| April 19,
"God Or The Girl"
by Michael J. McManus
Last year only 544 men were ordained as Catholic priests to serve 67 million
Catholics, a quarter of America's population.
By contrast, some Protestant seminaries graduate over 1,000.
The major reason so few choose the priesthood is celibacy, the rule that a
priest may not marry. A man must choose "God or the girl."
What is that discernment process like? A thoughtful three-part series on the
A&E Network profiled the emotionally wrenching choice by four young men, the
most important decision of their lives. Two hours were broadcast Easter, two
more on Monday.
Joe Adair, 28, has been in a quandary for a decade. A campus counselor at John
Carroll University, he's been in and out of the seminary twice, and considers
re-entering. Why? "I feel forced by my parents to be a priest. I realize that
it is not the right motivation," he confesses.
Dan DeMatte, 21, has a deep passion to serve the church. He leads a high school
youth group, and lives with nine other celibate young men at Ohio Dominican
University, but is young and not sure he is cut out for the priesthood.
Steve Horvath, 25, stunned his family and friends when he gave up a promising
career as a high paid consultant with a $500,000 condominium – to be a campus
missionary who has to beg for financial support. "It hit me that I might be
called to be a priest. Most people would not understand." And he's uncertain
Mike Lechniak, 24, grew up admiring his parish priest, Fr. Paulselli. But he's
also fallen in love with Aly, who longs to marry him. He has trained as an
elementary school teacher, and was offered a job when he debated giving up the
girl and teaching to become a priest. "The greatest sacrifice would be the loss
of a female companion for the rest of my life," he acknowledges. "Aly would be
In the weeks that the young men debated whether to enter (or re-enter) the
seminary, each took on a service project to help them sort through their
Joe decides to go to World Youth Day in Germany which would also give him a
chance to see Anna, a German girl he met in the U.S. Thus he can consider God or
the girl. He stands on a sidewalk, where the new Pope Benedict will pass
by. Sure enough, the Popemobile drives by slowly and Benedict seemed to look
directly at Joe and smile, which he thought significant.
World Youth Day actually lasts several days. However, not until the second day
from a vast field of hundreds of thousands, does Joe call Anna. Afterward, he
confesses, "Anna was upset that I have been here two days and had not called
her. I have never experienced her being so angry. It did not go well."
Dan leads a group of high school students to to kneel outside of an abortion
clinic, to pray for the women entering there and for their unborn babies. Two
women in their 20's ask, "What are you doing?"
"We are praying for victims of abortion," Dan replies.
"Why shouldn't women have the choice to have an abortion," a woman asks.
"We do not believe a woman has a choice to kill somebody."
The confrontation thrills him, but he still asks himself, "Should you dedicate
your entire life to building up the body of Christ?"
His priest encouraged him to carry an 80 pound cross for a 22 mile hike. After
four miles he is in intense pain. He falls frequently but friends walking with
him help him. "In carrying the cross, I had to trust God would guide me," he
Steve left a prominent consulting firm, to consider becoming a priest. However,
he has shared his thinking with almost no one. Therefore he decided to go to his
alma mater, the University of Virginia, to talk with former fraternity brothers
about his career choice.
"Can you date if you are a seminarian?" asked one brother.
"Yes, you are able to date at that point, but it would be as if you are engaged
and were seeing other girls," Steve replied. His fraternity brothers were
surprised, but hugged him and wished him well. "They hit a home run today, and
totally backed me up," he exults.
Mike's mentor, Father Pauselli, suggests that he make a retreat to consider his
choice between priesthood or marrying Aly. He confesses, "I wanted to jump in
my car and go see her. I miss everything about her."
What will they decide? Tune in for the final show at 10 pm Eastern on Sunday.
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