Father Matthew Reese
Diocesan Director of Vocations
2713 West Chestnut Avenue
Altoona, PA 16601-1720
Phone: (814) 317-2681
Please note that the Vocations Office specializes in Diocesan Priesthood Formation. For more information on the Permanent Diaconate or Religious Orders, please see another section of the Diocesan Website or a Website of the particular Religious Order that interests you.
Welcome this website for Priestly Vocations in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. It’s really an exciting experience to discover one’s vocation. Please know that I am praying for you as you explore that question in your life.
Young people frequently ask me, “How did you know that that it was your vocation to be a priest?” The following is the answer I tell them.
Do you recall when you were a child having the experience of watching an adult and all of a sudden you were thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to be ….?” That may have happened as you watched firemen who arrived on scene of a house fire and you started thinking about what it would be like to be a fireman. Or maybe it happened when you went to a football game and wondered what it would be like to be the quarterback.
When I was nine years old I was learning to be an altar server. (I was an altar server from age nine until I was 25 when I was ordained deacon.) Before we could “officially” serve, we were allowed to put on altar server robes and we were told to sit on the side of the sanctuary and pay attention to the older altar servers.
A couple of times when I did that, I have to admit that I didn’t pay attention to the older altar servers. Instead, I found myself watching the priest at the altar, which was just a few feet away. All of a sudden that question popped into my mind, “I wonder what it would be like to be a priest?” I really did not think about it too much after that.
At the start of my senior year in Catholic high school, two of my teachers who were diocesan priests asked me individually if I had ever thought about being a priest. I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy, but I answered each of them by saying, “Yes, when I was about nine years old.” Both of those priests said very plainly that I should think about it and that I should pray about it.
It’s hard to explain, but after they did said that to me, the thought wouldn’t go away. So I went to talk to one of those priests who was my religion and Latin teacher. I told him that I had been thinking about this vocation question and that I didn’t know what to do with it. I remember asking, “What if I am not sure?” He asked me if I was still planning on going to college. I answered yes. He explained that there was a possibility of going to the college seminary and that I didn’t have to be 100% sure that I would be a priest. But, if I was truly open to giving the Holy Spirit a chance, I could receive the help and guidance that I needed through the college seminary program to sort things out.
That priest took me to visit with the Vocation Director and to visit the seminary. I decided to apply and I was accepted to enter St. Mark Seminary in Erie, Pennsylvania, as a college freshman. During my four years of college study I was blessed to have an excellent priest as my spiritual director and I had the benefit of being with more than 50 other college age men who had the same frequently asked question: “Is Jesus Christ calling me to be a priest?”
Each day and month that I was in the college seminary program I know that my relationship with Christ kept growing and my faith kept getting stronger. By the time I was into my junior year of college, the question was still there: “Is Jesus Christ calling me to be a priest?” But the answer was clearer.
I trusted the advice and direction of my spiritual director and the other priests at the seminary, and through all of that I became confident that this was my vocation. After college there were four more years of seminary training until I was ordained a priest in 1981.
Ten years after I was ordained a priest, the Bishop assigned me as a spiritual director at St. Mark Seminary. I was involved in doing that for almost 20 years. And during that whole time, every college age young man who sought my advice asked me the same question: “How did you know that it was your vocation to be a priest?” So I would tell them, “Do you recall when you were a child having the experience of….”
If you think God may be asking you to consider being a priest, I ask you to do two things.
(1) Pray. Ask God to help you to know what he has in mind for you.
(2) Contact our Vocations Director. Father Reese is ready to listen to your questions and help you find some answers.