Singing the Way into Priesthood
The amazing story of a young man discerning his vocation to the priesthood and then trying to enter seminary. A testimony of love for life, family, and Christ.
by Catholic.net Staff Writer | Source:
Neven Pesa is a recent college graduate, son of Croatian Immigrants who first arrived here in the 70’s. Within two years of their marriage, Neven and his older brother were born. “My mother lovingly tells me that God willed very much that I come into this world because I came as a ‘happy surprise’ to both my parents, been conceived only 4 months after my older brother had been born.” For his family, the back to back pregnancies were not received as inconvenience but rather as a surprising blessing. His parents named him after Saint Neven.
Neven was raised in a typical Catholic household. His dad has a noticeable handicap which was the result of an accident he had at the age of five. The accident left him with only one usable arm. His injured arm was permanently atrophied and was rendered almost useless, but it never stopped him. Although limited to his job options, he always found work. Mom worked the night shift as a cleaning lady at a Manhattan office building. This arrangement allowed for at least one of the parents to be always home with the children.
“The first peek into God’s call on my life happened when I was about 3 years old, after my mom walked me in prayer. When I was 15, one of the major spiritual epiphanies of my life came. While in pilgrimage to Medjugorje, I experienced the certainty of Our Lord’s Eucharistic Presence.”
In despite of this memorable faith awakening event, upon returning to New York, Neven went on as a typical high-school teenager. After graduation, he worked as a salesman and attended community college. At the time he was in a serious relationship with a Catholic girl, but neither of them was practicing their faith. “After Medjugorje, my faith went from simmer – to lukewarm- to cold. Then, I walked into a dark period of my life – yet not so dark that it was without intermittent flashes of light and love from God, who kept reminding me in little unmistakable ways that I could run but I couldn’t hide from him forever.”
The faint whisper of God’s call kept up on and on, until Neven realized he had to make a decision. “As far as my relationship with my girlfriend was concerned, the more I started to immerse myself back into my faith – the more we drew apart. So within a very short period of time my girlfriend and I had broken up, I quit my job (we were co-workers), and I started going to daily Mass again.”
The Daily Mass Journey
“I immersed myself anew in daily Mass, spent more time in prayer and sought spiritual direction. But at the time my life had accumulated so much noise, worldly baggage and toxicity that I needed spiritual rehabilitation.” So, Neven accepted the invite to join a silent retreat.
A few years prior, his brother had given him a book that mentioned a specific religious order in Vermont. They were known for being very austere and committed to prayerful silence. Neven needed time to pray and that seemed like a good fit. So, he attended a retreat within the thick granite walls of the Monastery of the Transfiguration from the Carthusian Order, located near Arlington, Vermont.
During over a month of silence and prayer -- and in the midst of all petitions his discernment of a religious vocation -- Neven felt strongly prompted by the Spirit to record a Christian album. This came as a surprise since he had not written any songs at the time. “I had always fiddled with the guitar but it was never anything serious.” The prompting persisted and Neven was decided that it was God’s will for him to do this CD project before he could go any further on his vocation discernment. “None of this made much sense to me until a few years later.”
Neven shared the CD inspirations with his spiritual director who also believed that this was God’s plan for Neven.
After a series of ups and downs and a particularly powerful retreat with the Intercessors of the Lamb in Omaha, Neven knew that if he were to eventually enter religious life, he needed to make a serious step towards it.
Still in Nebraska, during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Neven felt in his heart Our Lady telling him “You will be going to my school.” Neven describe these words as a mother’s loving glance which he was still trying to make sense of.
Eventually Neven found out that any would-be candidate to the religious life needed to
first complete a number of credits in Philosophy. “I was warned away from going to attend a local secular college that was going to teach me a twisted relativistic philosophy. So, I needed to attend a college that taught philosophy imbued with a Catholic world-view, recognizing Philosophy as the handmaid of Theology – not the other way around.” Neven’s spiritual director pointed him to the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
At Franciscan, he was not only to earn his required philosophy credits but also to complete the Pre-Theologate Program, which, under the authority of the Bishop of Steubenville, (then Bishop Conlon) is the equivalent of attending the first year of major seminary. Pre-Theologate students lived on a separate part of campus and recite the Daily Office together, attend Mass together and are formed under the watchful eyes of Our Lady - Star of Evangelization, the program’s Patroness. “I knew I was under her watchful eyes and was the happiest I had ever been.” It was in fact her school.
After 4 years of study, formation and spiritual direction Neven had come out confirmed to pursue God’s call towards the priesthood within a religious order. Which order? He did not know yet. But through a little bit of searching and looking at different communities all over the United States he finally found a community after his own heart: the Basilian Salvatorians, located in Methuen, Massachusetts. This order of priests had the perfect blend of activity and solitude and after a few visits Neven knew he had to continue discerning with them.
Neven was recently accepted as an aspirant for the Basilian Salvatorian Fathers, and is scheduled to begin his Novitiate this September, 2008. But he was accepted on the grounds that before stepping into the Novitiate he first pays off the large student-loan debt he has accrued from going to Franciscan. A seemingly impossible task.
The challenge didn’t stop Neven, just like it would not stop his dad. Instead of throwing in the towel, in prayer he was reminded of the original inspiration he had received at the Carthusian Monastery. It was the answer to his dilemma. Little did I know that that CD would eventually become instrumental in helping me pursue my vocation towards the priesthood. So, in God’s providential, all-knowing vision, I was given the solution long before the problem was yet on the horizon! As the Bible says the prayer of the just is answered before he speaks (Isaiah 65:24). Our God is certainly an awesome God!
With the help of his sister, Marina, Neven finished the album recently. He now hopes to sell enough CDs to pay off his student loan and embrace his priestly vocation as a seminarian. August 2008 is the deadline for him to pay 72 thousand dollars.
To check out Neven’s CD and help him as the Lord leads you, please visit: HelpMeBecomeaPriest.com.
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