November 7, 2023 at 2:49 p.m.
‘A NUDGE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT’
Seminarian Paul McDonald talks about his vocation journey in interview with The Evangelist
Seminarian Paul McDonald said the beginning of his vocational journey began with a nudge from the Holy Spirit, saying: "The nudges kept coming and I took it to prayer. I took the matter to prayer one night, and after a significant period of time in prayer, the line from the bookmark of St. Teresa of Avila came to me — “God alone satisfies, God alone suffices.” That was the beginning."
McDonald will be ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Albany on Nov. 18 at the Cathedral.
Seminarian Paul McDonald will be ordained a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Albany on Nov. 18 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany along with fellow Seminarian Thomas Fallati and Deacon Daniel Vallejo, who will be ordained to the priesthood. McDonald, who is originally from Rochester, talked with Mike Matvey of The Evangelist about his vocational journey, his time in Mexico City studying Spanish and the critical importance of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ found in the Eucharist in the latest edition of the interview series Catholic Voices.
TE: Can you tell me about your conversion experience?
PM: I grew up in the Methodist faith and, as a result of a search for the truth about God, eventually came into contact with a Catholic priest who told me about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist of which I knew nothing prior to that. I converted to the faith and was baptized, confirmed and had First Communion during the Easter Vigil.
TE: How did you start your vocational journey to the priesthood?
PM: When I would go to Mass, I would feel a nudge every time the priest asked for prayers for vocations. During the intercessions, the priest would say, “Please pray for vocations to the priesthood” and I would feel a nudge every time I heard that. I remember driving home with my girlfriend one day and saying, “Well, I hope I am not called to be a priest.” And she said, “I hope that you would tell me if you thought you were because that is something that we should talk about if it is the case.” The nudges kept coming and I took it to prayer. I took the matter to prayer one night, and after a significant period of time in prayer, the line from the bookmark of St. Teresa of Avila came to me — “God alone satisfies, God alone suffices.” That was the beginning.
TE: Was your family surprised by your conversion experience?
PM: Yes. They have been along for the journey and they have been supportive. They will be giving me my vestments during the Ordination Mass.
TE: How did you make your way to Albany on your vocational journey?
PM: The Diocese of Albany was suggested to me by two different priests and I started at the House of Formation in 2019.
TE: How was your time at Pope St. John Paul XXIII National Seminary?
PM: It was good. It is a good seminary, there is a lot of experience there, a lot of very seasoned and experienced priests there. Now my story is that I came to Albany in 2019 with a master’s degree in catechetics and evangelization from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Then from 2019-21, I obtained a master’s degree in pastoral studies from St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry and then I had two years additional theology at John XXIII Seminary. The degree from Franciscan was of my own inquiry. I loved learning about the faith, what the faith teaches and so I got more formal with that field of study. The St. Bernard’s degree was required by the Diocese when I got here.
TE: Talk about your immersive study in Spanish and your time in Mexico City.
PM: Again, a nudge by the Holy Spirit. I was made aware of an immersion program by the academic dean at John XXIII; he sent a mass email to all the seminarians making us aware of the Spanish immersion program in Mexico City. And as soon as I got the email, I felt a major nudge. It was a seven-week program, full immersion, morning prayer, evening prayer, all in Spanish. Five hours of Spanish classes per day during the week, weekly trips to parishes, trips to the Basilica, places of note in Mexico City. We took courses at the Pontifical University of Mexico but we lived at the Seminario Hispano in the Tlalpan region of Mexico City. And just recently I did a five-day mission trip to Mexico City with the Hope of the Poor organization.
TE: Once you are ordained, what will you be doing?
PM: I will be working at St. Clement’s in Saratoga Springs, Notre Dame Visitation and St. Joseph’s Church. I have been here for the last two months in Saratoga at the rectory at St. Clement’s and it has been great. It has been perfect. It has provided all sorts of perfect opportunities to prepare for the work that lies ahead.
TE: Getting back to the Real Presence, especially coming off the New York State Eucharistic Congress and during the three-year national Eucharistic Revival, can you just talk about how critically important that doctrine is?
PM: The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is essentially what brought me into the Catholic faith. During my inquiry process, it was that doctrine that made clear to me that the Catholic faith had the solidity that I had been seeking, the solidity of the truth. It continues to be, the catechism talks about this, the Source and the Summit of our faith. I think it is important to stress this doctrine and it is important to make that doctrine a central focus of the evangelization process because it is unique to the Catholic faith.
TE: What would YOU tell someone who was getting a ‘nudge’ like you were getting toward the priesthood?
PM: I would say follow the advice of our Lord and Savior, himself. When the Apostles asked Jesus where he lived, he said, “Come and see.” So my advice to them would be to do that through more Eucharistic Adoration, through investigation and through spending more time with Jesus in adoration and through study of the Scriptures.