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Archives ‘So I may be happy in this life and the next’

May 17, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

“This is the right time,” said Carter Pierce, 25, of Heuvelton, as he approaches ordination to the diaconate on May 27.

Pierce said he’s dealt with some anxieties and uncertainties as he’s discerned his vocation and progressed through his seminary studies, but those emotions seem to be behind him for the time being.

“I’m very excited, and I’m filled with a great sense of peace and anticipation,” he said. “I’ve been counting down the days since around Easter. It’s kind of surreal that we’re getting this close. I’m more and more just feeling peace with where I am. There can be a lot of anxiety in discernment – anxiety about knowing what it is I’m getting into and knowing whether or not I’m ready. Through a lot of that time, I thought I needed a much greater sense of what I was going to be doing as a deacon and then as a priest. I was also hoping I’d also be a better person by this point in this process. But this is what God is inviting me to. This is what I want. This is the right time, both from my perspective and from the perspective of the Church. It’s been a long six years in seminary, eight or nine years of discernment. It’s been a roller coaster of doubts and questions and anxieties and joys and affirmations to get to this point. I’ve reached a point of freedom. I’m free, ready and willing to step into this adventure. I know I’m following God’s invitation. It’s not a summons; it’s an invitation. God is inviting me to this, and His invitation, when you hear it with a free heart, is irresistible.”

Pierce said he has been completing both practical and spiritual preparation for his ordination.

“In terms of the practical things, I had to send out invitations and buy an alb,” he said. “The first time I tried it on, it struck me that it was pretty fitting – both in terms of it fitting me physically and in terms of it just feeling fitting. It felt right. But the biggest thing I’ve done to prepare has been prayer. I asked a lot of people – professors, the current diaconate class at (Mount St. Mary Seminary) – how to prepare. First, they suggested continuing with my normal prayer and praying well. That included Liturgy of the Hours, daily Mass and spending time in silent prayer in the chapel before the tabernacle in a holy hour. I also tried to continue with the rosary and personal prayer. My goal is to pray those with full commitment and pray them well. I’ve also tried to cater my prayer toward ordination. I went on a five-day silent retreat in January. I was given a booklet with the ordination prayers so I could pray with those prayers. I’ve been praying with and going over that, reflecting and journaling.”

Pierce noted that arriving at this point in his journey to the priesthood, God willing, wasn’t a direct path.

“A lot of my life, I followed brothers,” he said. “They went into engineering or the dairy industry. I share a lot of the same interests, but none of those particular disciplines called out to me or struck me. I broadened my search, but I struggled to find something that drew me to it. All the while, in the back of my head, there was something telling me ‘let’s consider all the options.’ I knew there was one option I was putting off: priesthood. Our bishop was my pastor growing up. He’d always joke, ‘I have the perfect college for you,’ and he meant the seminary. I never wanted to be a priest. I never anticipated it. I always wanted to be married and have a large family like my own. I respected priests, but I didn’t want to be one.”

It was a prayer taught to Pierce in first grade, a prayer he attributed to Father Timothy G. Canaan, that God used to open his heart to the priesthood.

“My first-grade teacher taught it to me,” he said. “It was, ‘Dear God, please help me to be what you want me to be so that I may be happy in this life and the next. Amen.’ I was shown that I was asking God to show me my major, but I wasn’t praying that prayer in the broader sense of asking God to what vocation I’m called. I knew I had to pray honestly and open myself up to all vocations. I sort of told myself I’d discern it, I’ll know it’s not for me, and I’ll move on knowing I satisfied the nagging feeling.”

While he participated in discernment groups and continued to discern, Pierce enrolled in Catholic University to study architecture and civil engineering. While studying there, he attended a retreat in New York City.

“I had a blast,” he said. “I really grew in faith with the people on that retreat. These were people who were alive and on fire for the faith. The joy they had really struck me. It was something I had never noticed before. I was struck with that same joy. I was proud to be Catholic and wanted to deepen my relationship with God. During that retreat, a priest approached me and told me, ‘I really think you’d make a great priest.’ I was dumbfounded. He said it to only me, and there were other guys on the trip. That turned everything upside down. I wondered what he saw in me. I was nervous about the whole idea of going to seminary and discerning the priesthood like that, but it was an idea I couldn’t shake off.”

He’s continued developing that relationship with the Lord in seminary and working in his summer assignments around the diocese.

“The support I’ve received from our bishop and this diocese has been amazing,” he said. “I get letters from people I’ve never met and parishes I’ve never visited. It’s humbling. And I love mail. The prayers and sacrifices of others really have supported me, and they really are doing something. There’s one lady who’s been sending me a letter of encouragement every week for four to five years, and she’s never met me. I owe so much of my vocation to my family, my parish and the people of this diocese.”

He’s looking forward to serving those same people in his future ministry.

“I’m making a firm commitment with my life to God and his people,” Pierce said. “It’s more of a general state of being than a thing I’ll do. The rest will flow out of that.”

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