Seminarian spending summer at St. Helen in Portales

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

John Trambley believes he was called to the priesthood over several years in which God worked through those around him.

The 41-year-old Iowa native is spending the summer helping out at St. Helen Catholic Church in Portales after completing his second year at a seminary school in Connecticut.

Since he has three more years of studying to do before becoming a fully ordained priest, he cannot perform official priest duties yet, such as presiding over a Mass or administering sacraments. Instead, Trambley said he is basically doing altar boy duties under the direction of the Rev. James McGowan. In addition, he has been placed in charge of the church’s summer vacation Bible school in July.

“My role this summer is to help John see the realities, as opposed to the abstract concepts and opportunities of being a priest,” McGowan said. “This is a very much hands-on internship.”

After graduating from college, Trambley remembers being determined to change the world.

“Somehow, I thought I would do that through TV,” said Trembley, who worked as a programming assistant and program director in Albuquerque before joining the seminary. “But then I began to see how priests can make a difference in a way that no one else can.”

At the urging of a monsignor and others, Trambley said he began thinking about the seminary. A vocational discernment weekend at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center in Santa Fe helped change his mind.

“It was the best weekend,” Trembley said. “I heard several priests tell their own stories, and I learned they weren’t all saints. I could see myself in those stories.”

At the end of the weekend, Trambley said his decision had formulated into a definite “maybe.” He finally decided for the priesthood after a Good Friday walk to Chimayo with Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan.

Trambley said there is a false conception about the seminary.

“People think that entering the seminary is a done deal,” Trambley said. “But it is not that way. It takes many years before you say your final vows. You can say ‘no’ all the way up to ordination. … You don’t have to have it all figured out when you walk in the door.”

Trambley remains optimistic about his vocation, even in light of the recent priest scandal and priest shortage. He said, “From my own perspective, I see some really good men coming up, stepping up to answer the call.”

During his spare time, Trambley, still a self-described art enthusiast, said he enjoys creating his own art and going to museums.