David SweeneyDcn. David Sweeney

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Parish: Saint John Vianney, Brookfield

Seminary:  Saint Francis de Sales

Birthday:  December 26

Intercessor:  Saint Hubertus

Tell us your vocation story:

Vocations to the priesthood are not the first thing people associate with The University of Wisconsin in Madison, however, that is where my vocation story begins.  At St. Paul University Catholic Center on UW’s campus, I encountered peers that were passionate about their Catholic faith and exceptionally joyful.  I had not seen their kind of joy in any freshman dorm, at any student organization, and not even at Badger football games.  Along with deep joy and peace, these Catholic college students had a serious commitment to prayer.  It became clear that the prayer led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which was the source of their joy. 

Taking their lead, I began to pray daily, which led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  During my sophomore year, I also noticed a growing desire to be a priest.  Being a priest however, was one desire among many: marriage, children, a career, etc.  During the fall of my senior year, I accepted a job at Cleary Gull, an investment banking firm in Milwaukee. 

Over the next three years, I continued to pray, frequent the sacraments, and deepen my relationship with Christ.  During this time, the desire to be a priest never disappeared.  Through retreats, dinners, and meetings at St. Francis de Sales seminary, I learned more about vocation discernment.  I recognized a growing pile of evidence that I should attend seminary to be formed to be a priest.  There was still one piece missing however: a sincere openness to God’s call.  I feared leaving my job; I feared forgoing marriage and children; I feared being wrong about going to seminary.  Through prayer I was able to open my heart to the idea of attending seminary, and in prayer I found further evidence and reassurance to apply for and attend seminary.  The application process itself further confirmed my decision to enter seminary, and here I am.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my parents, St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield, and Marquette University High School, which all laid the foundation for my faith and my vocation.  I am truly grateful for all the people who helped me enter seminary.  It is a great place to be.

What is the greatest challenge facing a man considering the seminary?

Deciding to enter seminary requires entering the tension of a paradox.  It’s the paradox of bold docility.  On the one hand, the world tells you, “You can’t be happy as a celibate,” “You need a secure career,” and “the Church is losing relevance.”  You have to look those lies in the face and boldly respond, “You are wrong:  celibacy is a gift; I am made for greatness, not comfort; the Church will remain relevant as long as our world remains fallen.  I know exactly what I’m doing.”  Then you turn around to God in docility and say, “I have absolutely no ideas what I’m doing.  I think I want to be a priest, and I think you made me to be a priest, but I could be wrong.  Jesus, I love you, and I trust you.” And you offer your life to Him in loving abandonment.  It’s that simple!

What is your favorite Psalm verse and why?

Psalm 51 (from Liturgy of the Hours):

“My offense truly I know them;

my sin is always before me.

Against you, you alone have I sinned;

what is evil in your sight I have done.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,

burnt offering you would refuse,

my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.

A humbled, contrite spirit you will not spurn.”

Psalm 51 captures the human experience of sin, sorrow, repentance and penance strikingly well.  You read King David’s humble lines; and they hurt; and you think, “I know what that feels like.”  It’s a psalm that expresses beautifully in words what we’ve all (at least most of us poor sinners) have felt in our hearts. 

What are your favorite activities outside of the seminary?

Hunting, fishing, playing hockey, and spending time with my parents and six siblings.

Where do you like to go to pray?

In silence, preferably in a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament.

Where do you do your best studying?

In silence.

Which saint should people ask to intercede for your vocation?

Mary, St. John Vianney, St. Francis De Sales.

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