Two paths to priesthood to converge June 1

Deacon David Arellano (left) and Deacon Seth M. Seaman (right) serve at the Chrism Mass on March 25, 2024, during Holy Week at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. (Photos/Michael Mickle)

Bishop Barry C. Knestout will ordain two men to the priesthood June 1 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. Deacon David Arellano and Deacon Seth M. Seaman received the Call to Orders on April 9.

 

Deacon David Arellano: ‘The Lord was calling me’

At the age of 26, Deacon David Arellano has been discerning his vocation for more than half of his life.

He was born in Orange County, California, moved to Mexico with his grandmother when he was about one year old, and lived in Mexico for about nine years. He returned to the United States in 2006, when he was in third grade, and lived with his mother and brother in Rocky Mount.

Deacon David Arellano

Deacon Arellano said that from the time he was very young, his grandmother “had always said that she thought this was what I was going to end up doing.”

His mother, Maria Emma Arellano, shared similar thoughts last year when her son was ordained a deacon. She said he would try to go up to the altar at Mass when he was as young as four years old, saying he wanted to “help the priest.”

Those feelings apparently did not go away. In middle school, Deacon Arellano remembered watching the priest and realizing: “What I see the priest doing up there – I want that.”

He said those feelings strengthened as he grew in his relationship with the Lord. “I began longing for something greater than myself. And I knew that the Lord was calling me to that.”

Deacon Arellano spoke with a calm, quiet voice, but with conviction. “That longing became more and more until I reached the point in seminary, where it’s not even that I can’t see myself doing anything else – I can’t think of anything else.”

‘Turn your whole being to God’

Despite the tugging he felt from the Lord, Deacon Arellano thought he was meant to head to Hampden-Sydney College after high school to major in chemistry. He envisioned a life of academia, teaching chemistry in middle or high school, then getting his master’s degree and doctorate to teach at the university level. He had already put down his deposit for college, but his discernment continued, and he was thinking more about the priesthood.

Five days after his high school graduation in 2015, Deacon Arellano switched paths after he was accepted to the College Seminary Program at St. John Paul II Seminary, and would also earn his bachelor’s degree at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.

He completed the College Seminary Program and graduated from CUA in 2019, then transferred to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, to continue his formation.

“In my studies, I’ve always tried to keep in mind, I am doing this for the glory of God,” Deacon Arellano said. “I found that all the studying helped me to understand the purpose of intellect and the whole idea of turning your whole being to God – not just the spiritual side of things, but also your intellectual life.”

As a priest, Deacon Arellano says he will still be teaching, just not chemistry.

His musical background is also something that he will carry with him in his vocation. He has played the alto saxophone since he was in sixth grade. In seminary, his musical gifts have come in handy as he and his brother seminarians practice chanting readings and Mass parts.

Passionate about priesthood

Looking ahead to his priesthood, Deacon Arellano says he is most excited about celebrating Mass, but also to be able to hear confessions.

He looks forward to “being the vessel that the Lord uses to extend his love and mercy to his people – because I’ve had great encounters in confession – and so being that instrument, to be there and allow the Lord to touch his people through my work.”

He said serving as a deacon for the last year has “helped me get out of my shell.”

The seminarian recalled being interviewed by The Catholic Virginian a year ago, before he was ordained a deacon. At the time, he admitted being a little nervous because he considers himself an introvert.

As a deacon, he said he was assigned to Christ the Redeemer, a large, vibrant parish in Sterling, with about 1,000 people attending each Sunday Mass – a total of about 6,500 people.

“It’s also helped me a lot with my people skills … being able to figure out, okay, how do I give myself over completely to ministry, while – number one – not wearing myself out,” he explained.

The young deacon said the best part of his diaconate ministry has been the baptisms; he celebrated about 30 baptisms altogether.

“Every time, I was always in awe of this kid that I just met, who now belongs completely to God – and you know, apart from the tabernacle, this kid is the second holiest thing in the building right now,” Deacon Arellano said.

He added that the baptisms were generally smaller groups, so he enjoyed interacting with the families and explaining the importance of the rite.

“Also, I’ve really enjoyed preaching – it’s actually been a lot easier than I thought it would be,” he added. “That’s been [a] really awesome experience, kind of unexpected to be able to go back to all the different aspects of the rite of ordination and … being able to tap into [the graces] to help me with my ministry.”

When asked what his advice would be for someone discerning the priesthood, the soon-to-be priest said: “The first thing I would tell them – don’t be afraid. It’s a classic line we always go to, but there is so much power behind it.”

“You know, there can be so many fears: how will my family react, how will my friends react, am I even going to be able to make it all the way through, but you know, just don’t be afraid,” he continued.

He shared that his mother and brother have been very supportive of him throughout this journey.

“If this is what the Lord is calling you to, he will give you the strength to go every step of the way,” said Deacon Arellano.

Looking ten years down the road, is there something he would like to tell himself? “Don’t forget that first moment you fell in love with God – and always go back to that encounter, because that’s where you will always find your rest,” he advises his future self.

