I'm sharing below an edited version of an email that I just sent to the community at St. Paul's College.
After a lot of prayer and reflection, and input from friends, formators and well-wishers, I have decided to leave the Novitiate.
I've spent a lot of time and energy discerning God's will, and whether, despite significant differences in pastoral styles, understandings of the liturgy, and ecclesiology and theology, I might still be called to ministry with the Paulist Fathers. I have concluded that this is not the case. I've always felt that I needed to put disclaimers on my beliefs and understandings of Church, and that unless I muted my orthodoxy, I would be misunderstood.
I spent a lot of time over Christmas break reflecting on this decision. I felt as if I were trying way too hard to squeeze my foot into an ill-fitting shoe. Having made the decision to leave, the initial feeling was like when one stops trying so hard to squeeze and distort and squirm. The relief was palpable. On Saturday, I made a personal day of prayer and recollection, focusing on God's providence, and committed myself again to trust fully in His guidance for the future. I have a sense of tremendous peace, as well as a lot of elation and excitement for the future, tinged with sadness at leaving a place, and relationships, that are close to me. I certainly hope that many of these relationships can continue to grow, even over a distance.
The priesthood has never been on the table here -- my sense of that call is about as rock solid as can be. I have always felt a strong attraction to pastoral work with people, and the thought has always been that if things didn't work out here, I'll pursue the secular priesthood. And diocese, as well as religious communities, need individuals with an evangelical zeal for souls, something that is at the center of my understanding of my vocation. [Until my plans for the future are clearer, I will not be sharing these publicly.]
My plan is to pack all my things and leave SPC a week from today. I'll be visiting friends in the area and down South, and then cashing in some more frequent flier miles and heading to India. This in-between time now gives me the opportunity to be present with my family at the one-year death anniversary ceremonies for my father, as well as a seminar in economics that is being organized in his honor at the local University.
I hope that I leave on a positive note, and I humbly ask for your prayers for my vocation and the journey ahead. The Paulists have been, and will continue to remain, in my daily prayers. The day Fr. Hecker is declared a saint will be a day of tremendous rejoicing, not just for the Paulists and the universal Church, but for me as well.
Your brother in Christ,
Humbly begging the intercessions of our Blessed Mother, whose hand I've felt guiding me so powerfully even in recent days, and of St. Paul, whose zeal for souls inspires me and directs me, I commit myself again to trusting in the guiding hand of Providence.
I would appreciate your prayers for the journey ahead.