From Prep School to Seminary: One Man’s Call to the Order

Josh LaPorte is a Postulant in Order. Here he answers questions about his childhood and vocation:

1) Tell us about your background? Where are you from? Where did you go to school?

Josh receives the shield of the Order.
Josh receives the shield of the Order.

I was born on July 18, 1989 in Suburban Detroit, in Sterling Heights, MI at Mt. Clemens General Hospital. I was adopted at birth. I grew up in the Sterling Heights area for the majority of my childhood until I was six years old when we moved to Rochester Hills, MI. We remained there for the rest of my life. We also have a vacation house in the north of Michigan.

My Father is a Certified Public Accountant working as a managing partner at an international firm called UHY advisors.  He has been working there since college.  My mother was and is still a homemaker.  Prior to her being a homemaker, she was a practicing Psychologist.

I discovered my love for music when I was three and a half years old. It was then that I picked up my first violin and begin studies in music.  I would find lots of success in that field of study, and pick up more instruments along the way, like percussion (drums, cymbals, etc.).  I would study these privately until the age of 17.

I entered Montessori when I was five in September 1994 at Kensington Academy. I would make my first communion in April of 1998.  I left Kensington Academy after completing the third grade in 1999.  I would then continue studies at a private fine and liberal arts school in Auburn Hills, Michigan called Oakland Steiner where I would complete the rest of elementary and middle school.  After that, I would be homeschooled for my freshman year of high school, and then complete the rest of my high school career at St. Mary’s Preparatory.

St Mary’s Prep School is strong Catholic Institution where I would begin discerning my vocation or exploring the possibilities of a vocation.  We attended Mass in high school twice a week, and sometimes three times a week if it was a holy day of obligation.  I would graduate there St Mary Preparatory School in May 2008. My crowning achievement was winning the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award.

After high school I started studies in philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Downtown Detroit. I remained there for 4 years until I finished discerning my call and entered the Mercedarian Friars.

2) When did you first start thinking about religious life and/or priesthood?

I started thinking of a vocation when I was a junior in High School during Mass.

The Shield was given to the Order by King James I 800 years ago.
The Shield was given to the Order by King James I 800 years ago.

3) How did you come to know about the Order of the BVM of Mercy? What drew you to this community?

I came to know about the Order of the BVM of Mercy and plenty of other orders through Vocation Placement Services on the internet. I was drawn to this community because of the way they live religious life and the Charism of order itself. The Mercedarians redeem those who are in captivity at risk of losing their faith.

4) Now that you are a postulant what is your favorite part of the Religious Life?

I enjoy as a postulant the community prayers, the common meal, and recreation time.

The Mercedarian Friars Celebrate the Ordination of Fr. James Chia, O. de M.

On November 24th, Deacon James Chia was Ordained to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. The liturgy took place at St. Ignatius Parish in Yardley, Pa. Present were friars, family and friends of Fr James. Here are some pictures from the weekend:

A friend’s invitation leads one young man to change his life and discern his vocation

Mercedarian postulant, Scott McLeod tells his journey from living in the world for himself to striving for holiness as a seminarian:

Scott strums the guitar

I was raised in a suburb north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My family was only modestly Catholic, so when I got to college the practice of the Faith was not something immediately pressing on my conscience. This changed sophomore year, when a friend challenged me on my living the faith and started what would turn into a conversion.

While this wasn’t something that took place all at once or without a significant fight, it was a deep change in both lifestyle and outlook.  Now, I struggled not to live my own life, but to live the life of Christ in me. This is a challenge, of course, but with the eyes of Faith, it is the only rewarding way for a Christian to live. I started serving Masses and volunteering with the Pittsburgh Oratory and the Pitt Campus Ministry around this time.

By serving Masses, I grew closer to the liturgy and the worship of the Church and fed an already growing desire to for more complete consecration to God and a life focused and centered around the Sacraments and the example of the Saints.  By the end of college, I had also begun to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which became an important part of my dailyprayer life and also my discernment.

I visited several mendicant orders, even volunteering with onefor a summer, but eventually found that the combination of community life, Marian devotion, liturgical life, and (most importantly) redeeming charism of the Mercedarians attracted me in a unique way. If Christ came among usin order to redeem us, what greater imitation of Christ can a religious offer than the imitation of His redeeming mission?


Xbox 360 Gamer Stops Running From Religious Life

Michael Bowes is preparing to receive the Habit of Mary this July 8th. Here is part 1 of his story:

Michael being measured for the habit of Mary.

