Guest Columnists

Hope and Courage as The Altar Draws Closer

by Brendon Harfmann

A brother seminarian recently sent greetings from Rome and spoke of the excitement building up within as our ordinations to the transitional diaconate and priesthood draw closer.

When I was a young boy in my home parish of St. Matthias in Ridgewood, I remember desiring to draw close to the altar as well, but at that time it was as an altar server. I always wanted to serve and do so as often as possible.

Naturally, being more present at church meant that I became more involved, and eventually my pastor asked me to work as a weekend sacristan.

When the time came for me to decide which high school I would attend, the fraternity and homey feeling of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Elmhurst caught my attention. At Cathedral Prep, my discernment became more serious and the ball was placed in my court when the priests would say, “Can you see yourself doing this?”

By senior year of high school, I knew that the Lord was calling me to discern further. I applied for the college seminary in Douglaston.

First Impressions

Even though I know that my vocation took root in high school and college, the seeds were planted from my very first days at St. Matthias.

As a kid in the parish, I remember seeing my pastor standing at the door of the school and welcoming us each morning. I watched as the parish priests interacted with teachers and students at recess. I remember when Father showed up to our basketball game for a few minutes, or when he stopped into our classroom. The priests were visible and active in the lives of parishioners.

It was from the pulpit at St. Matthias Church where a newly ordained priest unknowingly placed the thought of priesthood in my head by simply asking the question: “What is God calling you to do with your life?”

I was also blessed to be taught by five religious sisters – School Sisters of Notre Dame – who instilled morals in their students. These women taught us many valuable life lessons and encouraged us to build our lives on a firm foundation of faith, family and friendship. I know that I would not be where I am today if it was not for these holy women!

As young women are now moved to don the habit of religious life, Christ desires to draw young ladies to take their places in schools to teach the future generations, hospitals to care for and console the sick and the dying, and to the streets to care for the homeless or those facing uncertainty.

Positive Examples

I am grateful too that my family has supported me over and over again throughout my life, with my late uncles, Father John Harfmann, S.S.J., and Deacon James Hynes, supporting me in prayer and intercession.

My vocation has been nourished by the example of my parents’ faithfulness to each other, in their placing their family first and always trusting in God for more than 28 years of marriage.

When I said “yes” to apply to the seminary, I was looking down a road that was more than eight years long. Now that I am nearly two years away, a lot has changed and yet remained the same.

Hope for the Future

I desire now to draw closer to the altar, and to bring the hope we experience there to everyone that I meet. It gives me hope to know that there are Catholics throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn who are praying for me and my brother seminarians, and their prayers encourage me to remain open to His voice in my life.

We may not be able to fill seminaries or convents to capacity during this Year of Vocations, but we can surely plant seeds, guiding the future generations through our prayers and simply asking the question: “What is God calling you to do with your life?”


Harfmann is a seminarian for the Diocese of Brooklyn, currently in second theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *