My Vocation Story
By Fr. Rick DiLeo, S.C.J.

As I was growing up in New Jersey during the mid-1960's, my belief was that I had made some good plans for myself. I wanted to enter the Archdiocesan seminary program after graduating from St. Mary's Elementary School. But for some reason, I was not accepted into their program. After reading vocation literature about the SCJ community, I began corresponding with them. Sooner than I realized it, Fr. Steve Weise SCJ, one of the vocation directors from the office, came to visit my family's home to inform my family and me about who the SCJs were. Following my graduation from grade school in 1966, I was accepted as a freshman to their high school seminary in Lenox, MA.

During college years, foreign languages became my strength. This led me to plan that I would return to the high school seminary program and teach Spanish and Latin as an SCJ. But during my years in theology, the high school programs were closed. Knowing my facility with Spanish, one of my former teachers invited me to consider serving as an SCJ deacon and priest in our Spanish-speaking parishes of the Rio Grande Valley. This was my introduction to what has become my first love as an SCJ priest—serving in Spanish parishes with our SCJ confreres.

Having had a variety of ministry experiences as an SCJ priest, I finally had the opportunity to plan for a sabbatical of travel and connecting with the worldwide SCJ Congregation. After a few months of personal study and writing articles on Sacred Heart Spirituality at our Generalate Headquarters in Rome, I was preparing to head to Argentina to meet my extended relatives and meet SCJs from that province. But I was asked to help start a seminary program in southwestern India where the SCJs had recently begun a mission in October 1994. There was need for an English-speaking SCJ to help get our programs started. Once again, it wasn't what I had planned. But after requests from members of our general administration, talking with confreres whose opinions I valued, and in my own prayerful reflection, I went to India instead of Argentina for the latter part of my sabbatical.

The common link in each example is that God's plans led me into relationships, ministry, and experiences as an SCJ that I would never have thought possible. Instead of studying with the Archdiocese, I studied with the SCJs in Lenox. Instead of being a Spanish/Latin teacher in the SCJ seminaries, I was sent to serve Spanish-speaking people in our Texas parishes. Instead of enjoying leisure time with my relatives and meeting SCJs in Argentina, India was my home and mission, even if for a short time, to invite students who eventually would become the newest confreres in our worldwide SCJ Congregation.

Rather than wonder about what would have happened if I followed my plans, I remain in awe of what God's plans have revealed to me. As an SCJ religious priest, I have met SCJ confreres who love and accept me. While we live among God's people of different ethnic groups or regions of the world, we are all sharing in the same mission of sharing God's loving heart and compassion. The people in these diverse ministry locations reveal God's loving heart and compassion for us. Reflecting on my SCJ vocation, it seems more and more evident that God's plans for me have always gone far beyond whatever I could have imagined possible to happen.

After 36 years as an SCJ religious and 26 years of ordination, I still have to step aside and reflect on whose plans are being followed-mine or God's!!! Thank you for your interest in promoting vocations to Religious Life and Church ministry.

Note: SCJ stands for Priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Visit the SCJ Website

 

 

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