I am just a few days away from entering the novitiate for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also known as the Mercedarians.

Before saying yes to the longing in my heart and entering religious life, I led a comfortable life. I worked for a Catholic charity as a web designer and was an avid Xbox 360 gamer.

Upon sharing my excitement with my fellow gamers about finding the Mercedarians, I was bombarded with many questions, mostly out of curiosity, but the consensus boiled down to “Why in the world would you choose to live that life?”

I had to explain that I wasn’t actively choosing anything and that I was merely saying yes to the call I heard from God. You see, a lot of people look at a vocation as a life decision and they begin to balance it out in comparison to their current life and situation, weighing the benefits, imagining the difficulties and asking themselves if they can really give up all their possessions.

We don’t choose a vocation to Christ as a career choice; it is not our choice to make. It is a call from Christ and only he can give it.

So how does one discern a call to serve Christ?

Imagine logging into your email account one morning and finding an email from God telling you that you have a vocation and you discover the exact place that he wants you to enter.

Wouldn’t that be simple?

Not really.

Why? Because that would take away our freedom to choose when, where, and how we follow Christ.  Part of our journey to religious life and pursuing a vocation is the path that we choose to take.


Fewer calls?

I heard recently someone say that God must not be calling people today to be priests and religious since there are so few vocations. The lack of vocations is not from God calling less frequently; it is from more people refusing to answer his call.

For many years I ran from the longing in my heart to follow Christ. I was so involved in my own life; I selfishly put God to the side while I pursued material things that I expected to bring happiness.

When I least expected it, I would again feel God calling me. It would come as a spiritual aspiration or I would have a desire to visit church and spend time in adoration. It’s like a persistent tapping on your shoulder: You may get distracted and forget about it, but the tug to pursue this feeling never goes away.

After running from my vocation for many years, I found the Mercedarian Friars online in 2008 and contacted the vocation director. After a few emails and a phone call, I was invited up for a visit.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly a few days before my vocation visit. I emailed the vocation director and told him about my loss and that I would contact him when I was ready.

I can’t explain what happened, but I forgot all about the Mercedarians and two years passed by.


Enter Mom

In January of 2010 my mom went to the March for Life. Amid hundreds of thousands of people, she ran right into the Mercedarians. I hadn’t told her about contacting the Mercedarian Friars two years prior; she had never heard of the order.

She was so excited about seeing a group of young men all in their habits, and somehow she felt this was a group that I would be interested in.

Upon getting back on the church bus and heading home, a woman from our parish grabbed my mom’s arm and told her that she believed I was going to enter the Order of the Mercedarians.

Mom called me and told me about the group she had just seen. I remember thinking to myself how familiar their name was. I checked my gmail account and was shocked to find my last email to them in 2008 – and how I had forgotten to contact them back.

God works in mysterious ways and His plan was already in motion, long before I realized it.



The Pieces of a Puzzle Lead to a Vocation

As a child I loved to put puzzles together, and as I grew older, I began to challenge myself with more challenging puzzles—500 pieces, 1000 pieces, etc. Yet, I could not seem to put the puzzle pieces of my life together. I seemed to struggle with my own identity. It seemed I was a “jack of all trades” and a “master of none”.

Fr Matthew preaches the Gospel.

Although I attended public schools my entire life, I received excellent catechesis through my family and parish. The other kids in CCD would say, “Matthew is going to be a priest.” No way! Forget it! Not a chance! My parish priest often suggested that I consider it. Yeah, right! “Thanks, but no thanks Father.” When my mother would bring up the idea of becoming a priest, I would get furious. So, my life went on.

During college, I became lackadaisical in the practice of my Catholicism—going to Mass when it was convenient [or I when with my parents]. I graduated from Marquette University in 1991 with a B.A. in Broadcast and Electronic Communication, and landed an entry-level position in the production department of a cable company and did some freelance video production. Although I enjoyed my career, something was missing from my life. I knew that I was lacking in faith, and said a simple prayer each night: “Lord, I have no faith, help me.” I began to help teaching the confirmation class at my parish. Something inside told me I had to be willing to serve if I were to receive the gift of God’s grace.

Almost immediately after, our whole family went through a transformation. My dad went to a parish mission that profoundly changed him. After speaking with him one weekend, I began to examine my own life. I knew intellectually that the Catholic Church possessed the fullness of faith, but I did not let that Truth penetrate my heart. My initial reaction was fear of hell—I was well on that path! I returned to the sacrament of penance—it had been about 6 years—and started attending daily Mass. The fear quickly began to turn into love. My parish had perpetual adoration and I would stop in to visit Jesus whenever I had a spare moment.

