My Vocation Story by Fr. Jeff Smialek, O. Carm.

Fr. Jeff Smialek

I always had a feeling of being called to do something different in my life. I grew up in your typical Catholic family on the south side of Chicago and went to mass together as a family every Sunday. I remember a few times as a little boy, maybe 6 or 7 years old, walking out of Sunday Mass and saying to my parents, “Gee, I think I want to be a priest when I grow up.” I had some excellent examples of faith and ministry from the Franciscan Friars and Franciscan Sisters, who staffed my home parish and grade school. I grew up with vocations in the family since I had an aunt who was a Felicican Sister, so vocations were nothing new.  It was while at Mount Carmel H.S. in Chicago that I encountered the Carmelites. I was greatly impressed with all the Carmelites I met while at Mount Carmel. After high school, I attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and received degrees in History and Geography. I was not ready to commit yet, so I went into graduate school and served as a teaching assistant at Chicago State University while completing a masters’ degree in Geography. As I was completing grad school I had to face the decision of do I continue and pursue a Ph.D. and work in academia or is there something else the Lord wants me to do. While at dinner one night with a good priest friend of mine, I heard the Holy Spirit say clearly through my friend’s voice “The world has enough college professors, it does not have enough priests.” The rest is history. I entered formation with the Carmelites in the fall of 1999. After completing my seminary studies and receiving a M.Div. degree from the Washington Theological Union, I was ordained a priest on May 26, 2007 and had the honor of presiding at my first Mass the next day at my home parish of Sacred Heart on the Feast of Pentecost.  My first assignment was as campus minister and Theology teacher at Salpointe Catholic H.S. in Tucson, AZ from 2007 – 2011.  A desire to be closer to my family in the greater Chicago-land area brought me to JCA in the fall of 2011, where I serve as campus minister and teach Theology. My saying “yes” to the calling of God to serve has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I strongly encourage any young man or woman who feels a call to check out priesthood and religious life. It is an amazing journey!!

Submitted by Fr. Jeff Smialek, O. Carm. 

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