Becoming 'An Instrument of God's Love'
BC senior prepares to embark on journey to the priesthood
By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs
Less than two weeks shy of graduation, Boston College senior Ryan Connors does not have a resume.
Unlike most of his classmates preparing for life after Boston College, the philosophy major from Riverside, RI, has never visited the Career Center nor submitted an application to graduate school.
To his satisfaction, however, he has already been accepted for the only position he has ever wanted. Upon graduation, Connors will enter the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence in the Diocese of Providence to become a Catholic priest.
Connors, a candidate for high honors and a member of the Order of the Cross and Crown Honors Society, has led a busy life during his four years at the Heights.
He has served as president of both the Boston College Pro-Life Club and the St. Thomas More Society, which describes itself as a Catholic group "committed to promoting the rich heritage of the Catholic faith on campus." A gifted writer, he also holds the distinction of being the only student to write for all three BC student newspapers: Crossroads, the Observer and The Heights, where he is currently a regular columnist.
In his spare time Connors likes to attend BC football games, hang out with his roommates and entertain friends with his accomplished juggling skills.
Quiet and unassuming, Connors looks and acts like a typical college student, hosting parties, attending concerts and studying late at night. But he realizes that his chosen vocation distinguishes him from his 2,200 classmates, most of who are now preoccupied with job searches or grad school decisions.
"When seniors talk about their post-graduation plans, they always say, 'What are you doing next year?'" said Connors. "They don't ask, 'What is your vocation for the future?' So I realize that my answer can be interesting."
For Connors, the decision to enter the seminary came about after years of prayer and careful consideration. "It is something that I have been thinking about for a long time. It started in high school and continued while I was at BC. Ultimately, I came to a belief that it was what God desired that I do."
An ardent admirer of the late Pope John Paul II, Connors credits World Youth Day in Toronto in the summer of 2002 as a major factor in solidifying his decision to choose religious life.
"The personal witness of John Paul II has always been a hugely formative experience for me," said Connors. "Seeing 800,000 young people in Toronto going wild for a 70-plus celibate man was a beautiful thing. I can still hear his voice saying, 'If you too are considering priestly life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross.' I found his message that day to be powerful and his example of total, self-giving love - a man who lived a human life and gave everything to the Church - to be very attractive."
During his junior year, Connors began to speak about his calling with friends on campus. While occasionally, he says, some would question why he would want to become a priest, most have been extremely supportive.
"In addition to being kind, considerate and one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, Ryan is a great person to be around," said roommate Jonathon Carreiro from Somerset, Mass. "I have seen him juggle three bowling pins on a unicycle and recite lines verbatim from 'Seinfeld.' He is a tremendous person, whose deep devotion to God has helped to deepen my own faith. He is someone we definitely need in the priesthood."
Among faculty offering Connors their encouragement are Canisius Professor of Theology Michael Buckley, SJ, Assoc. Prof. Ronald Tacelli, SJ (Philosophy), and Adj. Asst. Prof. Laura Garcia (Philosophy), who served as his senior thesis advisor.
"It is both gratifying and humbling to see a person of such gifts dedicate his life to the Church and the kingdom of God," said Garcia. "He is kind, straightforward, hard-working and intellectually gifted, and he has exercised wonderful leadership on campus in speaking out for the defense of human life and of a robust Catholic faith. It has been a privilege for me to get to know him."
It was this past December when Connors made the final decision to pursue a vocation. "As I was thinking more and more about it, the question kept arising, 'Is the Lord calling me?' One day I came to the realization that a priest is an instrument of God's love, and that is ultimately what I wanted to do with my life."
Over Christmas break, he applied to the seminary in the Diocese of Providence. He received his acceptance letter on Holy Thursday. He will begin his studies at Providence College in September with five other seminarians. The process of ordination should take five years.
Connors says his parents, Joseph and Lisa Connors, have also been supportive, despite the fact that, as an only child, his decision will result for them in a life without grandchildren. "A vocation is a cross and a grace for both the person called and his family," said Connors. "But overall I think there is a sense of joy. They know it will be good for me."
With just 11 days remaining before graduation, Connors says he will miss BC and the four happy years that he spent here and has no regrets about his decision to forgo Brown University - where he was also accepted - for Boston College, or about his decision to embrace priestly life.
"When I was considering the priesthood, I was struck by the words of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, who said, 'There are thousands of reasons to say no, and one reason to say yes: because He's asked you.'
"If you come to believe as I did that He has asked you, there is no other response."