| By Father Thomas Woods

‘More to share; more to give’

The co-patron for the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, St. John Vianney, described the Catholic priest as “the love of the heart of Jesus.” It was this desire to share the heart of Jesus that led me to become a Catholic priest.

I was raised in the Catholic faith by my parents and received the sacraments of initiation. This formation, for which I have much to be grateful, was essential. Moving to the South as a teenager, I quickly encountered peers in school who sought to convert me to various Protestant denominations. Though their intentions may have been good, I was often left confused. Because of this new challenge, I sought instruction through the local parish RCIA course. I enjoyed the RCIA classes so much that I repeated them the next year. This experience brought some clarity and peace along with a stronger desire to share the Catholic faith.

Throughout college and my work career, I sought to share the faith through various Catholic apostolates. I also had a desire to marry and have a family, yet I had a sense that there was somehow more: more to share; more to give.

While living and teaching English in Ecuador, along with some spiritual direction, I decided that I must at least apply to seminary to discover if a vocation as a Catholic priest could be the way forward. It was in seminary where the four pillars of priestly formation seemed to come together: human, spiritual, academic and pastoral. Although I did not know for certain that I would become a priest, each year in seminary solidified a desire and peace toward this goal. With that said, I encourage young men who seek to share the Sacred Heart of Jesus to pursue this worthy vocation through spiritual direction from a priest of the diocese so as to discern their call from our Blessed Lord to serve Him and the good people of central and northern Alabama.