Ryan Adorjan, 24, is a theology 3 seminarian in the Diocese of Joliet. He will be ordained a transitional deacon on April 21 at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, as he continues on the path to priesthood. Christ is our Hope magazine recently asked Kim Adorjan, Ryan’s mom, and a parishioner at St. Anne’s Parish in Oswego, some questions about her son. A shorter version of this story appears in the March issue of the magazine. This is the full version.
What made you realize your son was interested in being a priest?
Ryan played “priest” and “church” when he was around seven years old, inviting friends and family in to play church with him. He helped me on the arts and environment committee at St. Anne. When he was old enough, he became an altar server and then a lector, continuing through high school. He started his college career at North Central College in Naperville on the path to become a high school teacher. He has always had a love of the Mass and found a way to keep serving at Ss. Peter and Paul on Sunday nights at 8 p.m.
It wasn’t until winter break of his freshman year that I found out his thoughts were turning. A box arrived from Amazon, and, as he opened it, I could tell he had been waiting anxiously to read it. The book was “To Save a Thousand Souls” by Father Brett Brannen. I came to find out later that was the book being read at the diocesan vocation discernment group. Thus, his journey had begun…
Looking back, what do you think the main influences were that led him to the seminary?
Ryan had finally listened, and realized during his first year in college that the tug on his heart, the one that had been there since he was a kid, could be a “real” thing. The whisper was persistent. Looking back now, he will tell you that the pastor emeritus at St. Anne, Father Dan Stempora, had a strong influence on him as a child. Meeting other young men who had the courage to say “yes” to seminary influenced him and strengthened his resolve.
What was your reaction once you realized his intentions were really serious?
His intentions turned very serious after a visit to Conception Seminary in Missouri, in early 2011. He was clearly moving ahead with starting seminary that fall. Honestly, I was taken aback that he wanted to change his path so quickly and with such intention! As a single mom, my first thoughts jumped to, “How can we afford this change?” “What is your Plan B?” “What if, what if???” Ryan’s dad and I both had heart-to-heart conversations with him that led us to truly believe he was ready to move ahead that fall.
What is your advice to parents when their son tells them he is serious about entering the seminary?
First – breathe! Be open. Be inspired by the courage he has for following his heart. Trust that, by the time he tells you, he has already prayed about it. If he hasn’t done so already, encourage him to get connected with Father Burke [Masters, the diocesan director of vocations] and other men who are discerning this decision. Trust that God will show him the way, understanding that the purpose of seminary is to help them figure out if they are truly being called. They will come out a better man, regardless of whether they become a priest. I have developed a trust in the process that I could not have imagined in 2011.
Not to be cliché, but truly believe it takes a village to raise a priest. If you find yourself to be the parent of a man discerning or setting out on his path to seminary, please join our parent group, “POPS” (Parents of Priests and Seminarians). As you know, there may not be many people who can relate to your unique journey. The POPS family will become part of your family as we walk this path together. Seminary is not an easy path for your son to take; the expectations are high, but the graces are abundant. And they will learn to make their bed every day
What do you look forward to the most once he becomes a priest?
I can’t wait to witness Ryan sharing his joy with the people of our diocese! I especially pray that he will connect with our youth, as they are the future of the Catholic Church.
How has his journey affected your faith lives and the faith lives within your family?
Ryan’s journey has provided many wonderful opportunities for rediscovering my faith. There is so much to learn, even if you have been Catholic your entire life. I have discovered adoration and also experienced my first retreat, finding that silent prayer brings much peace.
Why do you think becoming a Joliet diocesan priest is the best choice for your son?
Well, selfishly, it will keep him close to home! In the bigger picture, our diocese is a very large and diverse community. We need the energy and the passion of these amazing young men to take our diocese into the future. The Diocese of Joliet truly invests in these men, providing a world-class education and supporting them with opportunities to shape them into strong priests.
How can parishes best support their seminarians?
Pray, pray, pray! Keep connected with your seminarians while they are at school. There are lots of simple ways to do that. Parishes should have some kind of vocations committee, or effort to, make the parish “vocation friendly.” Having a seminarian in your parish is an easy way to foster future vocations.