that organizes big retreats/pilgrimages there across the summer, a year in Rome at a school that forms young Catholic lay people.

What is your favorite Scripture

passage? Why?

Very difficult question. There are several passages that have been very important and given me great joy and hope etc. Perhaps John 10:10b “I have come so that they might have life and have it to the full” (Jerusalem Bible). Obviously, the idea of living life fully, in accordance with his plan for me. Similarly, I find Philippians 4:8 very attractive.

Who influenced/inspired you to priesthood? Please explain.

God, more specifically the Holy Spirit and Jesus, although I am sure the Father was involved too. The particular line of Scripture in which I sensed the possible vocation was from the Benedictus (Lk 1:77), so one could add Luke, Zechariah and John the Baptist. Of late, I have met some good people who are living the Christian life in an outstanding way that kind of makes me want to be a priest, and a good one. There is no particular priest that has been a noticeably major influence, although of course John Paul II was inspirational in his particular way!

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

I would say, “Of course, you do! Everyone has a vocation from the Lord. You are called by God to holiness as a human being and to spread the Gospel as a Christian. You are called to fatherhood in some sense as a man. The question to ask the Lord is: ‘What is the specific vocation you give to me?’ Ask him! Then, if you think he is calling you to be a priest, spend a little time praying about it, but not too much. (Not half your life!) Pray for and seek out a good and holy spiritual director and remember such a vocation is not discerned solely by yourself but by the Church too. So, consider applying to enter [the] seminary. All the time remember that the Lord loves you completely and utterly and will always ask you to do things because of his love for you. He is not out to cause you harm! And anything he does ask of you, he will give you the grace to accomplish it. Just say yes to whatever he asks.”

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

Learning to pray and to listen carefully. Learning to distinguish good from evil and to recognize the greater good among two or more good possibilities. Recognizing the need for conversion on an ongoing basis.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Some of my sins probably, but it would depend on which people you were asking! Perhaps that someone once asked if I were Lebanese! (...given that most East coast Americans immediately recognize my Irish accent.)

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

Specific prayers prayed in the community for vocations and especially in schools (because children’s prayers are often thought to be very powerful and also it raises awareness among them, so that they might be more attentive to their vocation) and in hospitals (again there appears to be something very special about the prayers of suffering people).

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

Again it is hard to specify the exact influence. He has prayed for me (as I am sure he has for all of us). I experienced the call to the priesthood as an adult and in a deeply spiritual way while in Rome. Originally, I went there to work in the San Lorenzo Youth Centre that John Paul II gave in order to welcome young people from around the world to Rome. A second thing he hoped for was that the center would become a “hothouse” for vocations. I got to see him fairly closely during Mass and the memory abides with me. The story of his life also astounds me and makes me wonder what the Lord has in store for me if I but trust him and follow him.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ?

There are several ways that I am coming to know Him still through intellectual learning and experiential learning in prayer and service.

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

Pretty much everything that I have already referred to in the other questions: Prayer, frequent confession, Mass, prayer meetings with other young people, prayer with the family, WYDs, the summer in Paray-Le-Monial with the Emmanuel Community, the year in Rome with the Emmanuel Community, time spent in seminary...

When did you feel that God was calling you to be a priest?

Just before Christmas 2001, when praying and reading a line from Scripture, “To give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.” It struck [me] that forgiveness of sins happens through the priest and that that was my vocation.

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

The Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, biographies of saints.

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

A) Whatever way his bishop asks, and B) by looking around him, praying and identifying the need where he is to serve, and seeking to address that/those need(s).

Anything else?

Encourage more activities for young adults in the parish, activities which will involve both a prayer component and an intellectual formation component that gives them light in the midst of all the cultural confusion around us.

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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