Hi my name is Carlo Santa Teresa and I’m a seminarian for the Diocese of Camden. I was born in 1989, in Voorhees, New Jersey, the only Child of Josefina Santa Teresa. Growing up I was raised in a Catholic family and one of my earliest remembrances was my grandfather, who had a very strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. I remember he had a great devotion to the rosary and he had a great love for Mary that I thought that was the masculine thing to do, was to have a great love for our Mother.
The first time I felt a call to the priesthood was when I was about 4 years old. I remember seeing the pastor of Saint Peter Celestine Parish at the time, Monsignor Jim Tracy, at Sunday Mass and thinking that there was something different about him. There was more than just the fact that he got up and spoke to us every week, and said all the prayers that we had to respond to, or that he wore a different outfit than the rest of us. It was something deeper than that. Something that I wanted to know and learn more about.
As I grew older I was an altar server at Saint Peter Celestine. I attended Catholic grade school at Saint Peter Celestine School and attended Camden Catholic High School. It was at that time that the call to the priesthood was particularly strong to the point where I actually applied to enter the seminary. I went through the process but I decided at the very last minute not to enter at that time. I wanted to see what else was out there, I wanted to know my surroundings a little bit more and I felt that it was not the right time to enter.
After I graduated from Camden Catholic, I attended community college to figure out what I might be good at. To see how I could possibly contribute to society. It was also at this time that I continued to remain active at my current parish Saint Peter’s in Merchantville, where I would help out with the various activities especially the liturgies. I was also very active with the Knights of Columbus at the parish and I was also involved in local politics for quite some time.
I met a lot of wonderful people at this time, many of whom I am still friends with and remain close to. And I was very happy but at the same time I wasn’t fulfilled, there was definitely something missing in my life.
The turning point was in March of 2012, when I was involved in an accident in New York City, which sent me to the hospital in the operating room with a broken leg. It was during this time of recovery where I began to talk to God again and asked Him why I got away with just a broken leg, when it could have been, and should have been, so much worse. And it was at that time that I felt God in the depths of my heart saying FOLLOW ME!
After my recovery, I got back in contact with the Vocations Office, who had a new Vocations Director at the time, Father Michael Romano. I knew Father Romano as a seminarian when he did his Apostolate at Saint Peter Celestine School. So it made things a little bit easier as I began the process again knowing that I had somebody that I knew beforehand. During my meetings with the members of the Vocations Board it was encouraging to see that they weren’t there to drill you, but they were there to encourage you, and to help you to know more about yourself so that you could see how you could be a gift to the people that you will serve one day.
I began my seminary formation in the Fall of 2013 at The College Seminary of the Immaculate Conception at St. Andrew’s Hall at Seton Hall University, and now I’m in my Theological Formation at Immaculate Conception Seminary also at Seton Hall University. One of the great blessings of Seminary Formation is being with men, not just from the Diocese of Camden, but from other walks of life. Men of different ages, different backgrounds, different stories, and seeing how we are all united because of Christ and his call to us to serve Him and His Church.
It’s amazing to see how Christ is active in all aspects of seminary life, whether it’s in the things that we study or in our interactions with each other, as well as seeing Christ at work in every single one of us. At the heart of seminary formation is our prayer, both in community as well as our own private prayer. It’s in prayer that we are able to communicate with God, to allow Him to come into our hearts so that we can receive his love for us.
When I was in College Seminary, I had the great blessing of working with The Missionaries of Charity in Newark. I would help at their soup kitchen and on Fridays I had the opportunity to be able to feed them, not just with the food that came out of the kitchen, but also with the Word of God and with their prayer. And it was amazing to see how there was a greater hunger that was being satisfied in their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs.
This past summer I had the opportunity to go to the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska, where I got to meet a number of Seminarians from across the country. It was amazing to see the diversity in both the culture as well as the different concerns that affected different parts of the nation, but at the same time, seeing the union that we all had as men being called by Christ to serve his Church. I made a lot of wonderful friends while I was there and it helped me to see the deeper bond that is shared between seminarians and priests. I was able to grow in my prayer life as well, being able to encounter Christ in the depths of my heart.
My advice to anyone who is considering a vocation to the priesthood is not just to think about it but to pray about it. If you feel God calling you to the priesthood, please be generous and say YES! Trust me, it’s more happiness than you think you can have and more blessings than you think you can receive.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your prayers for me and for my brother seminarians. And I ask you to please pray for more Holy Vocations for the Diocese of Camden.