A Notre Dame High School (NDHS) alumnus made a quick stop recently to his alma mater and its feeder school, Notre Dame Elementary (NDE) during a brief visit home. Kyle Tennant, a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum (PCJ) in Worthington, Ohio, was invited to speak to the students on both campuses about his discernment to the priesthood. Tennant visited several classrooms during his visits sharing his experiences and answering questions students had about his vocation.
Tennant was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist while he was at NDHS. He received the honor after meeting the requirements and scores of the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test the fall of his junior year. More than a million students take the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) each year which is a scholastic assessment test. Only 3.3 percent of the 1.6 million students who take the PSAT earn the recognition of Commended Scholar. An even smaller percentage are recognized as Finalists.
Tennant graduated at the top of his class at NDHS in 2007 and went on to the University of Notre Dame (UND) in South Bend, Indiana to earn a mechanical engineering degree from that institution in 2011.
After graduating from UND, Tennant joined Accenture, a cutting-edge, innovative, global professional services company in Chicago. He worked for the firm from 2011 to 2013, earning a capacious income associated with a young urban professional.
However, Tennant was determined to not allow his salary to define him; particularly since the big paycheck did not quiet the constant yearning he felt to do something more with his life.
After two years with the Chicago firm, Tennant made a commitment to an additional six years of studies to prepare himself to become a Roman Catholic priest. Tennant is completing his fourth year of a six-year program of study at the Pontifical College Josephinum seminary in Central Ohio.
The Josephinum, founded in 1888, is the only Roman Catholic seminary in the United States that has direct ties to the Holy See, although it does not receive any financial support from Rome or any diocese or religious group. It is primarily sustained by alumni and friends of PCJ. Over the course of its history, the PCJ has prepared men for the priesthood from 48 states and more than 20 foreign countries.
Children at the elementary school had an abounding interest in Tennant’s vocation. One child wanted to know if he wore a uniform to class like the children at NDE. Another wanted to find out what time he had to get up in the morning. Tennant addressed the first question by telling the students that he dresses as a priest only while attending classes which means that he also wears a Roman collar to class.
When asked if the collar causes any discomfort he responded by comparing it to buttoning the top button of a shirt or blouse. Answering the second question, Tennant explained that he gets up at 5 a.m. and has classes until almost 3 p.m. As a result, he retires each night around 9:30 p.m.
When one of the children asked the young seminarian how he knew that he wanted to become a priest, Tennant responded, “It wasn’t an easy decision. There wasn’t a little voice telling me that I should become a priest.” He continued by sharing what he thought may have been perhaps the first time he actually thought about the priesthood. He recalled that when he was around 8 or 9 years old he kept hearing an elderly parishioner praying for “vocations” during the Prayers of the Faithful portion of the Mass.
When he asked his mom to explain to him what the parishioner was praying for, his mom explained the meaning of the word “vocation” and he began to think more about becoming a priest. Tennant stated that he continued to think about the priesthood throughout his high school and college years and even while he was employed at Accenture in Chicago. Once he decided to choose the priesthood as his vocation, it made him very happy. “It was not a short-lived happiness,” he recounted, “but a happiness that has stayed with me from the day I entered the seminary four years ago.” Prior to being accepted into the seminary, Tennant was required to undergo psychological and mental health testing, as well as persevere through several interviews, before PCJ would admit him into their program.
The second year Theology student encouraged the young people to search for their vocations by praying often and asking God to help them discern whether God was calling them to the priesthood, consecrated religious life, married life, or a single life. The seminarian continued by saying that he has accepted the celebrate life and realizes that he will never have his own children, but that his parishioners will be his family. Tennant explained further that studying at the PCJ trains him to become a diocesan priest instead of a priest of a particular order, such as a Jesuit, a Dominican, etc. He shared that he was eager to serve people in the 23 county diocese of Columbus.
When pressed by the students if he would come back to the area to serve in one of the local Catholic parishes, he responded by saying that the bishop of the diocese, Bishop Frederick Campbell of Columbus, determines which parish is most in need of a priest. Nonetheless, Tennant remarked, “I would love to return to the area to serve the families I know and have grown up with if that’s what the bishop wants me to do.”