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'I Really Thought I Wasn't Worthy'

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By Marc Massery

Though Andrew Townsend of Medford, Oregon, remembers accepting Jesus into his heart at age 7, by the time he was a teenager, he was headed down a dark path.

"I met some friends who seemed smart and were atheists. I'd hear interviews from musicians that I really liked, and they were atheists: Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath," he said. "One of my friends got into reading [about Satanism]. We would talk about it: about selling our souls, blood rituals. It got pretty dark."

Andrew's personal philosophy led him to indulge in drugs. "I was convinced that when you were high — that was the real realm. And I talked and evangelized that," he said. At the time, he would refer to himself as a "professional partier."

One evening, he was at a huge party when he got attacked by the people he bought his drugs from. "It was crazy. I'm surprised no one died that night. ... I got knocked out, my nose was all bloody. Both of my eyes were black. That was a turning point, because I didn't want to hang out with those friends anymore," he said. A few months later, though, he went back to partying.

When Andrew's mother became sick with stage three breast cancer, he gave up his party lifestyle for good. "I thought, 'My gosh, I'm living such a crazy lifestyle, and my mom is dying.' I had a moral conversion," he said. He stopped drinking, smoking, and doing drugs. He also started dating a Christian girl who didn't party, and he began hanging out with her friends.

"Some of those friends were into philosophy. I liked that because that's what my old friends talked about. But instead of Satanism and psychology, these friends were talking about Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine."

Thanks to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Andrew started to believe in God again. "Eventually through prayer, I came to recognize that Jesus is God. ... With that I became a Christian [again]. It happened instantaneously. It was a gift of faith, a huge gift of His presence, and I responded to Him," he said.

Eventually, the same friend who introduced him to St. Thomas influenced him join the Catholic Church. Andrew entered RCIA and was baptized in 2012. He was so excited about becoming a Catholic that even before he was baptized he thought he might want to become a priest. "My girlfriend didn't like that. But at the time, I didn't even know that Catholic priests couldn't get married!" he said.

Over the next few years, he dated some holy, Catholic women who had a positive influence on his faith. He went back and forth on whether he wanted to get married or
become a priest.

Then he heard the conversion story of Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. "That gave me a lot of hope to be a priest. I had a crazy past, but then I read about [Fr. Donald], someone who had been probably worse than me," he said.

Andrew felt confident that Fr. Donald, more than anyone, would understand him and take his discernment seriously. "Because I really thought I wasn't worthy," he said.

Even though Andrew still had an interest in dating, he signed up for a "come and see" retreat with the Marian Fathers. On the final day of the retreat, praying in the chapel, he felt like God was giving him a choice between marriage and the priesthood. In prayer, he thought back to one woman he had dated. She had everything he wanted, including bright blue eyes and a great personality. He prayed, "God, you gave me everything I desired in a woman, and I still think you're calling me here. I'm going to choose the priesthood."

After saying "yes" to pursuing the priesthood, he said it felt like Mary grabbed his hand. "It was like the love I had for my last girlfriend was directed toward Mary," Andrew said. "I just felt that closeness, that loving closeness of Mary, and I've been feeling it ever since."

Brother Andrew is in his second year of temporary vows with the Marian Fathers and is studying for the priesthood at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio.

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