Ordination Class of 2022: Deacon Nathaniel Sanders

This is the third in a series of articles profiling the seven men who will be ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on May 21.

BRIGHTON -- Deacon Nathaniel Sanders' priestly vocation took root early in his life.

He lived in multiple states as a child, including Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York, with his parents and three brothers. His mother, a Catholic, was from Milton, and his father, a Protestant, was from San Antonio. He first became familiar with the Boston area through visiting his mother's relatives.

Deacon Sanders and his brothers grew up reading the Bible and praying together each night. He attended Catholic schools from the time he was in the first grade and was also an altar server in his parish.

"I grew to love serving, and, through that, started thinking about the priesthood for the first time," Deacon Sanders said.

The idea stayed with him throughout his adolescence. Many of the teachers at his Jesuit high school were young priests, and their example further inspired him in his discernment.

After high school, he went to Boston College to study philosophy and theology with a minor in mathematics. He began to develop a devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas and adopted his belief that studies and holiness can be "integrally connected in the Christian life."

"Studying divine things can be a path of holiness," Deacon Sanders explained.

After college, he earned his bachelor of sacred theology from the Dominican House of Studies and his licentiate of sacred theology from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

He also spent a semester with the Dominicans in France. He worked as a math and science teacher at Chavagnes International College and as a theology lecturer at Institut Catholique de Vendee. He said he was influenced by the French saints Louis de Montfort, Jean Vianney, and Therese of Lisieux.

After a few years with the Dominicans, Deacon Sanders realized he felt called to diocesan priesthood instead.

"I'm grateful for my time there. But I feel called to the Archdiocese of Boston, to be a priest here, and I'm very excited about that," he said.

During his time at St. John's Seminary, he sang in the choir and played various sports. When the coronavirus pandemic began, BC closed before the seminary did, and then the seminary sent students to stay in parishes. Deacon Sanders stayed at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, which recently became a collaborative with St. Denis Parish. He was later assigned there as a deacon.

"It was sort of disappointing leaving the seminary so abruptly, and everything ending, but it's been a grace in other ways. I got to know the parish very well, and I've been there for the last two years," Deacon Sanders said.

His activities in the parish during his diaconate have included starting a men's group, assistant coaching the CYO basketball team, and teaching RCIA, CCD, and adult catechesis.

After his ordination, he will spend a few more years studying for his doctorate at Boston College.

To those who are considering a vocation to the priesthood, Deacon Sanders said he recommends talking to a priest or to a trusted and inspiring person.

"I think it can be easy to get caught up in ourselves and in our own ideas, but having someone to think through these things with, it gives you space to breathe, can encourage you and help you understand how God is at work. I think that's probably the most helpful thing," he said.

He also pointed out that "Even to have that desire, to realize that God is at work in your life, that you want to serve him, is a beautiful thing and a gift from him. And we should thank God for this."