ST. BENEDICT — John Hesla is a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Beaverton and a first year seminarian at Mount Angel Seminary. His vocational call has been filled with unexpected turns.
He converted to the Catholic faith in 2004 with the rest of his family when he was in the sixth grade. He eventually found himself at St. Cecilia. He grew to love the sacraments, tradition, and universality of the Church. Little did he realize that his journey would eventually bring him to Mount Angel Seminary.
In middle school, Hesla was an altar server, getting to know the priests and the Mass. During this time one of his parish priests, Father Peter Fernandez, told him he thought he’d make a good priest. Several of Hesla’s friends and another priest agreed, and so he began to consider the priesthood. It would still be several years, however, before he would actively pursue the call.
Hesla then began attending Jesuit High School in Beaverton, where he was involved in music and focused on the next step — college. From Jesuit High he applied to Willamette University, taking an interest in their music program.
At Willamette, Hesla continued to grow in his faith and discovered that perhaps God had something else in store for him. He discovered the rosary at Willamette’s Newman Center and began attending adoration at St. Joseph’s Parish in Salem. He says these experiences “made for a good foundation” in his discernment. He decided that music was not the path for him, and while he enjoyed studying philosophy and history, he felt out of place at Willamette.
The answer to this longing finally came through talking with his mentor and friend Father Ysrael Bien, who suggested he read To Save A Thousand Souls. Throughout the book, Hesla discovered what the application process for the seminary involved, the qualities sought in future priests, as well as some of the trials and tribulations of seminary life. Hesla devoured the work and identified with many of the ideas that it talked about. He then made the decision to pursue seminary and applied to the Archdiocese of Portland.
Hesla has found seminary life to be extremely rewarding. One of the things he enjoys about seminary is the brotherhood.
“Everyone is here for the same reason. [They are] looking to become better men in Christ” he said.
Hesla enjoys the structure of the environment and is excited about diving into the program.
He looks forward to working in the parish and serving the faithful in the Archdiocese of Portland, particularly in Mass and Confession. He smiles as he notes that he is most anticipating “working with God’s people and learning with them along the way.”