Seminarians visit Cassata students and leave an important question

by Sandra Engelland

North Texas Catholic

January 17, 2019

A student smiles during a talk given by a seminarian January 14, 2019, at Cassata Catholic High School. (NTC/Jayme Donahue)


FORT WORTH — Seminarian Sam Maul said that he could pinpoint the exact moment he began thinking seriously about becoming a priest, and he was the same age as many of his listeners at Cassata Catholic High School in Fort Worth.

Maul was one of five seminarians who, along with Father Maurice Moon, visited Cassata Jan. 14 as part of “Vocation Day.” Seminarians visited every high school in the Diocese of Fort Worth in January and are slated to go to elementary and middle schools in May.

At Cassata, several members of the group spoke to high school boys at a breakfast and then talked briefly to students in their classrooms.

Maul was a 15-year-old attending a camp at University of Notre Dame in Indiana when he had a life-changing encounter. Although he attended Mass regularly with his family, he didn’t know any priests. Campers were invited to have pizza with seminarians and priests on campus.

“One of the priests looked at me and said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a priest? Well, you should,’” Maul said.

Those words caused him to think differently about his life.

“My mind flipped. I had thought about what job is going to bring me the most happiness and the most money at my disposal,” Maul said. “But it’s not about what you want. It’s about what you’re being called to. It’s about helping others.”

Ordained seven months ago and now chaplain at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, Fr. Moon didn’t consider the priesthood at all when he was in high school. Interested in partying and friends, he quit going to Mass and dropped out of high school.

He thought making money and having a girlfriend would make him happy, but “something was missing.” That missing piece prompted him to start praying, reading the Bible, and learning about the Catholic faith.

Fr. Moon’s renewed interest in faith led him to go to Confession for the first time in 15 years. When the priest absolved him of his sins, he felt a peace he’d never known.

Seminarian Samuel Maul speaks about seminary to students January 14, 2019, at Cassata Catholic High School. (NTC/Jayme Donahue)

“When I was your age I knew God existed, but I didn’t know God cared about me. I didn’t have a relationship with God,” he said. “Once I realized Christ loved me and He forgave me for all my sins, I began to think about Christ calling me.”

Another seminarian, Joseph Moreno, told students that he didn’t receive his call until after his wife of 20 years passed away. She had brought him back to church and helped him grow in his faith.                                                                          

'Everyone has a calling'

Nathaniel Chavez, a 17-year-old Cassata senior, said after the breakfast that it was the first time he had ever spoken to a priest. He called their message “impactful.”

“Despite the differences between the men who spoke, I do believe this is what they want to do in life,” Chavez said.

Freshman Joseph Hernandez, 15, also said the message was inspirational. Joseph has a brother at Nolan Catholic and had met Fr. Moon before.

“He’s an all-around nice guy,” Joseph said. “He came to visit my brother Thomas in the hospital.”

Joseph was interested to hear that some of them didn’t decide to become priests until later in life.

Students asked questions such as how long it takes to become a priest (nine years for most of them) and   what their course load is like (they study a lot of philosophy at first, and then theology, and they have a year of pastoral service). The visiting seminarians are all engaged in their pastoral year and are serving at various churches in the diocese.

Cassata Principal Maggie Harrison said that many of the students in the school, which is an outreach to the community and involves a self-paced curriculum, are not Catholic or have not been involved in the faith. They learn that priests are real people and are very approachable.

“I believe it's important to have a positive male presence for our students,” Harrison said. “Many of our male and female students come from at-risk environments, and many have lost their male role models.”

The school draws students who have not been successful in a traditional high school or want to accelerate their learning. Some students are grieving the loss of a family member or may experience depression or anxiety, Harrison said. About 80 students benefit from the school’s individualized instruction and encouraging atmosphere.

The visitors told students that the point of Vocation Day was to urge students to reflect on their futures.

Maul said, “Begin to think about how you can serve. The end goal in life isn’t how can I get ahead. It’s how can I help others.”

Fr. Moon said, “Everyone has a calling in life. The happiest you’re going to be is following God’s will.”

FORT WORTH — Seminarian Sam Maul said that he could pinpoint the exact moment he began thinking seriously about becoming a priest, and he was the same age as many of his listeners at Cassata Catholic High School in Fort Worth.

Published (until 1/17/2035)