Guest Columnists

From Haiti to Brooklyn: Pursuing the Priesthood

By Fritznel Mertyl

ACCOMPANYING MY mother to the public market in Haiti one day when I was eight years old, I saw a man wearing a cassock crossing the street.

As a curious child, born out of the countryside, I asked my mother, “Who is this man wearing a cassock crossing the street?”

It was the first time that I saw a man dressed that way and my mother told me, this man is a priest. He was on his way home from saying Mass at a local church. From that moment, I wanted to be a priest of Jesus.

Then I asked my mother: “Can I celebrate Mass?”

She replied, “No, only the priest can celebrate the Eucharist”

Back at home, I would imitate the way that I saw the priests say Mass, and I began to get more involved at the local church as an altar server and then a lector and singing in the choirs.

I learned the faith from my mother and going to catechism at the local church and in my school. My mother taught me everything and she had a major impact on my vocation to the priesthood. My mother is a devoted Catholic.

Although each family is different, for my own experience I am forever grateful for growing up in an united, supportive, and spiritual family. From the moment I entered seminary, my family was supportive of my vocation by their constant prayer and encouragement.

My mother always said to me, “Fritz, go and fulfill your calling, my prayer will support you.”

I am very thankful for her prayers and support toward my vocation to follow Christ, the High Priest.

Shaken by Heartache

Later, as a student at the seminary in Port-au-Prince, I watched more than 20 seminarians die on campus when a massive earthquake hit in 2010. This moment was sad and very frightening.

After seeing this, I asked, “God where are you?”

In a few moments, I felt God’s presence, knowing that He is always there with us through our tears and in our difficulties. I spent days and nights helping to rescue people under some collapsed buildings and houses.

As a result of the earthquake’s impact on Haiti, I later moved to Brooklyn. I was homesick and it was a culture shock for me. Nonetheless, having faith in God, I learned to cope very well despite the many challenges and difficulties.

At some point, I thought of going back to Haiti, but I learned to trust my God and continue to pursue my dream of priesthood in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The diocese reminds me of home. It is the only diocese that I have ever known from the moment I came to New York.

Every parish that I have visited has welcomed me with an open heart and made me feel like home. This is a true witness of joy for me and my vocation. I will be at home here, serving the people of God as a priest.

The priests I have met here love to serve God and the faithful people. They are happy priests. They like spending time with the parishioners and they are very prayerful. Their support, wisdom and openness to teach me about the Diocese of Brooklyn inspired and deepened my desire to apply to the diocesan seminary.

Get to Know Parishes, Priests

I wouldn’t have met these priests if not for Father Sean Suckiel, diocesan vocation director. When I first met him, he recommended that I get to know the diocese through the parishes. I am grateful to him for challenging me to the good!

In the end, what really led me to apply to the Diocese of Brooklyn – besides the fact that it is the Diocese of Immigrants – were my experiences at various parishes, and learning so much from parish priests.

These men make me want to serve God and the Diocese of Brooklyn, which has always shown me an open door to serve and become a priest of Jesus Christ.

Mertyl will move out of the St. John Paul II House of Discernment to begin his first year of theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, this fall.

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