By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
While in basic training for the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville, Mo., Deacon Brandon DeToma had a profound moment that shaped his vocational path.
“I remember sitting in a pew in the military chapel and it kind of dawned on me. I felt loved by God. … It was a huge moment for me, a source of strength. Being a son of God, feeling loved, it opened my eyes to the ability to answer God’s call,” Deacon DeToma said.
Deacon DeToma is one of five seminarians who will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz May 26 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St. The other four ordinands are: Deacons Robert Barnell, David Farrell, Kien Nguyen and Minh Vu.
His first thoughts of the priesthood, he said, came to him when he was a young boy at Ascension Church, his childhood parish.
“I was probably in second grade and I remember being at a school Mass on a Thursday. I was sitting next to the aisle and seeing the priest, Father Barker, walking in the procession. I thought: ‘Who is this man? What is his role? What is his purpose?” Deacon DeToma said in a phone interview from Rome last week. Later, in fifth-grade he was asked to draw what he wanted to be when he grew up. Deacon DeToma recalled drawing a cross with a stole draped around the arms. He said he wondered “Could I do this, be a priest?”
While a student at Trinity High School, the thought of the priesthood would occasionally come to him.
“I thought about it. I was always attracted to the idea of the priest helping people — helping in a way that was different from a social worker or case worker. It was the idea of helping people in some way on a deeper level that always stuck with me,” he said.
While he wanted to know more about the priesthood and seminary, he said, he was frightened by the idea and buried it for years. Not unlike many teens, Deacon DeToma fell away from his faith, though not completely.
As an undergraduate at Transylvania University, he was drawn back to the church, in part because of his “big brother” in his fraternity.
“He was a model of a Catholic gentleman. He helped me to see that being a Catholic man, a practicing Catholic, was okay and acceptable,” he said.
Following his graduation from college in 2005, he spent six years in the Army, four on active duty and two in the Army Reserves. He served as a military intelligence officer and was assigned to a special forces unit. He was deployed to South Korea, Guam and Afghanistan.
“I loved my time there. My time in the Army taught me a lot about service and helped in the transition to seminary. There are a lot of commonalities between the military and seminary, including expectations, schedules,” he said.
While stationed in Washington state, thoughts of the priesthood returned and this time, Deacon DeToma said, he couldn’t shake it.
He began researching various religious orders online and regularly met with a spiritual director, a Jesuit priest, for a number of months.
Ultimately, he reached out to the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office and then-Vocation Director Father Jeffrey Shooner in 2011. He entered the seminary in the following year.
“My vocation journey took more time (than some) mainly because I was fearful in facing my vocation and the possibility of Jesus calling me,” he said. “Looking back now I kind of regret that, in some ways it was a wasted opportunity.”
Following ordination, Deacon DeToma said he’s keen to meet the people he will serve as associate pastor.
“I’m especially looking forward to after Mass when the priest greets the people leaving church, especially those first couple of months. I’ll be trying to learn from them and maybe they will learn from me,” he said.
Deacon DeToma holds a bachelor’s degree in history and religion from Transylvania. He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Louisville and a master’s degree in philosophy from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. Later this month, he expects to complete a baccalaureate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome.
He has been assigned as associate pastor of St. Bernadette Church, a parish where he served as a seminarian.
His first Mass of Thanksgiving will be May 27 at 11:30 a.m. at Epiphany Church, 914 Old Harrods Creek Rd.