Deacon Arellano will be ordained to the priesthood on June 1 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. He said his favorite place to pray in the cathedral is the Sacred Heart altar, “just looking at the Lord and longing to have his heart, and his zeal for souls.”

Deacon Seth M. Seaman: The Lord ‘was always right by my side’

“I started thinking about the priesthood a little bit later in life. It wasn’t something that was on my radar at all when I was young,” explained Deacon Seth M. Seaman.

He will celebrate his 38th birthday just six days before he is ordained a priest on June 1.

Deacon Seth M. Seaman

Deacon Seaman considers himself an “open book” and laughs as he speaks frankly about his journey toward the priesthood.

Deacon Seaman was born in a small town in Pennsylvania and moved to Hampton when he was nine years old. He considers Hampton his hometown, describing his upbringing there as a “wonderful childhood.”

The seminarian said he had a life-changing moment when he was 17. “The Lord spoke to my heart in a very real and very powerful way – not in a way that I could hear with my ear, but in a way that I clearly perceived in my heart.”

He continued, “The Lord spoke to me, and he said, ‘Seth, you call yourself a Christian, but you don’t know anything about me. Get to know me.’”

“It was at that point where my journey with the Lord really began,” said the soon-to-be priest.

Winding road toward God

That journey has been a long and winding road for the last 20 years. Deacon Seaman was baptized in the Church when he was four months old, but said he could count on one hand the number of times his family went to church when he was young, usually for a wedding or funeral.

While he was studying at Old Dominion University, he read Scripture every day; by the end of his college years, he was attending a Methodist church. He graduated and began working as a design engineer, but said the Lord kept speaking to his heart. He entered Asbury Theological Seminary, a Methodist seminary in Kentucky, with the goal of becoming a Methodist pastor.

During his time at the seminary, he read “Cur Deus Homo,” by St. Anselm of Canterbury. Deacon Seaman said it had an amazing impact on him.

He said St. Anselm “helped me to see that the Catholic Church was actually something good, and from him began [my] trajectory toward the Catholic Church.”

“I began to see the goodness, the truth and the beauty come alive, and that really drew me powerfully toward the Church,” Deacon Seaman explained.

He said Jesus has revealed himself in so many ways, but it has been a “progressive understanding of how he’s desiring me to journey with him.”

Of that winding road back to the Church, Deacon Seaman said, “The Lord was always present, and he was always with me. And he was the one who was always right by my side, even when I didn’t know that he was.”

He said Eucharistic adoration played a significant role in his journey, and continues to do so. Before he returned to the Church, a Catholic spiritual director encouraged him to go to adoration. He said he stepped out of his comfort zone and offered that time to the Lord.

“When we put ourselves out there, the Lord is faithful,” the deacon explained. “And he showed up in my own life powerfully as I was seeking to discern whether the Lord was really asking me to become Catholic.”

Learning what the Lord asks

Deacon Seaman realized that God had bigger plans than simply calling him back to the Church.  “I’ve learned that the Lord is asking me two things. He’s asking me to be his evangelist,” he said, “and he’s asking me to be somebody who can help others encounter him, especially through his sacraments.”

Looking ahead to his priesthood, Deacon Seaman said, “More than anything, I want to be able to see people grow as disciples of the Lord.”

He said that being ordained a deacon last year helped in his preparation toward becoming a priest, because he learned how to become a “public person.”

“Once you have been ordained, you are expected to be approachable and able to speak goodness, truth and beauty into people’s lives,” said Deacon Seaman.

“It has been extremely humbling, and also kind of unexpected, that so many people would trust me enough to tell me their stories, their heartaches, their worries and fears – so that they might be able to more clearly perceive how God was in the midst of all of the brokenness of life,” the deacon added.

When asked what advice he would have for someone discerning the priesthood, he said, “I would ask them to approach the Lord in humility. … The Lord wants to form us, and … when we have a heart of humility and approach him in that spirit, the Lord is able to do amazing things.”

Deacon Seaman said his parents were “very much onboard with [me becoming a priest] once I wanted it.” He shared that his mother is still getting to understand it, but is nevertheless very proud – something that was evident when he was ordained a deacon last year.

His father passed away in 2018, but was also very supportive when he entered the seminary. Deacon Seaman shared that his father became Catholic and was confirmed in the Church just a few months before his passing.

Deacon Seaman will be ordained a priest June 1 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond. “When I come to the cathedral, I always make sure that I go before the statue of St. Peter. … He has spoken to me time and time again and has helped to lead me along in my journey.”

He cites his favorite Bible verse as 1 Peter 3:15: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

The deacon said he wants that verse to guide every aspect of his life, especially as a priest.

“This is an amazing, wonderful journey that the Lord has brought me on, not one that I would have ever expected,” said Deacon Seaman, “but one that has nonetheless formed me into a person that would be able, I hope, to minister to God’s people.”

 

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