COLORADO SPRINGS. Timothy O’Connell is a seminarian for the Diocese of Colorado Springs who recently completed his third year of theology studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He will be ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop Michael Sheridan on June 1 at 10 a.m. St. Mary’s Cathedral. He will preach his first homily on June 2 at the 11 a.m. Mass at Corpus Christi Church. The Herald recently caught up with O’Connell to learn more about him and his journey to the priesthood.
CCH: Who are some of the priests who were instrumental in fostering your priestly vocation?
TO: Father Bill Carmody is the first priest I remember at Corpus Christi Parish. When I was very young, I remember wanting to be a cool priest like him. He was always joyful and he loved his vocation very much.
When I went to college, a priest from the campus center took me under his wing and I was able to shadow him as he celebrated the sacraments and as he lived his vocation joyfully. His heart was totally given over to the Lord and his zeal and love for the Lord stirred up my own desire to be a faithful and holy priest. He poured himself out for his people and for Jesus. I was able to see myself loving God and others as a priest.
Throughout seminary, there have been various priests who have inspired me and helped me to continue following the Lord by their faithfulness, joy, and humility.
How did your Catholic education at Corpus Christi influence your view of the priesthood?
It was a great blessing to go to Mass during the school day, and to have faith-filled teachers helping us grow closer to God. Because the teachers were living the faith, it helped me be more comfortable to live and grow in the faith myself. A great part of my vocation came from spending time with Jesus in eucharistic adoration with some of my classmates in fourth grade. This was initiated by one of our teachers at Corpus Christi and I am very grateful for that blessing.
What role did your parents play in helping you to discern the priesthood?
My parents have been a great blessing for me and in helping me discern my vocation. When I was growing up, I remember asking my parents questions about the faith and why we do certain things in Mass and in prayer, and they either had the answer for me or they looked it up in the Catechism — so I always knew that our faith was reasonable and true and had meaning for our lives. We always went to Sunday Mass and we prayed together as a family.
My parents were supportive of me joining an after-school group of children in the fourth grade who went to adoration together. When I told them I was thinking about becoming a priest, they were very supportive of me and said that they would support me if I chose to do that and if I chose a different vocation. They have been praying for me since I was in the womb and I know that they love me and desire me to follow the Lord. They have always been supportive of me in seminary and have continued to show their love and care for me.
Where did you attend college for your undergraduate degree? What did you study?
I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for one year and studied physics. That year I discerned to enter into the seminary where I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.
What have you found to be most challenging about your seminary studies? What have you enjoyed the most?
I have most enjoyed being given the opportunity to encounter God in my studies and grow in deeper understanding of the beauty of our faith. My studies have challenged me to grow and become more fully who I am in the Lord and to live life more to the full!
How have you changed or grown since you started out as a seminarian?
Seminary has helped me grow in a deeper relationship with God and others through daily Mass, a daily hour of eucharistic adoration, personal prayer and devotions, studying the truth, and deep friendships. I have also matured because of the friendships I have formed among my brother seminarians. In seminary, the Lord has chiseled away at my faults and helped me to follow him and his Gospel more fully so that I may be more fully conformed to his heart and serve his people with his love.
What parish will you be assigned to during your diaconate year?
I will received a summer assignment the day of my ordination, but will go back to seminary for my last year as a deacon, where I will be assigned to a parish not far from the seminary in Maryland.
What advice would you have for someone who might feel called to the priesthood?
Thank God every day for the vocation he has in store for you, and know that you are living the path to your vocation now, so follow the Lord today. Pray every day. We need to make space in our lives for the Lord to speak if we want to hear his call. Our vocation is about a relationship with the God who created us for eternal happiness and loves us more than we love ourselves. We need to allow that relationship to deepen by spending time with God in the Mass, in listening to his sacred word in the Bible, in speaking with him throughout the day in our hearts, and in frequenting the sacrament of Reconciliation to receive his mercy in the midst of our relationship.
Relationships and discernment take time. For someone discerning their vocation —whatever it is — I would recommend 15 to 30 minutes per day of personal prayer and conversation with God, centered on the Word of God or a book on the life or teaching of a saint.
Trust in God that he will reveal his plan to you. Our vocation is a gift from the Father! Do not be afraid to give your life to the Lord — he takes nothing away from us and gives us everything!