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John Lawrence, Iowa seminarian, dies in his sleep

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 09/01/15

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This heartbreaking item appeared on the Diocese of Des Moines Office of Vocations Facebook page Tuesday night:

Please keep in your prayers seminarian John Lawrence, who died in his sleep last night. Keep in prayer his family and the seminarian community. Information regarding funeral arrangements will be forthcoming as soon as they are known. Bishop Pates said: “John was a committed, positive seminarian genuinely dedicated to his formation for priesthood. His death is a great loss to his family and the Diocese of Des Moines.”

Several months ago, John wrote about his journey toward the priesthood for a “Meet the Seminarians” article on the diocesan website:

The idea to enter the priesthood started when I was attending religious education classes at Immaculate Conception Church in Castle Grove, Iowa. One year a friend’s grandparents took over teaching the weekly classes. There was one unit in particular over vocations. I was mature enough to understand the incredible commitment it would take to be a priest. I quickly dismissed the idea because I wanted to have a marriage and children. Sister Damien, who helped maintain the church and looked on students during class, told my mother that she thought I would make a good priest. I was a little shocked after hearing that because I wasn’t sure what Sister saw in me. For some reason though I have always remembered what she said. I had the opportunity to counsel at Catholic Youth Camp in 2011 and for a second summer in 2012. I had a lot of fun working with great staff and interacting with the campers. I enjoyed going to the daily masses and the opportunity to “get away” from the outside world for a week. I also did quite a bit of praying and one night I prayed to God to help me find a different job. The next morning I woke feeling tired, sore, and my summer allergies were starting to affect me. Later at mass I listened to Father Pin’s homily about vocations of marriage and priesthood. After Fr. Pins told his vocation story, I felt his story was similar to my own life. I learned that prior to entering the seminary he worked at a public accounting firm as a CPA like me. The feeling of being tired and sore went away, and it became clear that I had not completely discerned my vocation as I had acted on more of what I wanted to do. I thought about a vocation in the priesthood the rest of the mass. There were a lot of emotions running through me at this time and I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. I decided to talk with Vocations Director Fr. Pins after the mass to see if he had anything that might help me. He gave me a couple of books and left me with the lasting words of “be not afraid.” I was actually a little afraid at the thought of being a priest, but after reading the books and looking at some articles on the Internet about vocations I felt much better. I started attending mass daily and to pray quite a bit more. I began to believe that entering the seminary was the next step for me in my discernment. I met with Fr. Pins a few times and asked if it would be possible to enter the seminary during the spring term. He said that it was possible and I started the application process. Even with my busy fall schedule I was able to finish everything and enter the seminary for the spring term. At times I am a little afraid, but I am more open to my call and I have faith that God will help me though my discernment.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

At a time when many seminarians are returning to class, please keep them and their continued discernment in your prayers.


Prayer of a Seminarian

Savior and King,
I find it so easy to revel in knowledge for knowledge’s sake,
avoiding the goal of instruction: to learn love.
A puffed-up mind may be able to hide an impure heart,
an aching conscience
or insincere motives from others,
but before you, all is laid bare.
The purpose of my training is to grow in love and faithfulness,
purity and authenticity.
Help me, O Lord, to keep in mind your purposes
for the instruction I receive.
I pray that when I leave here,
my love will have grown,
many sinful habits will have been left behind,
and any insincere motivations or spiritual facade will have been shattered.
May you work in my heart to draw me closer to yourself.
Help me to love, O Lord.
Give me a heart that breaks
for those held in the chains of sin.
Clear my conscience
and authenticate my faith.
May the knowledge I obtain be for your glory
and for the growth of your love in my all-too-hardened heart.
And help conform me to the image of Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.


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