My story begins like most conversion stories, I suspect. I came to know the Lord at a young age and as I continued to follow Him, He asked more and more of me along the way. And, as God is good in all His works, the more I gave to Him the more He blessed me and taught me His ways. But I am getting ahead of myself now, aren't I? Some background would be a good first step.
I was born in Portland, Oregon to protestant parents who were members of a Methodist denomination called The Church of the Nazarene. It was in this Christian environment that I was taught the faith and gained my knowledge of scripture. Two more sons would follow after me, and all three of us would be nurtured in the Christian Faith. For my family, as well as myself, Sundays were an integral part of our week: not only because of the community of the faithful which found a central part in our life, but because the worship of almighty God was something that I began to take very seriously at a young age.
In true protestant fashion, I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and saviour at the age of seven at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade held in Portland, Oregon in 1992. Though at the time I had only a child's faith, I knew that to follow the Lord was a serious matter and that this decision would have an effect on all the other decisions I would make in my life. However, my life goals at this time did not have a sure direction in the service of Christ and His Church. When I was asked as a young boy what I wanted to be when I grew up I would consistently say, “I want to be a farmer.” I have no memory as to why this noble calling seemed to captivate me but to it I was faithful until my early teens.
My life changed when I received the call from God to serve the Church in ministry. While on a mission trip to Mexico in 2000 I testified to the fact that I felt that God was asking me to give my life to Him and the service of His Church. This naturally set my life on a completely different path. It was from here that I would make the decision to attend Multnomah Bible College in Portland and in four years graduate with a degree in Bible, Theology, Educational Ministries and a minor in pastoral ministries. After Multnomah, I decided to move halfway across the United States to Kansas City, Missouri and attend Nazarene Theological Seminary. As hindsight is always 20/20, I can see now that God used my moving away from home for the first time to lead me to a place of personal growth where I would accept all that He had planned for me.
In my first semester at Nazarene Seminary I had to go on a solitary day retreat sometime during the semester in order to fulfill a class requirement. As I was new to Missouri, I had no idea where I could go to fulfill such a requirement. I was familiar however with Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon so I got on Google and searched for Mount Angel. I figured out that Benedictine was something specific to them so I googled “benedictine monastery missouri” and Google gave me two options: Benedictine College in Atchison Kansas and Immaculate Conception Abbey in Northwest Missouri. As I stated above, I have always had and continue to have an affinity for agricultural life, so it was easy to choose Immaculate Conception over Atchison. Atchison is a city with all the trappings that go along with being a city. Conception on the other hand is two and a half hours north of Kansas City and is surrounded by corn, cows, and soy beans. Immaculate Conception Abbey was the place I was going for sure!
My first visit to the Abbey took place on November 11th, 2009. At the time it was Veterans Day and hence a day off from work: a convenient time to make the trek to the Abbey. I had to leave early in the morning of the 11th, long before the sun had risen. The roads to the Abbey are rural and not well signed; atonepointIcametoa“T”intheroad and I wasn’t sure if I should take the right or the left. I decided to take the right and see where it would lead. As I came over a little hill, the sun was just beginning to rise over the corn on either side of the road and all of a sudden I saw two large towers and a great cross in the middle of them silhouetted against the rising sun. I remember thinking to myself, “I think that is where I am supposed to go.”
Throughout my day at the Abbey, I attended the different hours of the Divine Office and also heard Mass. Though before going to Mass I did have to ask the Porter how I was supposed to “attend” as I knew I was not permitted to receive Communion. Between prayers and walking around the Abbey grounds I spent some time in the Abbey bookshop. Now mind you, I believed that I had only come to the Abbey to fulfill a school requirement and I would most likely never come back or at any case not for a long time. In light of this, I thought to myself, “I should purchase something to remind myself of this place. A place where I met God.” As I looked around the bookshop, I decided that I should purchase something that said more about the Abbey then about myself. So of course it had to be something “Catholic.”
As I was perusing the various items, my eye caught the rosary table, and I thought to myself, “Now a Rosary is super Catholic. I’ll get that.” As I was making my purchase at the counter the lady helping me slipped a little card into the bag along with the Rosary. Once I had left the shop I opened the bag and found the card: it was titled “learn to pray the Rosary.” I immediately thought to myself, “This whole day has been out of the box and totally out of my comfort zone. I might as well learn what the Rosary is since I am here...” So I, a Protestant mind you, headed back into the Abbey Church and sat in the back row of pews with the Rosary in one hand and the pamphlet in the other and I began to pray to Our Lady. About half way through praying I stopped and said to myself, “I’m a Bible College graduate... I know scripture... and this is really scriptural... all except for the ‘pray for us now and at the hour of our death’...”
To make an already long story a bit shorter, my life was to change further that first year of seminary. I became a pastor in the spring of my first year and would go on to make multiple retreats at the Abbey. Over time I became an oblate of Saint Benedict (while still a protestant... and yes, that is permissible). Over four years I became very close to various monks at the Abbey and over time I decided that to truly follow Christ I needed to become a member of the Church He founded i.e. the Roman Catholic Church. Upon graduating from Nazarene Seminary in 2013 and at the monks' encouragement I moved back to Portland, entered RCIA at Saint Stephen’s Catholic
Church in the fall of 2013, and entered into full communion with the Church at the 2014 Easter Vigil.
Almost from the very beginning of my journey into the Church I had realized that I may have a call to be a priest. Already, I was living my life as a protestant minister more and more like a priest would anyway. Through much discernment with my priest and my spiritual director, I accepted an invitation to apply to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Monterey in California. Upon being accepted, I moved to California and attended Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo. In my first year of Seminary I became acquainted with the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception in Santa Paula. Over time, through much prayer and discernment with my bishop and my spiritual director, I discerned that I needed not only a life of ministry but also a life of community. The life of the Canons was very attractive to me but I saw the need for this type of life to be brought to those who have been forgotten in rural regions. Thus, after discerning with them for a year, I decided to help found a new Order of Canons Regular devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. Ave Maria!