Deep inside, I began to wonder if God had been calling me to the priesthood. Had I been too stubborn to listen to him all these years? Was I merely concerned with I wanted to do in life? My life was filled with puzzle pieces that did not seem to match. Was I just not putting them together properly? After months of trying to discern whether God was calling me, I sat in the Church reading the scriptures, looking for an answer. At the height of my frustration, in failing to recognize the answer, I decided that it was time for drastic measures—“Bible Roulette”. I said to  Jesus, “If I am supposed to be a priest, you have to let me know! I can’t figure this out! I want to know—today!  Guide me through your Holy Spirit.” I closed my Bible. I closed my eyes. I opened the Bible at random and put my finger on the page. I opened my eyes. Imagine my shock when just above the tip of my finger was Matthew 9:9: As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Fr. Matthew H. Phelan, O. de M.

Teen’s Plans Take Unexpected Twist Toward Religious Life

As a boy, he had one idea, and his uncle had another. Fr. Tony M. Fortunato, O. de M., here explains how a family member stepped in and turned his mind to the Mercedarian Order.

Fr. Tony Fortunato
"You have to go to a Marian Order," his uncle said.

Dear ones:  My vocation to the Mercedarians goes back to a great Mercedario Frate [Mercedarian brother] and great priest: Fr. Ferdinando Fortunato, O. de M., an uncle of mine, born in a little village: Rocca Imperiale, Cosenza, on the blue Mar Jonio, way South of Italy. It was the summer of 1952. I was done with grammar school in Rocca and ready to start high school in Potenza, the minor seminary, of that part of South Italy [to study to become a diocesan priest].

I guess, Fr. Ferdinado, who at the time was the Rector of our Convitto Villa Mercede [Mercedarian’s friars’ house] in Orvieto, Terni, Umbria, not too far from Assisi, did not like my idea…. You have to go to a Marian Order, he said, dress up in Bianco Abito and study in Roma…. He gave the order. What really got my attention was the fact of Madonna della Mercede, Our Lady of Mercy, and Roma.

Ready to Rock in Rome

Being from a very religious family in a little rural agricultural town, I was ready to go and rock in the capital city of the Roman Empire and being not just another priest, but a fratello of a Spanish religious Order.

Was I confused by all this decision at age 15 or so??? Not a bit. I was ready to fly high, by leaving my family, my town, my little school for an ideal which was not clearly understood at this time. But God was calling me to a religious Order dedicated to la Madonna della Mercede, della Nova di Bonaria, etc. The same Mother of God was telling me… Tony… fear not…. I will take great care of you, in Nemi, Roma, Teutopolis, IL, Quincy College, Niagara University, St. Rocco, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (West the Best) and John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH.

Mary even was so kind to send to me to Philadelphia, PA (where my own father worked for twenty years)…. Last but not the least…. She was very loving to send me to the deep South, Florida for twelve glorious years…. WOW…. How can I say thanks enough to Mary of Mercy for being so considerate to me since 1952, when on the 21st of October I left Rocca Imperiale, in order to become a Mercedarian Friar and Priest?

A Request Made to the Virgin Mary

Before I go the Casa del Padre [house of the Father] I love from the same Mother of God, a very special and last favor…. Mary, can another kind and very passionate man take my place in the same Order which I loved and professed for a good number of years??? I will be a very happy camper in Paradiso, where I hope that the same Mary of Mercy will take me forevermore, despite my human imperfections and so many sins…. Ave Maria de Mercede, Mater et Patrona Nostra, ora pro nobis Peccatoribus.

Son of Fundamentalist Family Becomes Mercedarian Priest

He calls himself the least likely of men to become a priest. Rev. Justin A. Freeman, O. de M., was ordained for the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on Nov. 13, 2010. Here is his account of how he found his way to the priesthood.

Q. How did you become a priest?


God’s ways are loving, but often inexplicable. I am probably one of the least likely of men to become a Catholic priest.

I was born in a small Virginian town—Warrenton—in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.  My family members were of the Church of Christ, a fundamentalist group that was founded to “restore” the primitive Church.    My family lived on a small farm in Catlett, a village of a couple hundred  people.  We lived on a gravel road.  Our closet neighbor (my grandmother!) lived a half mile away.  I occupied my time by fishing, reading, and playing with my sister and our pets, which were dogs, cats, and even a couple of ducks.

