The Catholic University of America

Graduating Senior Discerns Vocation

In eighth grade, Brett Garland visited the seminary in his home diocese of Columbus, Ohio, for the first time. “I fell in love with it. I just really felt at peace there,” he says.

After attending a local public high school, he wasn’t ready to enter seminary immediately, so he began looking at Catholic universities that would help him continue to discern his vocation.

“That’s what led me ultimately to Catholic. I thought it would be a wonderful place of discernment and it really has been.” he says. “It’s really helped to guide me to the decision I’ve made to enter seminary.”

During his time at CUA, Garland has been a member of the Knights of Columbus all four years, served for a year as a resident minister, participated in a mission trip to Costa Rica, studied abroad for a semester in Oxford, U.K., and served as a RENEW Core Team member.

Each experience, he says, led him toward the decision to apply for the seminary.

Garland says that student ministry was a chance to try pastoral service with his residents. He noted that his fellow student ministers formed a supportive and prayerful community.

As a RENEW Core team member, he was part of a small group of students that wrote weekly reflections on the Gospel for the organization’s Bible study groups. These small faith-based communities have been instrumental in his growth, he says.

“If, God willing, I am ordained a priest, I hope to continue to foster those small communities inside a parish setting, because I think it’s a great way to foster the strong relationships rooted in prayer that ultimately nourish and cultivate our faith,” he says.

In the Knights of Columbus, Garland says he found support in his discernment as well as deep friendships with a diverse group of men invested in their faith.

“There are so many great examples on campus of people who take their faith seriously, but are living it out in such drastically different ways,” he says. “I think if we’re going to really flourish as a Church we need to have that diversity in the expression of our faith and the expression of the joy that we have because of our faith.”

Garland began the long application process to the seminary just before Christmas break. The application included eight letters of recommendation, short essays in response to multiple questions, a “spiritual autobiography,” which came to 11 single-spaced pages for Garland, a psychological examination, a criminal background check, and sacramental records, in addition to personal interviews.

On April 22, the day after Good Shepherd Sunday, Brett learned that he had been accepted by his diocese as a seminarian. He hopes to attend the seminary he visited as an eighth grader, Pontifical College Josephinum, in Columbus.

“As much as I love the D.C. area, I feel a call back to ministry in my own diocese, and to really build up communities there, to take the things that I’ve learned here, in theology and philosophy, but also just in friendship rooted in prayer, the things I’ve learned outside the classroom, and bring that to bear in my ministry in central Ohio,” he says.

Training to be a priest in his home diocese will allow Garland to be in proximity to his family. The family farm where he grew up is only an hour away from Columbus.

Garland can expect to spend the next five to six years in training for the priesthood. Over the next year or two he will complete a second bachelor’s degree in philosophy and then go on to study theology for four years at the graduate level.

Seminary training includes personal, spiritual, pastoral, and academic formation. Seminarians live and pray together, attend lectures and discussions on aspects of priestly ministry, receive the sacraments, and meet regularly with a personal spiritual director.

“I’m jumping into brand new, uncharted territory,” Garland says. “In a way, too, it feels so comfortable and so right for me to be where I am now. I’ve received so much affirmation not only in my spiritual life, but also in the people around me.”

Garland’s post to Facebook announcing that he had been accepted to seminary received 218 “likes” and sparked an outpouring of interest and kindness from peers and mentors, Garland said.

“To have that kind of support, not only from family, but from friends as well who really understand, I feel like I’m in a really blessed place.”


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Brett Garland

Hometown: Washington Court House, Ohio

Major: Theology, minor in Philosophy

Favorite place on campus to pray: Caldwell Chapel. “I love the stained glass windows in there. I usually run into someone I know. I love those small moments. Seeing all the altars around the sides and knowing that this was a residence for priests is powerful. There’s definitely an ethos there that it’s hard not to tap in to.”

Favorite book: The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

Favorite classes: Character, Choice, and Community taught by William C. Mattison III, associate professor of moral theology; Dynamics of Christian Spirituality taught by Rev. Regis Armstrong, O.F.M., Cap., John C. and Gertrude P. Hubbard Professor of Religious Studies