For the first time, St. Isaac Jogues House of Discernment in Watervliet is filled to the rafters with men discerning and pursuing a vocation to the priesthood for the Albany Diocese.

After retiring as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet, Rev. L. Edward Deimeke stayed on in what was once the parish rectory. Now, he's sharing that living space with five men in their first year of the Diocese's formation program for vocations. The rectory is officially known as St. Isaac Jogues House of Discernment.

Another half-dozen men in their second year of formation, who are living on their own, come to the house for weekly meetings and other events as they prepare to enter the seminary and formally start their studies for the priesthood. Current residents and participants at St. Isaac Jogues House include men from Colombia, Puerto Rico and Poland.

Father Deimeke credited the work of Rev. Anthony Ligato, diocesan vicar for vocations, and other vocations team members for the packed house.

"It's the old thing about planting seeds: It takes a while for them to grow," Father Deimeke remarked.

St. Isaac Jogues House opened in 2003 in the rectory of the former St. Anne's parish in Waterford. A few years later, it moved to a larger rectory in Green Island. More recently, the growing number of men examining a vocation necessitated that yet a different space be used.

As St. Isaac Jogues House itself changed, its formation program also evolved. Now, the formation program is a two-semester process, taking place in the fall and spring.

Father Ligato, who is also pastor of St. Jude parish in Wynantskill, leads weekly sessions for the men on the "four pillars of formation" (human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation). Other team members include Rev. Anthony Barratt, director of prayer and worship for the Diocese and pastor of Holy Trinity parish in Hudson/Germantown; and Rev. Brian Slezak, vocations team regional representative and pastor of Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes.

Men who live in the house participate in daily prayer together as they live in community. All the men discerning a vocation are allowed to continue working in their career fields; some move forward quickly toward a decision, while others are placed in parishes to participate in pastoral ministry, with a priest supervising them, as an aid to the process.

Jose Alexander Castano is one of the "aspirants," as they're known, now living at St. Isaac Jogues House. A native of Colombia, he'd been living with his family in Westchester County when he heard about the Albany Diocese's formation program and decided to explore it.

In other dioceses, Mr. Castano thinks, "it's kind of tough" for men looking at priesthood to make an abrupt change from a secular life to the seminary. St. Isaac Jogues House can ease the transition.

Mr. Castano has been living in the house since the end of August. He still works part-time down in Westchester on the weekends, which is also when he visits his family.

"You are preparing yourself to move on," he said of the house's formation process. "For me, this is like a small church. I can see people from different backgrounds, ages; you learn how to live with someone very different from you."

That's important, the aspirant said, because every parish is now a mix of cultures and nationalities. "The times of a 'national parish' [where parishioners were mostly of one background], those times are gone."

Besides, he added, priests need "good, healthy friendships." He sees St. Isaac Jogues House as helping future priests learn to be a "brotherhood."

With everyone on different schedules, Father Deimeke sees the discerners coming in and out of the house all day. He lauded the diversity of the current group.

Mr. Castano, who is 38, especially noted the age range of the men. He said it reminds him of the Gospel story in which laborers are hired to work in the fields in the morning, afternoon and later, but all paid the same amount.

"We're going to be together for the rest of our lives," he said of his fellow St. Isaac Jogues House participants. "This is a good start."

(Contact Father Ligato at and see