When I was in the ninth grade, my family moved to northern Virginia.  The D.C. suburbs were quite a culture shock to a boy from Catlett.  It was there that I discovered the Catholic faith through a friend.

Q. What was your family like?

I am the oldest of two brothers and one sister.  My sister Jennifer, only twenty months younger than me, is a social worker in Washington State.  My brother Clayton is 26 and is in diving school.  Samuel, the youngest, just turned 18. He is a senior in high school. My dad is a retired firefighter.  He now works as a fire inspector in Rockville, Maryland.  My mother is a nurse.

Q. At what age did you become a Catholic?


I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at age 17 at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax, VA.  Like many “converts,” I felt at home in the Church.

After graduating from George Mason High School in Falls Church, I attended a small liberal arts college in south central Virginia.   I majored in political science.  In college, I worked for the Social Security Administration as a “student-clerk.”  Living so close to D.C. gave me the opportunity to intern for Preston Gates, a major lobbying firm specializing in energy issues and insular affairs and for a major political party.

Q. What made you think about becoming a priest?


I started thinking of the priesthood even before I was formally received into the Church.  The Rev. Daniel Mode, the priest who received me into the Church, even hinted once that I might one day become a priest.

Q. How did your family react to your becoming a Catholic, and wanting to become a priest?


Initially they were not very supportive.  But now they are proud.

Q. What attracted you to the priesthood?


The example of many good and dedicated priests that I witnessed early on in my journey to the Faith.  They were men who were completely dedicated to the Truth and to helping others.

I joined the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy in 2003 at the age of 24.  I professed vows in 2005 and was ordained a priest on Nov. 13, 2010.   It has been a long, and at times difficult, journey to the altar.  May He give me the grace to be a good and faithful Mercedarian priest.

Shyness only a temporary obstacle in calling to the priesthood

Growing up in a small town in the 1980s in northeastern Pennsylvania, Joseph Eddy had a quiet upbringing. His earliest memories were of playing and laughing with friends in their large backyard, while his Mom made them lunch. Each Sunday Joseph, his two sisters and parents piled into the family car to go to Mass at their small Catholic parish. A small town life in a traditional Catholic family was the beginning of Fr. Joseph’s calling as a Mercedarian priest.

Fr. Joseph after celebrating Mass
Fr. Joseph after celebrating Mass

There was nothing remarkable about their family life, except that the family would pray the rosary every day if possible. “We were also told by my mom that we had to be involved in some aspect of the parish,” Fr. Joseph recalled, when he was about nine years old. One option was that of an altar server.

“Although it was not my first choice, my best friend was going to be an altar server, and didn’t want to serve alone. I decided to become one, too, even though I was fearful of being in front of the others.  Looking back, this was my first step to a greater service of God.”

Joseph would serve Mass on the way to school, and the monsignor of the parish would have him for breakfast. The priest would talk about sports and the New York Yankees. “I felt kind of special that I had a relationship with the older priest,” Fr. Joseph recalls.

While attending the local public school, the youngster found himself thinking about doing something to “really help people.” Others would often mention to him that they felt God might be calling him to be a priest. “I would daydream about this, but then realize that I was too shy to be such a public person,” Fr. Joseph recalled. Indeed, he was voted most shy in his class by his own peers.

Yet, he still wanted to help people, so he went to college to be a teacher. “While at college, I became restless,” Fr. Joseph recalled. “Something was not right in my life. Teaching was interesting, but I wanted something more.”

By the time he got to his first semester in college, at Marywood University, a Catholic college in Scranton, he felt called to the priesthood. Furthermore, a life with a religious order kept coming to his mind. He narrowed the selection down, looking for a group that had a devotion to the Blessed Mother, that was faithful to the Church, and that had devotion to the Eucharist. “In faith, I stepped forward, taking one small step at a time.”

“The Lord led me to an ancient Religious Order that was devoted to Mary, the Eucharist, and faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. Now as a Mercedarian priest, I am living my dream of serving people in the Church. I have found fulfillment as a religious priest in the Order of Mercy,” Fr. Joseph says.

Fr. Joseph Eddy was ordained in 2008. He now serves as vocation director, is master of postulants, and helps out at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Philadelphia for the Order, also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, or Mercedarians. Fr. Joseph is stationed at the Order’s U.S. motherhouse there.

The Order’s website is The singing of the Salve can be heard on their popular YouTube video. Or visit the Facebook page of Fr-Joseph Thomas Eddy.