Seminarian’s Story Opens Students’ Eyes to Vocations

| April 16, 2015
Photo of Dane Connelly walking with students at Bishop Ludden.

Seminarian Dane Connelly interacts with students in the halls of Bishop Ludden.

BY CLAUDIA MATHIS

Students at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School have been benefitting from seminarian Dane Connelly’s presence at their school. Beginning in January 2014, Connelly spent his pastoral year at St. James Church in Syracuse and also helped out at Bishop Ludden two days a week.

“It’s been great,” said Connelly, of his time at the school. “It’s been a fun time working with the teachers—they have a lot of fun and they have a lot of energy. It’s good to do something new.”

Connelly works in tandem with Bishop Ludden’s campus minister Amanda Webster and faculty member Fr. Dan Muscalino. He also serves as chaplain to the school’s soccer team—even practicing with the squad as time allows. Connelly said he wants to be as present as possible at the school. “I’m open to meeting with students who have questions,” he said.

Connelly’s personal struggles with his discernment to become a priest make him a great resource for the students. Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and raised in Chittenango, New York, where he is a member of St. Patrick’s Church, Connelly graduated in 2006 from Chittenango High School where he played soccer, lacrosse and volleyball.

“I first started to become personally interested in my faith when I was in high school,” said Connelly, who notes that his participation with his parish’s youth group greatly influenced the development of his faith.

Connelly attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where he majored in history and theology and intended to be a teacher. As a freshman, he developed a deeper prayer life, mostly from the influence of his Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam men’s household. “It was Ignatian in spirit,” said Connelly. “I was drawn to their spirituality and accountably to one another—it was a deep brotherhood. They pushed me to a strong life of prayer,”

Photo of Dane ConnellyIn his junior year of college, he spent a semester in Austria and travelled throughout Europe. After meeting Fr. Kim Shreck from the Diocese of Pittsburgh while in Rome, Italy, Connelly asked the priest to serve as his spiritual director. At that point, he became interested in the priesthood.

Connelly admired Fr. Shreck because “He was very genuine and was deeply honest. He understood who I was and what I was going through. He saw everything on my heart. He saw it in the discipline in my spiritual life, and he brought to life what being a priest is like.”

After graduating from college in 2010, he attended St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2013, Connelly took a leave of absence from the seminary. He went to live with his grandmother in Connecticut, where he worked as a substitute teacher and a Starbucks barista.

“Formation is such an intense thing,” said Connelly. “I started to lose perspective.”

Connelly had misgivings and fears. He worried that he wouldn’t be a good priest, that he would be disliked and that he wouldn’t be faithful to his calling.

While living in Connecticut, Connelly found another spiritual director. “He was a very holy priest,” said Connelly. “If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have come back. He made me focus on putting God first before myself.

Eventually, Connelly did come back –and landed at St. James Church and Bishop Ludden. Connelly hopes he has encouraged students to consider the call to the religious life by sharing his story and showing them that the journey to answering God’s call is not always a straight path. It can include times of both doubt and great faith.

“I thank God every day for the experience at Bishop Ludden. It’s been an encouragement to my becoming a priest,” he said “As long as I continually let the Lord carry me through this, for every day I’m able to turn my life over to Christ, then I have no fear of failing because Christ does not fail, ever.”

Claudia Mathis is a staff writer for The Catholic Sun.

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