By Rev. Mr. Joseph Franklin Dutan
I was in the fifth grade at St. Teresa School in Woodside when I first felt an attraction toward the priesthood.
I was scared and didn’t know how to go about taking this path. I hid my feelings and only told my mother. I asked her to keep it a secret. Despite feeling a tug toward the priesthood at that time, I declined an offer to attend Cathedral Prep Seminary out of fear, and instead went to St. John’s Preparatory High School.
I found that my life first began to be difficult after high school. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I decided to enroll in college, get a degree and live a happy, productive life.
Still though, I felt a pull in my heart that told me that God was calling me to the priesthood. I tried to ignore it and registered at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology as an electrical engineering major.
Unfortunately, due to financial issues, I was forced to withdraw from college. After seeing my parents struggle financially, I set off on my first full-time job.
I spent a year of working as a pharmacy tech on the Upper West Side before I had saved up enough money to attend college. I was ecstatic.
I restarted college and a week before starting my second year, I started to feel sick. I kept getting sicker and sicker. When I went to the hospital, I was diagnosed with leukemia – childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (also known as ALL), which meant that cancer had infected my blood cells.
For the next three months, I was given intensive chemotherapy and blood transfusions. After that, I continued outpatient chemotherapy for another two-and-a-half years, until the cancer was stabilized.
Green Light to Go Forward
Finally, I was given a green light to attend college and return to a “normal life.” I continued to receive monthly chemo-therapy treatments and checkups at the hospital until Jan. 15, 2012, when I received my last dose of chemo.
It was during those rough years that I started seriously putting my trust and faith in God. My mother stayed by my side through my whole illness, praying the Rosary with me for my swift recovery. I made a choice to place my life, my will and my sickness into the hands of the Lord. The hospital chaplain, Father Quintero, came to talk to me every day, and pray with me. He was the first priest I ever spoke to about my feeling toward the priesthood.
Father Quintero asked that I continue to pray to God and ask Him to guide my life. The feeling of God pulling me toward the priesthood returned and became louder than before.
As soon as I was able to, I called Father Kevin Abels, the diocesan vocation director, and explained to him how I felt. He counseled me to attend college until I was completely recovered, but also to stay in close contact with my parish, St. Teresa. The pastor there, Msgr. Denis Herron, also helped me greatly by talking with me every week after Mass.
My parents, grandparents and extended family helped me discern the priesthood as well by praying for and with me.
Called to Something Greater
As I recovered from leukemia, I returned to Vaughn College and continued pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. But I felt that God was calling me to something greater and thought deeply about a future as a priest. I opened up to some of my closest friends about my desire to pursue a life of service in the priesthood, and they were very supportive.
From that time on, I surrendered myself to God’s will and to have complete trust in Him.
With the help of God, I entered Douglaston in September of 2012. Last fall, I was ordained as a transitional deacon and now I am preparing for ordination to the priesthood in June.
Every year that goes by I can see how God is working in me and modeling me toward the priesthood. God has worked so much in my life and thanks to Him, I am a cancer survivor. I am very excited about the next step in my life and to serve God and the whole Church.