An interview with seminarian Samuel Mangieri III of Abingdon

Editor’s note: As part of a special section on vocations in the March 20 issue of The Catholic Post, assistant editor Jennifer Willems invited Samuel Mangieri III to answer a few questions about his decision to study for the priesthood.

The son of Samuel Mangieri Jr. and Peggy Mangieri of Sacred Heart Parish in Abingdon, Sam is in his first year of pre-theology studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. He has a sister, Maddie, who is a freshman at Illinois State University in Normal.

Sam attended Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg until the fourth grade and continued his studies at Abingdon Middle School and Abingdon High School, graduating in 2007. Before going to “The Mount” last fall, he had studied communications at Bradley University in Peoria for three years.

In the following interview, he talks about “falling in love” and says that like all seminarians he is relying on the prayers of the people of the Diocese of Peoria “to help lead us to holiness.”

Q: Tell us about your family background. What kind of religious practices or devotions did you grow up with?

A: I was blessed to have been born of a mom and dad who made sure that I knew that it is right to give God thanks and praise. They made sure I went to Mass every Sunday growing up, we prayed before a majority of meals at home, and they taught me to pray every night before bed.

As for devotions, Dad and I went through a couple of periods of wearing the Brown Scapular during my childhood. It’s there to stay now.
My Grandma Tillie also tried to throw an alley-oop to Our Lady to get me to pray the rosary, but I was too cool back then. Next to the Mass, it’s my favorite part of each day now.

Q: When did you start to think that God might be calling you to the priesthood? Was there a special person or event in your life that had an influence?

A: In my sophomore year at Bradley University there was a really charismatic priest on campus who couldn’t contain the joy of the priesthood. I had never ruled out being a priest at that point but didn’t want to give it much thought. I had my own plans.

Some of my boys soon talked me into going on a Koinonia retreat where the same priest, Father Brian Brownsey (also director of priestly vocations for the Diocese of Peoria), celebrated an explanatory Mass and it hit me right at my core. I found out exactly what we do every Sunday. I got a taste of what Christ’s presence in the Eucharist means for my life and thought briefly, “Maybe I was made to do what Father does.”

Q: What did you do with that “call”? Was it something that you embraced right away or did you need some time to accept what God had in mind for you? How did your family react?

A: Well, that weekend was the first time I had ever heard the word “vocation.” I still wasn’t completely sure what it meant when I left, I just knew I was supposed to pray the prayer, “Lord, help me to be what you want me to be.” I did and soon found out how quickly the Lord responds to “knee-mail.”

As I entered into the relationship that Christ wants to have with each of us, I started falling in love, and seminary became heavy on my heart to the point where I had to tell Mom and Dad. It was a lot at first . . . still is. But I think we have each come to realize that I’m in God’s hands now. We’re working on our trust in Him — myself included.

Q: Talk about your discernment process. Who has helped you? And what role has prayer played?

A: The Lord placed my diocesan brother, Adam Cesarek, at Bradley as a FOCUS missionary. (FOCUS is Fellowship of Christian University Students.) I really look up to him. Adam is a real “Mama’s boy” and two summers ago he talked to me about the Total Consecration to Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort. I came to see that, like St. Louis says, she is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus.

Knowing that St. Louis couldn’t become a saint by lying to people, I surrendered myself to her, body and soul, in order to belong entirely to Jesus. She took me by the hand on that summer day and I know she’ll never let go of it. Her prayers continue to lead me to a deeper love of Christ and to my vocation.

Q: What excites you about the priesthood? Many people may not understand this vocation and the sacrifices you will make.

A: I asked a fairly new priest in a lunch line recently, “Father, is it really as great as we think it is?” He said, “It is more incredible than I ever could have imagined. Every time I am worn down at all I just give a little more of myself and the Lord blesses me like crazy.”

Thankfully God gave me an earthly father who has laid down his life for my sister and me. I have seen some of what God the Father’s love for me is like through my dad and if I can give my life so that many may meet God and experience His love in the sacraments, then there’s nothing more exciting to me. If He’s calling me to be His priest then He will provide the graces.

Q: You’re at the beginning of a long journey of prayer and study — six years. What are you doing to sustain yourself and what can the people of the Diocese of Peoria do to help?

A: To sustain myself I’m clinging to St. Padre Pio’s words, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” The tough part is that seminary injects “study too!” into that quote somewhere. That complicates the last part.

If the people of the Diocese Peoria could just keep praying for my brothers and me, then I’m sure they will help lead us to holiness like they have many other priests of our diocese. We love you and thank you for it.

I would also like to thank the priests of my home parish for their loving ministry and ask for prayers for Father William T. Miller, IC, pastor, and Father Joseph Presley, IC, parochial vicar, of Corpus Christi and St. Patrick’s in Galesburg, as well as Sacred Heart in Abingdon.

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