EAST ELMHURST — No sooner had Patrick Rubi returned from the adventure of a lifetime when he embarked on another adventure — one that could end with his ordination to the priesthood.
Rubi, 20, attended World Youth Day in Portugal in August with a group of 100 young people from the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic lay ministry he belongs to at St. Gabriel Church in East Elmhurst. He was thrilled to meet young Catholics from all over the world and get the chance to see Pope Francis.
Before traveling to World Youth Day, he thought his plans for what would come after were all set. He would return to Hunter College, where he was studying history, and resume his normal life. He was certain that his future would one day include marriage and children.
But only a few weeks into the fall semester, Rubi left college and said goodbye to his normal life, because it turns out that at World Youth Day, he felt God gently nudging him toward a life in the priesthood — and he decided to respond to that pull.
And so on Sept. 12, Rubi left home to board a flight to Italy to take part in a discernment conference in Porto San Giorgio, organized by the Neocatechumenal Way, for young men contemplating the priesthood.
Rubi has already encountered some bumps in the road on his faith journey. In May, he and fellow pro-life students at Hunter College were confronted by an adjunct professor who approached their information table on campus screaming and cursing at them in an incident that was caught on a video that went viral. That experience, however, did nothing to shake his faith.
After the conference in Porto San Giorgio, Rubi, who lives with his parents and five siblings in Jackson Heights, will return home for a few days and await his assignment to a seminary.
It’s not a given that he will wind up in the U.S. He could be sent to a seminary anywhere in the world.
“I have no idea where I’m going. I’m sure there will be an adjustment period,” he said, sitting in St. Gabriel Church the day before he left for Italy. “But we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure the Lord has something terrific in mind.”
Father Nicholas Apollonio, pastor of St. Gabriel Church, is happy for Rubi. “I think he won the lottery,” he said.
However, Rubi admitted that he did not come to his decision easily. It took time for him to get to this point. And his story illustrates the internal struggle many men feel when they realize God is calling them.
For Rubi, the initial call came when he was a student at Cathedral Prep in Elmhurst. He rejected it out of hand. “The first time I said no, absolutely unequivocally,” he said, adding that at the time, he was thinking, “God I think you’re wrong. I think my plan is way better. I’m gonna stick to what I’m doing.”
He graduated from Cathedral Prep and enrolled at Hunter College — all the while feeling God tugging at his heart. “Although I continued to run away, God pursued me like the bridegroom pursues his beloved,” he recalled.
While at World Youth Day, Rubi took part in several pilgrimages to various religious sites and was deeply moved by what he saw and heard, including the closing Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Tejo Park in Lisbon.
During the trip, Rubi took part in a meeting that ended with a “vocational call,” in which the priest asks any men and women considering religious life to step forward for a special blessing. Sitting there, hearing the call, Rubi realized he could no longer resist. “It was kind of at that moment I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ I stood up and I walked very slowly to the front,” he recalled.
“It is actually a very moving moment,” said Father Apollonio, who was there.
When Rubi returned home, he told his mother Flannery, his father Norman, his four sisters, and his brother of his intention to enter the seminary. They were excited for him.
“None of this is possible without first living in the faith. And that comes from my parents and my family,” he said.
His family members weren’t the only people Rubi had to break the big news to. He had planned to organize activities with the Catholic John Henry Newman Club, a pro-life group at Hunter College, but now he would be unavailable. He told his fellow pro-life students that he felt badly about leaving them to do all the work.
“They said, ‘Patrick are you kidding? We’re so happy for you. We’ll pray for you,’ ” he said.