Vocation Engineered by God

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By Marc Massery

Like many young people, when Ryan Asensio of Lisle, Illinois, went away to college, he stopped practicing his Catholic faith. "For a time, I was searching. But basically, for about four or five years, I was doing nothing to help my faith," Ryan said.

Then he started dating a Mass-going Catholic. "She wanted me to go to Mass with her, which I did. After we broke up, I continued to go to Mass on Sundays on my own."

After graduating from the Colorado School of Mines with a degree in Engineering, Ryan moved to Corvallis, Oregon, for a new job as a software engineer. There, the little faith that had been keeping him going to Mass would only grow. "I was at a very low point in my life. I was open to anything that would help me. I met a priest at the parish I was going to. He reached out to me. He just said, 'Hey, come and chat with me.' At first, I said 'no.' Then I saw him again, and I agreed."

For the next year and a half, Ryan and his spiritual director met weekly. "I just did whatever he told me to do. He was a very intelligent guy, took his faith very seriously. He was a great witness. He showed me what a new life in Christ can do for a person."

Pope St. John Paul II also had a hand in solidifying Ryan's ever-increasing faith. "One of the big parts of my conversion was reading Love and Responsibility by Pope John Paul II. I just realized it was true. It spoke to the problems I had had in my relationships. Then I thought, 'What else does the Catholic Church have to teach me that I don't know?' I went online and looked at Catholic viewpoints on various topics, what's sinful and what's not. As soon as I learned something new, I tried to incorporate it into my life, whether it involved getting away from sexual temptation or praying the Rosary every day."

While traveling abroad for work, Ryan's spiritual director suggested he take a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, site of alleged Marian apparitions. Ryan was only there for a day and a half, but what he experienced changed his life. "What spoke to me most was the witness of the community there. It helped me realize that miracles are real, that God is real. And it was there that the Lord, in a way, spoke to me. He made me question my vocation. Very soon after that, I said, 'I'm called to pursue the priesthood.'"

Though Ryan was not yet sure where the Lord was calling him to be a priest, looking back, he realizes that the Marian Fathers had had a presence in his life since the beginning of his conversion. "At the beginning of my conversion, I remembered being in my room, wondering what Marian devotion was all about. I didn't fully understand, but I decided that I wanted an image of Our Lady."

At Mass, Ryan met an older couple who had always been friendly to him. "The husband was in a wheelchair. He asked if I could help him with his cell phone, where he kept recordings of the Rosary. So, I cleaned up his phone. Not long after, his wife dropped off a card for me. It was a 15-year enrollment for the Association of Marian Helpers, and it had an image of Our Lady on it. It was awesome. I still have it. I keep it on my desk." That was in 2016. Ryan didn't join the Marians until 2019. In fact, despite receiving the enrollment, for a while he didn't consider the Marians at all in his discernment. He first discerned with an Argentinian ministry, then with the diocese of Portland, Oregon.

"Then I met someone at a church in Portland who happened to know someone who had discerned for a time with the Marian Fathers. This person I met told me, 'The way you're speaking reminds me of him and how he would talk about our faith and Mary.'"

So Ryan visited the Marians' website, but didn't feel an instant connection. "I continued to discern with the Diocese of Portland, but I kept thinking about the Marians for some reason." Ryan decided it wouldn't hurt to visit. He attended a "come and see" retreat hosted by the Marian Father's vocation director, the spiritual director of the Thirteenth of the Month Club, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. "Only then did I finally realize that the enrollment card I had was made by the Marians. ... When I visited, I knew right away that that was where God wanted me to be. When I was visiting, I experienced this supernatural joy."

How has Br. Ryan been enjoying his time as a brother with the Marians lately? "It's been the best year of my life so far."

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Esperanza - May 2, 2021

So happy for you. Love watching
the Marian Fathers, Chaplet, Rosary
and Mass. May your journey into the
priesthood be filled with supernatural
joy everyday. My prayers are with all
of you.

Missed - Mar 16, 2021

I know the Mariams for many years. I could not see myself traveling to Maryland. I had a rewarding career for 30 years but then a retirement period. Perhaps I missed my calling ?
I am older now. I support Marian vocations. One must answer Gods call distance means nothing

JANE - Mar 13, 2021

Correction meant Brother not word Brown.

JANE GJONDLA - Mar 13, 2021

Noticed,just read about Brown. Ryan Asuncion. Thrilled when I saw he was from Lisle, Illinois. Friend lived there, visited often. I live in Chicago. Loved story of his discernment all way to Marian Helpers of Mary Immaculate. God bless. Keeping you in my prayers.