Seminary Appeal Weekend 2016 | Andy Matijevic
My name is Andy Matijevic and I am a senior at Saint Joseph College Seminary located at Loyola University Chicago in Rogers Park. I grew up in St. Thomas of Villanova Parish in Palatine, where I attended St. Thomas grade school and received my introduction to the Catholic faith and the sacraments. I then attended Palatine High School and entered seminary after my graduation in 2013. I received my vocation to priesthood at a very early age. As I began my preparation for my First Holy Communion in 2003, I would find myself playing Mass in my room, with red Kool-Aid and Ritz crackers – which by the way, with 3 brothers was not that easy to secure for my own purposes. On the day of my First Holy Communion, I sat in prayer after receiving the Eucharist and I heard the voice of Jesus say to me: “Andy, I want you to be a priest, come and follow me.” It’s taken years to understand the implications of that call and I have tried to follow the voice of God wherever it has led me. I have been blessed with support from my family and many others as I began to grow in my faith and answering the call from God. In 4th grade I began walking or riding my bike every day to daily mass over the summer and would continue until I entered seminary. When I was in 7th grade, my parish received a seminarian for the summer as an intern. I am proud to call him my confirmation sponsor, and now one of my priest mentors. In high school, to keep my faith and vocation alive, I joined the Quigley Scholars program, which is a program designed for young high school men throughout the Archdiocese, who attend either a Catholic or public high school, and come to the seminary once a month for Evening Prayer, Mass, dinner, and an hour of faith sharing. Being a member of the Quigley Scholars for four years really strengthened my vocation and confirmed my decision to enter seminary after high school.
When I was growing up and even to the present day, I was told “sharing is caring.” In today’s Gospel, we hear the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Let us look at this parable through a lens in which both the rich man and Lazarus would have gone to Abraham’s bosom if the rich man used his gifts. God has blessed us all with various gifts, and one gift he has given to all of us is the gift of love. As human beings we all need to feel loved and as disciples of Jesus we all need to love others in return. We know love because of the love God has shown us. We know in our hearts that we are made to love, but we often forget to share that love with others, just as the rich man did not show love to Lazarus by sharing his wealth. It is difficult to be a loving person every day. We are human. We sin, we judge, we turn a blind eye, we stumble, and we fall. But we look at the Cross, the witness of true love, and we get back up to walk this journey of life ready to love as Jesus loves. This is the vocation of every baptized disciple.
We all have gifts and abilities that benefit others and glorify God. The greatest of all our gifts are the gifts of love and compassion generously shared. To love the sinner, to love the outcast, to love those who are the most difficult to love – this is our calling. Love has come in the person of Jesus Christ. Love has come and was nailed to a cross. Love has come and has risen from the tomb. There’s nothing that will identify us more clearly as Jesus’ disciples than love.
I want to be a priest, to continue to spread the greatest love story ever told and to inspire and motivate others to a life of love, caring and compassion and help them on their journey to heaven. I want to be a priest because I want to care for God’s sons and daughters by showing them they are loved, whether it be by sitting with a family in a darkened hospital room, praying with them in a brightly lit funeral parlor, forgiving the sinner in a cold jail cell, or simply breaking bread around a family table by sharing a meal. I want to bring love to the world through the celebration of the Sacraments and through teaching and preaching the word of God to all of God’s children. Love is the foundation for the life of every Christian. In the life of a priest it becomes a double mandate: to love with compassion as every Christian must do, but also to teach, preach and model for others what love and compassion in the name of Jesus looks like. To teach and inspire others to love with compassion, mercy and generosity is in many ways counter cultural because these are not values that are practiced widely. This is what I want to devote my life to doing.
One of the most important things seminary has taught me is that priesthood is not about me. I am part of something bigger and greater than myself, a love story that began 2000 years ago in a little village of Galilee and has spread to this great Cathedral in Chicago. I am part of the living and breathing Body of Christ with Jesus as the head, the one who showed us what love is by taking on human flesh to suffer and die for our sake. We are all loved beyond our wildest imagination by God who created us in his own image and likeness and are called to share that love with others.
I desire to serve the members of Christ’s body with every ounce of my love and compassion. I still have a way to go, just about 4 years and 8 months, - not that I’m counting - before God-willing, the Archbishop imposes his hands on my head in this Cathedral to be your priest.
I ask you to pray for me, and for my brother seminarians at Mundelein and Saint Joseph Seminaries as we prepare to serve the people of God. I would like to offer my deepest thanks for your generosity to the Seminary Appeal, which will provide the best for our seminaries and form priests not only with the desire to love but with the know-how that can translate love into compassion and action and help the seminarians to be formed into good, holy, joyful and effective ministers of the Gospel. Pray for seminarians and priests who will be willing and well prepared to use their God given gifts for the betterment of the world, and loving all people with whom they come in contact. We want to pray with you and for you. We long to be that voice of hope in an uncertain world so that all God’s people will know the joy of the Gospel in their lives and know they are loved. It goes without saying that we need more priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago, if the mission of love and compassion that Jesus calls us to will be fulfilled. As Jesus said with his dying breath on the cross, “It is finished,” it was in this moment that he invited us to share this story of love. And I want to continue to spread that love story and encourage others to do the same through my priestly ministry. Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you.