Seminarians: How I knew God was calling me

Seminarians Cameron Costello, Isaac Doucette and Dominic Nguyen participate in the seminarian showdown as part of Theology on Tap. The online session was led by Luke Ebener of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Three seminarians of the Diocese of Davenport participated in the “seminarian showdown” during a virtual version of Theology on Tap that involved Oreo cookies, plastic cups, pudding, chopsticks and taking a turn in the “hot seat.” They also shared their stories of entering the seminary.

Luke Ebener, director of young adult ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, led the event held last month. Seminarians Cameron Costello, Isaac Doucette and Dominic Nguyen participated from Quad-City area rectories where they are completing their internships.

Ebener thanked the seminarians for saying “yes” to discerning a call to the priesthood. All three anticipate being ordained as deacons in 2022 and priests in 2023, God willing. Before sharing their stories, they participated in a humor-filled challenge and took turns in the “hot seat” to answer random questions.


Cameron Costello’s story

As he grew up, Cameron Costello was more Catholic in name than in practice, he said. After high school, he attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport where he ran cross-country and track. He studied communications and wanted to make music videos. He left after two years and worked in a factory to pay off his loans. His older brother Jeremiah was married and had three children at that time. Cameron wanted the happiness he witnessed in his brother, a churchgoer.

While he had attended religious education infrequently after making his first Communion, Cameron began attending Mass and praying before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Mary Parish in Wilton. His flexibility as a school coach allowed him to do that.

Two years later, Cameron decided it was time to go to confession. Father Robert Busher, his pastor at the time, invited him to confession at the rectory. “I was very relaxed.” After receiving absolution, Cameron said Father Busher asked whether he had considered the priesthood. “Actually, I had thought of it,” Cameron said. He contacted then-Vocations Director Father Thom Hennen and began his discernment. Asked what has surprised him during his internship, Cameron responded, “No surprises, but lots of experiences. I never spent time in parish life before. There are ups and downs. But it’s a blessing being with God’s people.”

Dominic Nguyen’s story

A native of Vietnam, Dominic Nguyen grew up as a devout Catholic in an area almost 100% Catholic. In second grade, when asked to draw a picture of what he wanted to be, he drew himself preaching at church. However, he did not know how to draw in perspective. The image looked like he was lying on the floor. He couldn’t draw seated parishioners, either, he laughed. In his parish, he served as lector, participated in Bible study and youth group and other activities. In college, he intended to study to be a pharmacist but missed getting into pharmacy school by one point.

Dominic arrived in the United States in 2014 and lived with an uncle while pursuing pharmacy studies at Scott Community College in Bettendorf. He attended daily Mass and felt his experience in American parishes helped deepen his faith. His pharmacy studies were not fulfilling. Thinking about what he wanted to do with his life, he told his uncle he was contemplating the priesthood. Together, they decided that Dominic should talk to Father Hennen.

While attending a retreat at Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri, Dominic happened to read a passage from St. Luke’s Gospel (9:1-6, The Mission of the 12) that affected him profoundly. “I was scared. I was shaking.” He felt a possible call to the priesthood and then applied to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport. Second-guessing himself, he emailed Father Hennen to stop the application. However, after reading “The Imitation of Christ,” he sent another email to Father Hennen to disregard the previous email. “I felt so happy, so peaceful,” Dominic said.

Isaac Doucette’s story

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Isaac Doucette and his family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and then to Iowa City. He was involved in his parish, St. Mary in Iowa City. He attended Kirkwood Community College and graduated from the University of Iowa. “I was still engaged in my faith.” After working in finance for a few years, he wrestled with deep questions. He enjoyed his work, but didn’t feel fulfilled.

“I prayed more. I went to Mass more. I went to confession more. I started the rosary at a daily level.” He kept a journal of his thoughts and prayers. People asked him whether he had considered the priesthood. He pushed that thought aside. While at confession, the topic of the priesthood came up. He felt he should take that call more seriously.

He met with Father Hennen on a warm day in February to talk about vocations. They began a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and prayed for each other. On the ninth day of the novena, Isaac felt the call to be a priest. After work, he visited the adoration chapel at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. Someone assigned to an adoration hour thought Isaac had the next hour of adoration and left. “I was by myself. I looked at Jesus. Things were released. Very tranquil, very at peace.” He decided to discern a vocation to the priesthood.

All three seminarians are second-year theology students at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. The trio enjoy being on their journey together. Ebener thanked the seminarians for being good sports and “for all you do for the church.”

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