Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,
I asked James to share his vocation story with us this week.
“My name is James Bonar. I just completed my third year at Sacred Heart and have three more ahead of me. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, the fourth of seven children. My family are parishioners at Christ the King in Ann Arbor. I attended Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Plymouth, run by the sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Each day with 8am Mass. It was during this time that I began to both appreciate and love the priests in my life. I was struck by their faithfulness, generosity of spirit, and incredibly grateful for their ministry. I received Jesus and His ministry through them. This has stuck with me most of my life that Jesus chooses to save me through His priests. It is a beautiful reflection for me. I remember the somewhat regular invitations to discern a priestly or religious vocation. The shortage of vocations among younger people has been a concern all of my life. The gentle invitation to seek and follow Jesus’s plan for my life and to conform my will to His has thankfully always been present.
I attended Father Gabriel Richard High School and there began to make my parent’s faith my own. I began to build a regular prayer time, continued going to confession regularly, and
started to watch videos explaining the faith (thank you Bishop Barron!). I got involved with campus ministry and helped lead retreats for the school. I fell deeper in love with Jesus, the
Church, and ministry. I wasn’t open to hearing a call at this point and I wanted to pursue engineering as a career. Eventually, God led me to Michigan Tech in Houghton and St. Albert the Great parish. Those four years were a great blessing for me. I immediately became deeply involved in the thriving Catholic community and volunteered to lead various functions, such as our Friday night fireside fellowships, our Sunday brunches, and Bible studies.
With FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), I attended SEEK 2017 down in San Antonio. It was a massive conference of about 13,000 young Catholics and a powerful
experience. The Thursday Eucharistic exposition was the highlight for me. We assembled in a massive area with the Eucharist being processed all over for a few hours. Hundreds of priests heard thousands of confessions that night. While I was praying, I felt Jesus pushing on my heart. While I had a habit of prayer and was asking to know His will for my life, I struggled to open myself to receive whatever He called me to. I prayed the classic prayer “Lord I surrender my life to you,” but I really withheld openness around honestly pursuing the priesthood or religious life, despite my admiration and attraction of them. In particular, I knew that being open to a priestly life would require action and loss of control, which I was slow to do. Jesus expressed His displeasure at my words prayed with my lips but not my heart. I was giving lip service and withholding my heart and control with conditions and stipulations. I was asking him to be Lord of my life but I wanted to be selective in where I followed. He didn’t and doesn’t want only a part of my heart and life, but all of it. He was calling me to deeper trust and prevailed on me that night. Since then, I knew I had to deeply discern this call. I resolved to apply to seminary and here I am about 6 years later. It has been a wild ride. Both very different and far more difficult than I had imagined. Being formed into the image of Christ the Priest has a consistent habit of highlighting the many areas of my life where I fall short. It’s a long process and I have great hope, but certainly pray for us seminarians and all priests! We depend on them to serve as Jesus would have us do.”