BY CHRISTOPHER D. RINGWALDOne evening in March, Ryan Salisbury, a recent Ithaca College graduate who was house-sitting for a professor, sat reading the Book of Hebrews. He was on chapters 7-8, which concern the Israelite high priest Melchizedek and Christ's assumption of that role.
"I got really excited," Mr. Salisbury said of the passage. "It felt like it was really speaking to me. I was up until two or three in the morning thinking about it and looking up seminaries on the web."
At 23 and just out of college, Mr. Salisbury was not quite sure he was destined to wear the collar. Today, the Johnstown native is continuing that exploration at the St. Isaac Jogues House of Discernment, which recently reopened in the former St. Brigid's Church rectory in Watervliet.
Jogues House, as it is familiarly called, was previously located in St. Joseph's rectory in Green Island. Both St. Joseph's and St. Brigid's Churches became worship sites when six parishes merged into Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet/ Green Island; the St. Joseph's worship site closed this summer.
Since 2003, St. Isaac Jogues House of Discernment has served as a home to first-year candidates for priesthood for the Albany Diocese. The men spend two years studying philosophy and pre-theology at Siena College in Loudonville while living at the residence; many move on to enter a four-year program at one of several seminaries.
The residence also houses men who have not yet applied but are considering a vocation while still working. Meetings for potential candidates for priesthood are also held there.
"The three men we have in our St. Isaac Jogues House this year are outstanding; they could be successful in life in any number of areas. But they have the faith and courage to take a look at the possibility of priesthood and I have a lot of respect for them," said Rev. James J. Walsh, a member of the diocesan vocations team and associate pastor at St. Pius X parish in Loudonville.
Soon after Mr. Salisbury's epiphany, a retreat director sent him to a vocations director in Rochester, who sent him on to Father Walsh.
"Everything lined up over five or six months," Mr. Salisbury noted. "Now, I'm waiting to discern if my step will be to enter the seminary or go back to school or the workforce."
Living the life
To give him a taste of clerical life, Mr. Salisbury will work at St. Ambrose parish in Latham.
Another resident is at the same stage of discernment. Eddyles Jacinthe, 33, a native of Haiti with relatives in the U.S., lived through the country's massive earthquake in January while considering the priesthood.
Mr. Jacinthe contacted Father Walsh and ended up moving into Jogues House. As he continues to ponder a vocation, he will be working at St. Pius X parish in Loudonville.
The third resident is at a different stage: Brian Kelly, 28, has been accepted as a candidate and will be studying at Siena College while continuing to work as a business manager at Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes.
The men also benefit from the tutelage of Rev. L. Edward Deimeke, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, and Rev. George Brennan, who oversees Catholic Charities' outreach ministry for the Diocese. Both priests also live at the residence.
In all, the Diocese has seven candidates who have been accepted and are studying - or "in formation" - at seminaries in Chicago, Maryland and outside of Boston.
Many of those candidates have had moments such as the one that started Mr. Salisbury on his path when he read in the Book of Hebrews: "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek."
"Those readings in Hebrews really lit me on fire," he told The Evangelist. "I will never forget it."