Being with the People

Brandan Fitzgerald chose seminary to serve his community

Brendan Fitzgerald spent most of his 20s working as the general manager of a seafood market in Towson, Maryland. Many of his employees were middle-class high school- and college-aged men, and he got to know some of them quite well. Those relationships ultimately helped him discern that the priesthood might be in his future.

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Brendan and two fellow seminarians in Cologne Cathedral in Germany, March 2016.

“They’d be talking about their relationship problems, their family problems, their school problems, their financial problems, or whatever it may be,” Brendan said. “I started realizing that I grew up around people from stable family situations who were able to live comfortably. But I took the blinders off and realized that these people were in pain. It fleshed out a comprehensive view of the Church and of the priesthood. The idea of being a parish priest, someone who is with the people and able to help them with their spiritual and their material problems, became more appealing over time.”

During the Fall of 2008, while working full time in the seafood industry, Brendan enrolled at Loyola University and began working toward a double major in Philosophy and Economics. His studies drove him away from civil-minded solutions to socioeconomic issues, and more toward the spiritual side of things.

Brendan at the Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala.

Brendan at the Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala.

“It started to get really aggravating, because Loyola has a really thriving business program and finance program within their general Ignatian Catholic culture, and they don’t always fit together. In one class in particular, there were a lot of arguments between students about what we should be doing for the poor in other countries and things like that. You had the business-minded, market solutions on one side, and you had the other side saying, ‘We need to give them everything we have.’ I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere.”

Brendan was also getting to know the campus minister, Fr. Jack Dennis, S.J., and for the first time, started considering that he might have a call to the religious life as a Jesuit. However, thanks to a 50-hour work week and a full-time classload, Brendan couldn’t find the time to put his effort into considering his vocation.

“There was just a lot going on at once,” he said. “I wasn’t in a stable place, and that’s bad for discernment. I said, ‘Something’s got to give here,’ and I gave up on it.”

The nagging feeling that he was being called to Holy Orders led Brendan to contact the Archdiocese in 2010 about discerning a call to diocesan priesthood, but he had the same problem—there was too much going on in his life. He started going to school part time, and spent the next three years continuing to manage the fish market and finishing his degree.

“During the Summer of 2013, I had a great job and I was making money,” Brendan said. “I bought a house, I had a couple of dogs, and everything was great.”

However, things at the seafood market were changing. His company was working toward opening a restaurant, Brendan was preparing to graduate from Loyola with a degree in Philosophy, and both parties agreed it was time for him to leave the seafood industry.

“I got back to my house after this tough conversation, and I immediately get a call from the vocation office—who I hadn’t talked to in like two years—and they invited me to a discernment event. I didn’t go,” he laughed. “But I’m sitting there thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me! I’ve made this big, life-altering decision, I’m thinking about what I need to do next, and now these people are bothering me again!’”

After a couple weeks of prayerful consideration, Brendan contacted Fr. Michael DeAscanis, then the vocation director, and—with some free time finally on his hands—began the discernment process that led him to seminary.

Brendan is currently studying Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.