“How Can This Be?”: A Conversation with Ryan Adorjan

by on April 15, 2015

Ryan Adorjan is a first year theologian from the Diocese of Joliet. Before coming to Mundelein, he studied at the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ryan is very active in the New Evangelization, and, God willing, he will be ordained a priest in May 2018. Ryan recently sat down for a conversation about his journey to the seminary and the transformation he has undergone here. 

Robert Mixa (RM): When did you initially think about entering the seminary?

Ryan Adorjan (RA): I first thought about being a priest when I was 7 years old. It was at that age that I decided I would someday become the first pope from the United States. However, I didn’t think seriously about entering seminary until my freshman year of college.

RM: If you’re the first Pope from the United States, they better add red and blue to the white smoke (fumata bianca). But before we talk about that, let’s talk about seminary. What was it like to be a seminarian in college? Were many non-seminarian college students surprised by your decision – I should say ‘call’ – to enter the seminary?

RA: Being in college seminary was like having the best of both worlds. I was a college student on a university campus studying, eating, and working out (just kidding) with all of the other college students. But we were never just “regular college kids” because we were living a rigorous life of prayer, discipline, and service.

I think the only non-seminarians who saw my being in seminary as a call from God were mostly only those studying with us in the Catholic Studies department or involved in campus ministry. To be fair, the other students were generally very respectful of my “decision” to come to seminary, even if they didn’t understand it. Most couldn’t believe that a young man in our culture would voluntarily embrace a life of the priest but were supportive because they could see this was my true passion.

RM: How is life in the major seminary different from life in the college seminary?

RA: They say that college seminary has two main goals. The first is root out the jerk in the men who enter and open them to Christ through self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-acceptance so that the Trinity can do its work in the men’s hearts. The second goal is prepare men for major seminary. College seminary focuses on the holistic formation of the man from the inside out. Major seminary shares this goal but in the context of the formation of a man for priestly ministry. Through theological study, field education, and ministerial practicum experiences major seminary forms the man for the life of a priest.

RM: It is good to know that the seminary roots that out. It’s surprising to hear someone say that they need transformation, especially in relation to Christ. Most of the time that is seen as a threat, ultimately ending in me against God. What advice would you give to young men who are thinking about priesthood?

RA: No one is worthy to be a priest. Often the first inclination when a man feels a call toward seminary is to drop it and pretend it didn’t happen. The biggest advice I can offer is that any young man thinking about priesthood echo the words of Mary at the Annunciation, “How can this be?” Investigate the call in prayer, in conversation with priests and seminarians, and in consultation with his family.

The second piece of advice is to be aware that discerning seminary and discerning priesthood are not the same thing. There will come a point where merely thinking about seminary will no longer bear fruit and to get any more answers you’ll have to actually enter the seminary. Lots of men enter seminary and then discern out after a few years; do not be afraid of this! Whether you discern out or go all the way to ordination, any time spent in seminary is time well spent with God who is forming you according to his will.