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Matthew Johnston: The ‘fatherhood’ of the priesthood

johnston8612    If someone had asked me when I was in high school if I thought I was going to be a priest, I would have laughed.
    At that time in my life, my priorities were a little skewed.
Although my faith was important to me, sports were what really motivated me.
    Even knowing that, God was still working behind the scenes in a supernatural way. It was on mission trip in Mexico between my sophomore and junior year of high school that I had an experience of God putting a question on my heart:
    “What would it be like to be a priest?”

     Just like I would have laughed if someone had asked me if I thought I was going to be a priest, I took that question as either something I made up or as a mistake that God must have made. There is no way that he could ask that of me. I therefore resumed my life as if nothing had happened.
    I completed high school at St. Paul’s School in Covington in 2003. Desiring to study engineering, I decided to attend Texas A&M University for a year but then transferred to Louisiana Tech University because of the cost of out-of-state tuition.
    I had a few long-term girlfriends, one of which I thought I might marry one day. However, that was not meant to be.
    Throughout this 5 1/2-year period involving my last two years of high school and 3 1/2 years of college, that initial question would often come to the forefront. However, I still believed that even if God were calling me, I didn’t want that. I wanted a beautiful wife, a good job and I wanted to be a father in the natural sense.
    I thought there was no way that being a priest could fulfill those desires in my heart. But after 3 1/2 years of college, things began to change. Though I had dated a few women, it still seemed like that didn’t truly fulfill me. I also realized that although engineering was enjoyable, it, too, didn’t seem to fill that desire that I had.
    The only desire that stayed true throughout was the desire for fatherhood.
    At a Sunday Mass in April 2007, God re-presented his original question to me from years ago. I told him that I still wanted to be a father. Priesthood would prevent that. How could I be a father if he was calling me to a life of celibacy?
Being that I was at Mass by myself, I didn’t rush anywhere afterwards but just sat in the back pondering these questions. I finally said, “God my way hasn’t fulfilled me as I thought it would; I am now going to trust you and follow you where you want me to go.”
    I still remember the immediate sense of peace that accompanied that. I entered the seminary in 2008 and now, after five years of seminary, I am preparing to promise my life of celibacy for the church as a transitional deacon. I am also a chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army and will become a full chaplain when I am ordained as a priest.
    God is amazing. My desire to be a father has never lessened. It has grown and expanded. I now know that although I will never have biological children, I will be a father to many people throughout my life.

Age: 24
Birthplace: Bakersfield, Calif.
Home Parish: Our Lady of the Lake, Mandeville
Parents: Dwight and Mary Johnston
Education: Our Lady of the Lake Elementary School; St. Paul’s High School (2003); Texas A&M University (2004); Louisiana Tech University (2006); St. Joseph Seminary College (2010); Notre Dame Seminary (current)
Favorite Food: Sushi
Tell us something people don’t know about you: I spent three summers of college working offshore on oil rigs.
Favorite Saint: St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist and St. Augustine
Favorite Book (Religious and Non-Religious): “The Soul of the Apostolate” by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard; “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Hobbies: Racing half-marathons and sprint triathlons
Summer Internships: Divine Mercy Parish (2009); Institute for Priestly Formation (2010); St. Joan of Arc, LaPlace (2011); Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston (2012)
Diaconate Internship: Our Lady of Perpetual Help,
Belle Chasse

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