Prior to receiving Candidacy, our rector, Fr. Marco Durazo, told my class that Candidacy is a period of configuration to Christ: to allow ourselves to be configured completely to Christ through preparation for Holy Orders, imitating the disciples who “left their nets and followed him” (Mk 1:18). At my class’ Day of Recollection two weeks before our Admissions to Candidacy, our retreat master, who was also my Fundamental Theology professor, Fr. Leo Ortega, told us that, in this verse, the disciples were called to follow Jesus to Jerusalem: to the Crucifixion. Thus, Admissions to Candidacy is also an acceptance to the invitation to die to ourselves so that Christ may live in us (Gal 2:20), that we may become faithful and holy priests.
Yet, because all my classmates and I already began seminary formation either at St. John’s or elsewhere, the second reading proclaimed from the Mass stood out to me: “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct you” (2 Tim 3:14-15). For all of us, Candidacy marked the beginning of a new chapter in a book continued to be written. I see admission to Candidacy as a time to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ through the Scriptures, the sacraments, and seminary formation.
During Mass, what stood out most to me was the spreading the light of Christ from our candles to the faithful in the stalls. As the choir chanted Veni Creator Spiritus, an invocation of the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and illumine the way for us, I felt that this was the moment where I visualized the path of Candidacy: that amidst the darkness, God is the “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Seeing the candlelight resembling stars in the night sky accompanied by the solemn chant of the choir and organ was beautiful and left me in awe of the wondrous work God began and will fulfill in me, though I do not know exactly how that will happen.
Following the Mass, my family and friends told me that they enjoyed the solemnity of the Mass altogether. None of them have ever witnessed the Admission to Candidacy, so it was both enlightening and wonderful for them to see, both in person and via the Facebook livestream, from Camarillo to Saigon. They were also amazed to see how large the class of Candidates was: 27 in total, with 18 of us for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. To them, it was gratifying to see so many men responding “yes” to God’s call.
To the men considering the priesthood: Bishop Weisenberger exhorted my classmates and I these words in his homily: “Once you get an inkling of the question, the answer needs to be yes”. Like Jeremiah, Moses, St. Paul, and St. Peter, we may feel uncertain about our worthiness for such a call or if this is the “right time”. Despite uncertainty or inconvenience, God will provide what we need when we trust in Him; our Blessed Mother is a testament to this at the Annunciation. Speaking from experience and seeing others do the same, I can assure you that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain when we open ourselves to the will of God, whether it culminate in priesthood or not. God blessed His Church with supportive friends, holy priests, dedicated vocations directors (especially in Los Angeles); let them help and accompany you. From there, let God, “who began a good work in you…bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).
-Anthony Huynh, Theology I, St. John’s Seminary Class of 2024