Alex Naglowsky Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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Seminary: Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Weston. College: Providence College. Hobbies: Hiking, travel (interest in religious sites)
When was the first time you thought of priesthood?
I first thought of the priesthood in grade school at St. Procop [Parish] in Cleveland, Ohio. Our pastor, Father Wenceslaus Uhlir, and associate priests were great examples of service to the Lord in the Catholic priesthood. In addition, the Franciscan Sisters from Joliet, Ill. were very nurturing of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Back then, 1960-1967, there were devotions to The Infant of Prague, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and eucharistic adoration in our parish. As an altar boy, I served at all these devotions. It was during the Forty Hours devotion that I developed a love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. Every May we had a beautiful procession to honor Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and of the Church. After grade school, I had the opportunity of attending Divine Heart Seminary High School run by the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Indiana. It was there that my vocation, grew further by daily prayer, Mass, daily Benediction, yearly retreats, and spiritual direction.
Who influenced/inspired you to priesthood? Please explain.
Besides my parish priests and the religious sisters in grade school, I have known many other priests and religious men and women over the years that have inspired me to think about the priesthood. Lifelong friends have repeatedly encouraged me in my vocation. I was graced to live with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Father Damian of Molakai’s group) for 14 years before coming to the seminary.
Having a spiritual director, I believe, also helps one to discern their vocation. In preparation for making this decision, Father Oscar Pratt, the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Boston and my spiritual director at the Campion and Renewal Center were very helpful.
What would you say to a young man who thinks he may have a vocation?
First of all, I would say this not just to a “young man”-- but to men across the age spectrum-- keep open to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. Here at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, I am blessed to meet men from all “walks of life” and backgrounds who come from all over the United States. Some have had careers in the military; others were doctors, businessmen, teachers, and even truck drivers. Many men have come to this vocation after their wives have gone home to the Lord. So, incredibly, many men here at my seminary have raised families, some have grandchildren. All want to serve the Lord, and his Church. I believe the Lord is calling men from many different places in life today who can relate to the people of our time. He once called fishermen and tax collectors, why would he not be doing the same today? Therefore, whether young or older, do not think that the Lord cannot use you because of the career you are in right now.
Please tell us, what are some of the most important parts of discernment?
First, really to listen to your heart; many times the Lord speaks during the Liturgy of the Word-- a good homily, or during the reception of our Lord and holy Communion. Trust that “still small voice” to be the Holy Spirit, calling you to make a decision to follow the Lord in a new way. Second, review the circumstances of your life. Sometimes, the “silver lining” in a relationship that does not move on to marriage, or even some of the turnarounds--even failures--in life, may be ways that the Lord uses to help you discover what he really has in mind for your life. Finally, be open to the possibility of a call to the priesthood through the members of the body of Christ, the Church. They may see qualities in your life that you may not have realized before. [The] call to serve the people of God may come through, the people of God themselves. (As a teacher, many students or colleagues of mine over the years would often say to me, “Have you ever thought of being a priest? I think you’d make a good one.”) The Lord speaks in many ways.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
First, that my father’s side of the family is Russian Orthodox. Therefore, I have a profound respect for and devotion to Eastern spirituality. I like to pray with icons, and appreciated finding out about the use of the “Jesus Prayer” as a way of staying rooted in Christ’s continual presence. Second, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Year of 1975, I made a side trip to Sotto, Il Monte (“Under the Mountain”), the hometown of Blessed John XXIII, whose life has always fascinated me. There I met his brother, Zavario, and received his encouraging word, “Correggio” (Have Courage)! I believe that Blessed John XXIII has personally been watching out for my vocation.
What was your career or background before entering the seminary?
I taught religion at a Catholic high school for 23 years. I also had to supplement my income at a second job, and therefore, worked as a police officer on weekends at a major hospital in Boston.
Please describe the importance of prayer in your life.
To use an analogy (though imperfectly), for me, prayer is like the need for food, water, and air, to stay alive. It is said, that one could live quite a while without food; for a few weeks without water; but only a few minutes without air to the heart into the brain. At various times in my life, prayer has been like that: always there (I know a day does not go by without reciting “formal prayers” I have said since childhood, and having some “conversation” with the Lord). However, there have been varying degrees of necessity at different times in my life, when it comes to “deeper” times of prayer. There are times when prayer is like the need for air, when I am constantly talking to God about someone who is in need of prayer, or for the next thing I am undertaking. Like any relationship, it takes time and commitment to focus on the one you care about. I am still learning. Quiet time before the Lord--especially in eucharistic adoration-- here at the seminary is a real gift; one in which I know many people do not have the chance to participate.
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.