Here Br. Scott Brentwood, O. de M. tells his vocation story which leads him from a small Virginia town to becoming a friar in an Ancient Order.
I spent my early years in the mountains of Virginia in a little corner of the world that still maintains a unique atmosphere of tranquility and lack of modernization all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had everything from trees to open fields – as rustic as one can get – but a community that was very aware of its codependence on one another. Everyone knew everyone, and the stereotype of “small town life” very much applied. The best comparison I can make is Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show…which is actually a 20 min. drive from where I lived.
Being in the “Bible-Belt,” faith was a very strong and present reality of every day life. Everything started and ended with a prayer, and even when prayer in school was no longer permitted, the students still said them without the prompting of the Administration. The Catholic presence, however, was VERY small and almost non existent. In my house, religion was important, but not too important. We were not as religious as other families, but I would not say it was lacking. We said our prayers before and after meals as well as before we went to bed, but it was not a major part of my growing up.
I began to consider a vocation to be a priest when I was fourteen. I was working at a government institution where the government distributes alms etc. to people who are poor. Before I worked there, I thought most people only abused the program. I thought they did not need the help but took it because it was available. When I worked there, I discovered that this was true. One time, however, I helped a family that really needed help, and afterward I tried to find a way to help others in more than just material ways. At the time I did not know about the religious life, and my only real understanding of priestly life was that of the Diocese. When I was seventeen, I decided I would pursue a priestly vocation. I talked with the Vocation Director for the Diocese in Virginia. He told me that the Diocese does not accept anyone until they have finished at a university. I went to Old Dominion University. It is a large university of 30,000 students. I made many friends, and some of these friends also wanted to pursue a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. When I learned about the religious life, I felt that this mode of life was what God wanted for me. I liked the idea of living together with others who wanted to work for the same cause. I looked into different religious congregations, but I did not find any that I wanted to join.
During the last year at my university, a friend of mine visited the Mercedarians. When he returned, he told me I should visit them. I said no. I did not want to spend more time looking at congregations because I had looked at them before and did not see any that I liked. That September, a hurricane came to Norfolk, the city of my university. Everyone was evacuated from the university. My family was eight hours away, so it was impossible for me to go home. I asked the same friend if I could stay with him in his apartment downtown. He said I could stay, but he was leaving to be with his family. I stayed in his apartment alone. The electricity died the first day, and the only activities I could do were study Biology, Pray, and look at the walls. I spent more time looking at the walls than I did studying or praying.
My friend visited many different communities. When he visited the communities, he always took cards of their saints etc. so he could remember to pray for the communities. He would put them in the edges of other pictures. When I was looking at these images, the images for the Mercedarians seemed different. I thought I would call them and ask some questions I had. I did not want to visit because the closest house was in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia was eight hours from my university by car. When I called, I asked many questions. I was happy with the answers. I visited the next November. I returned to Philadelphia the next January before returning to my university. For my break in the spring, I returned to Philadelphia to complete the testing necessary for the application. I graduated from my university in May, and entered the Mercedarians in August.