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 | By Mary Gates

Priesthood or Marriage? Jacob trusts in discernment process

Jacob Kanclerz always thought he would get married and have a family. Then, after he graduated from Michigan State and saw the witness of other young adults, he started to wonder if he might be called to the priesthood. The road to discovering his true vocation proved to be more winding than Jacob expected, yet he’s certain that God led him each step of the way.

“I didn’t really take ownership of my faith until college, when I started to want intellectual answers to questions surrounding the faith. After I graduated from Michigan State, I looked for young adult groups and sought out intentional ways to get involved.”

It was the witness of other young adults that struck Jacob’s heart and encouraged him to consider more fully God’s will in his life.

“A major source of conversion for me has been seeing friends live a life in Christ. They were very influential. I went on a retreat with i.d.9:16, which got me on a different path of really living with God at the center of my life and having everything flow from there.” (i.d.9:16 is a group that exists to form young adults into intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.)

The ongoing experience of conversion challenged Jacob to take into account not only his own desires, but ultimately God’s call and desires for him.

“Naturally, from the conviction of intentional discipleship came the question of what I was meant to do with my life. Until this point, I had put a lot into my job as a journalist, but as I backed off of my career a little, I began to wonder if I could be called to the priesthood,” he says.

Jacob continues: “I took baby steps to being more open to the idea of pursuing the priesthood. I was afraid to bring it up to Catholic friends, thinking they may encourage me to pursue it, and I was afraid to bring it up to non-Catholic friends, who might not understand why I would consider giving my life to God in this radical way. Getting over the hump of acknowledging that it was on my mind was a big step. I eventually talked to a priest about it, and he encouraged me to pursue Jesus. He explained to me that the more I pursued my first call of holiness and grew in my relationship with God, the more I would find my vocation.

“I pursued my vocation in a very practical way. I explored avenues little by little, and eventually took the leap toward the discernment group after dating a girl and really enjoying it, but feeling restless with the possibility that I hadn’t fully given myself to discerning priesthood. I broke up with her with the intention of figuring out God’s plan, and that same week the discernment group had a meeting, so I jumped in.”

Meetings with Father John Linden and The Foundation discernment group proved invaluable to Jacob, who found the fellowship and mutual pursuit of holiness encouraging.

He says, “The discernment group was great because it provided me an opportunity to be with guys who were considering the same thing I was. It was a no-pressure situation that really gave me practical ways to learn a lot about what the priesthood is and what it isn’t. It was a chance to listen to other guys, in discussions that were really guided by the Holy Spirit, tell their stories and explain where they were at and how they got there. Just hearing other people helped me understand where I was at.

“I went regularly to the group, I visited the seminary, applied to seminary and was accepted. Yet the way I received being accepted to seminary was telling. I realized my heart was not full of joy in that news.

“All throughout this time, I was good friends with the girl I had broken up with to focus wholly on discerning God’s will. She had also discerned religious life, so she had, as a friend, checked in with my process. I realized over the course of these events that we had fallen in love outside of a dating relationship. I learned through prayer, and through conversations with people near to us, that my heart was drawn to this woman. After a long conversation with her, and after sharing the news that I was not going to seminary with Father John and others, it was affirmed time and time again that this was God’s will for my life. And we are engaged now.

“The Foundation helped me learn that my heart was not in the priesthood. And as it turned out, God’s desire on my heart was more obvious than I expected. For me, the discernment group was one part of the equation, part of many things to do to discern. Being in the group is really a part of giving yourself to God, and allowing him to point you in the direction that will bring you personal happiness.”

Looking back on his discernment, Jacob identifies The Foundation as an important step on his journey of pursuing holiness, discerning his vocation and coming to trust in God and his plan.

“Had I not joined the group, I wouldn’t be where I am today, not only having discerned priesthood, but also having discerned marriage in a very intentional way. It all worked out. And it all worked out in his time,” he says.