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Seminarian Spotlight: Thomas Olson


Thomas Olson Pilot photo/courtesy Vocations Office

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Home town -- Rutland, Mass.

High school -- Wachusett Regional High School

College -- Holy Cross (BA Political Science), St. Louis University (MPhil), Boston College (MDiv)

What are some of the factors that led to your decision to enter the seminary and discern the question of a vocation to the priesthood?

After 10 years of formation as a Jesuit, last year I decided to leave the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) in order to prepare for diocesan priesthood. During those 10 years, I saw, did, and learned much, and for this I will always be grateful to the Jesuits. Throughout those same 10 years, however, there were numerous indications -- both large and small -- that my fundamental call is to the priesthood, and not to the Society of Jesus. While it is both self-evident and obvious that between being both a Jesuit and a priest there is no mutual exclusivity, it is also the case that my own theological, ecclesiastical, and ideological commitments are such that outside the Society my priestly vocation is by me better lived. My experience in archdiocesan parish work as a Jesuit only helped to confirm this understanding. Furthermore, this particular understanding my Jesuit friends, Jesuit superiors, various diocesan priest friends, family, and lay friends countenanced. Accordingly, I believe that God is calling me to serve him, the world, and the Church as a diocesan priest, and so I am grateful for the privilege and honor of now being a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Who are some of the people who influenced your decision to enter the seminary? What is it about them that assisted you?

As I hinted above, there were many individuals who helped me in my discernment. I must particularly recognize however Father Richard Fitzgerald, who is the administrator of St. Columbkille in Brighton. Three years ago when I was still a Jesuit, I began my pastoral work at St. Columbkille, where I came to realize that the "heart" of the Church is the parish. During my time at St. Columbkille, both as a Jesuit and now as seminarian, Father Fitzgerald has not only encouraged me to consider diocesan priesthood and persevere in my formation for it, but he has also given to me the support and encouragement that I have needed. To him, I shall be forever grateful.

What would you say is the role of prayer in the life of a seminarian and what effect does it have on one's ability to see God's call?

The role of prayer in the life of a seminarian is essential, since the same must also be said of the role of prayer in the life of a priest. For both, prayer is essential because prayer is a primary means by which a seminarian or a priest develops his relationship with Jesus, who is the one after and according to whom he models and orients his life. Furthermore, through prayer a seminarian or a priest becomes a man of faith and a man of holiness, which are essential qualities; in the absence of such qualities, his ministry may very well not be held by the faithful as genuine, and this could cause irreparable damage to the faith lives of those for whom he is to be a shepherd. Hence, it is essential that the context -- the "studio" -- in which both seminarians and priests prepare themselves for ministry each day is their own prayer, for it is through prayer that a seminarian or a priest is able to recall, on a daily basis, that the risen Jesus is present with him whenever, wherever, and however they minister. It is this presence and, perhaps more importantly, the seminarian or priest's recollection of it throughout his life that keeps his love of both God and God's people abounding.

What advice would you give to a man who thinking about his vocation and is considering that God may be calling him to be a priest?

Ask yourself and take all the time that is necessary to honestly and openly ponder the question, "What is it in this life that I most deeply desire?"

Over and over again in life, we ask and then try to answer this question. Sometimes to us the answer seems clear enough, and at other times, we haven't a clue. However, it is always the case -- always -- that our deepest desire for ourselves is equivalent to God's deepest desire for us. When we finally figure out what it is that God wants for us, then we discover what it is that we truly desire and what in this life would make us the happiest.

So, pursue the object of your deepest desire once you discover it!

For some men, that object is priesthood, and to his priests and future priests, God grants the grace that is necessary for them to be bold enough and brave enough to be His priests and, thereby, be truly happy.

What do you like most about being a seminarian?

What I like most about being a seminarian is being in the parish (St. Columbkille, Brighton), where I have the opportunity to serve Mass each weekend, train altar servers, sit on the parish council, lead the St. Columbkille Young Adult Commission, direct and teach in the parish's RCIA program, and perhaps most importantly, get to know and become known by St. Columbkille's parishioners. In addition, I have been the given the opportunity to work with Father Jack Ahern at Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta Parish, where I have learned about the multifaceted pastoral realities of ministry in an urban setting like that of Dorchester.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary?

The greatest challenge facing a man who is considering the seminary is uncovering his own answer to the question I posed above: "What is it in this life that I most deeply desire?" This is a question that since time immemorial has challenged each and every person who has ever asked it. Of course, the Church instructs us that our innermost desire and deepest source of happiness is union with God, but how a person ought to attain that union in this life is an open question. For each person, the particular answer is discovered not without too much difficulty. This is especially the case in today's world, wherein all around us there exist myriad false objects of our deepest, truest desires, tempting us by means of "beauty" that isn't good, goodness" that isn't true, and "truth" that isn't real.

Seminarian Spotlight is a collaborative effort between The Pilot and the Archdiocese of Boston's Office for Vocations to introduce readers to the men preparing for priesthood in the archdiocese. More seminarian profiles and information on discerning a vocation are available at www.VocationsBoston.org.

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