From the News-Herald
By Jean Bonchak
Mentor student Matt Cortnik may enter into a religious career, so for his senior project he's shadowing a priest
Matt Cortnik's been skipping school a lot lately.
And going to church.
The Mentor High School pupil is completing his senior project by "shadowing" the Rev. Thomas Johns of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Mentor.
Matt is considering a life in the priesthood - a life one doesn't tend to learn about going to his English and math classes.
Obtaining life experience
Gaining a concentrated inside glimpse of a potential career by working one-on-one with professionals is the goal of the MHS shadowing program, which requires a student to spend 30 hours per week for three weeks in a field of his or her choice.
Director Donna Pugh Blevins helped initiate the hands-on experience in 1991.
"I think the seniors appreciate the fact that they have this little bridge," she said. "I've always felt that it's important for the students to see the different paths of careers."
"Different" is an appropriate word to describe Matt's experience. This is the first time in the several years she has coordinated the project that someone requested to work in a parish.
"When I talked with Matt and his father to make sure we could do this, I said, 'I don't see any problem with it whatsoever,'" she said. "He's doing everything the same way the other students are."
That includes formulating a list of objectives prior to the project, keeping a daily journal, completing required hours, writing a final evaluation paper, designing a poster board illustrating the experience and attending the Senior Project Fair.
Pioneering new paths is just fine with Matt.
"I'm a pretty religious person," he said. "It's just a possibility in my life. If God is calling me to do this, then I think I should - even though others aren't doing it."
Johns, who has ministered in the parish comprised of about 11,000 members for 15 years, said Matt was in junior high when he first expressed interest in the priesthood.
At the time, he told the young man to keep the idea in the back of his mind and not to place any pressure on himself.
He added that he's happy to be working with Matt.
"Doing this is going to give him a lot of information he can use over the next few years," Johns said. "It's not a lonely life, as some people say. It's a rewarding life. That's one thing I think he'll see."
One observation Matt made concerning those who receive the sacrament of holy orders, which empowers them with priestly authority, is that they lead a busy life.
"Boy, your days are long," he said. "(Johns is) probably the busiest guy I know. He opened up his schedule book, and it was full."
While en route to visit a patient at Cleveland Clinic, Johns displayed multitasking skills by making necessary phone calls.
"I'm showing him how to balance time," Johns said. "There's great diversity in this work. One day it's a funeral, and the next is a wedding. There's really never a dull moment in the life of a priest. It's not a 9-to-5 job."
Though Matt says the thought of sacrificing a wife and family concerns him, he still plans on entering the seminary after spending one year taking general-studies courses at Lakeland Community College.
"So far, I've seen how rewarding it can be," he said. "I see the reactions from the people, how much good he's doing, how important and fulfilling his work is."
An alternative to priesthood is being ordained a deacon, which would allow him to assist with church-related duties as well as be married and maintain a secular career.
But Matt says if he chooses to follow a religious vocation, it would be one with full responsibilities.
"I just think if I was going to go in the priesthood at all, I might as well be a priest so I can do more," he said.
For example, only priests are permitted to celebrate Mass.
While holding spiritual aspirations in the forefront of future possibilities, Matt's day-to-day life resembles that of a typical teen.
He works part-time at Marc's Discount Store in Mentor-on-the-Lake, bowls, swims, and enjoys art and music.
Friends, he said, stand by his choice of senior project and potential religious career.
"Even though they're not Catholic, they support me," he said. "I have some good friends."
Johns said that the qualities his young shadow displays, including responsibility, kindness and maturity, will help him to be successful in whatever he chooses to do.
He added that he hopes others will become more open to the possibilities of priesthood.
"If young people saw other young people considering it, I think it would help them," he said.
If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.