Developments in Priestly Discernment Program prompts growth in number and attention to discernment.


This academic year issues a crop of faces for the Priestly Discernment Program, as it welcomes an influx of freshman members and begins its second year under the guidance of director the Rev. Gregory Plow, TOR.

In a recent interview, Plow described his experience as director of the PDP as “one of admiration of the young men in the program who have a sincerely dedicated heart for God.”

At the beginning of the year, the program had 20 returning and 19 new students — 14 of whom are freshmen.  Plow attributes this growth to the Holy Spirit and the program’s new partnership with the admissions department in which Plow, new associate director the Rev. Jonathan McElhone, TOR or Lucia Bortz, administrative assistant of the program, meet with every prospective student who is interested in the program.

Plow stressed the importance for young men in the program to have a meaningful relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ and with the fire-filled love of the Holy Spirit.

“This love is evidenced by the program’s use for last year’s share group of the 14-part ‘Wild Goose is Loose’ series on the Holy Spirit by Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR,” said Plow.  “As a follow-up, all the current PDP households’ student-leadership was supportive of making FUS’s Born in the Spirit retreat our PDP retreat for the Fall semester.”

According to Plow, “Along with the men’s unified front for attending every FOP two years running, these things demonstrate a great openness to the Holy Spirit that has animated the exercise of their faith, and this passion yields a zeal for God, his Church and ministry to all God’s people.  This makes for a more joyful, effective and holy priest.”

Isaiah Schick, coordinator of upperclassmen Koinonia household and a member of the program since his freshman year, referenced the impact of the new admissions process.  “I’m excited about the way the program is moving under the current leadership,” he said. “I think the quality of the men in the program has increased, and I’m eager to see how much they will grow because I think there are more opportunities for growth now than when I was a freshman.”

Schick described his greatest benefit from the program as “an overall maturation process of personal and spiritual development that I’m uncertain I would have made without the structure of the program.”

Among other aspects, “the brotherhood, commitments, expectations and formation meetings are very conducive to the healing and growth you need for any vocation, but especially a priestly vocation,” said Schick.

Freshmen Cader Coleman and Andrew Joy both agreed that living in a like-minded environment is crucial for discernment.

“What attracted me to the program was the community and prayer life,” Coleman said. “As I discern God’s calling for me, it’s incredibly important for me to be around other men discerning the priesthood because it can often become very difficult and distracting if everyone around you has a different mindset.”

Joy said that he chose Franciscan because of its focus on Christ and the teachings of the Church and added that having the program on campus enhances this “because it affects everyone on campus. The fact that the men are part of the life of the university shapes everything else because as priests you are often thrust into society. As you are branching out and transitioning in college, this can form you to become a better priest in the future.”

Coleman said, “There are always sacrifices that you need to make in order to really commit yourself to the Lord and to discernment, but that in itself is freeing.”

As the program continues forward, Plow said, “By God’s grace, I see the PDP growing not only in number, but also — and more importantly — in attention to discernment and formation for the vocation of the priesthood: to love and serve Christ and his Church.”