By Emmaline Jurgena
The Catholic Messenger
Seminarian Michael Warren has lived in eight states and in four different religious communities, but says he has “found his niche” in the Midwest.
Warren’s cross-country vocation journey has its roots in his childhood in El Paso, Texas, where he was influenced by his parents’ perspectives on faith. As a young man, Warren’s father joined the Passionists, a religious order, and later joined an order of Trappist monks in Kentucky before marrying and having children. Warren’s mother, who moved to the United States from Mexico, passed along her devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe to her son.
But it was not until he was in his mid-20s that Warren considered entering the seminary. After attending a presentation by a religious order from the northeast he was inspired to explore his religious vocation. In 1997, he joined the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in Boston, where he stayed for one year.
“It was a really good opportunity to explore my vocation. It turns out it wasn’t the best fit for me, but it got the wheels turning about what God wanted for me and what I wanted,” he said.
After leaving the Oblates, Warren was employed as a teacher and as a hotel employee, but sought a more meaningful career. He found fulfillment as a caregiver for individuals with special needs in a community in New Mexico called Casa Alegre. After moving to Colorado in 2001, he continued in this line of work. In 2004, however, Warren began to contemplate other options.
“I was testing the waters in different areas. I was thinking about becoming a teacher again in 2004. I was also engaged to be married that same year. But I just wasn’t finding the right fit for me.”
Warren turned again to God, and became a seminarian for the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M. While active in this diocese, he studied at Conception Seminary College in Missouri, and at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Eventually, he concluded that the Diocese of Las Cruces was not where he belonged, and he returned to his job at Casa Alegre.
“It was a very rewarding, very fulfilling job. I really enjoyed working with residents and helping them to feel like productive citizens. But my desire to be a priest, and feeling that God was calling me, never left me. So I reapplied to seminary,” he said.
Warren applied to the Diocese of Davenport and was accepted in 2013. He enrolled at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis. Father Thom Hennen, vocations director for the diocese, sees Warren’s gentle demeanor as an asset, should he become a parish priest.
“Michael’s got a very calming, gentle way about him. He’s kind of got a childlike innocence. I don’t think he’ll be a pulpit pounding priest, but not every priest is. He will be someone with a calming presence that people feel comfortable talking to,” he said. Warren is also bilingual in Spanish and English, a skill that is needed in the diocese, according to Fr. Hennen.
Warren moved to the chancery this summer to begin his Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, splitting his time between the three Genesis Medical Center locations in Davenport and Dewitt, as well as Christian Care in Rock Island, Ill.
He describes his CPE as a “very intense” program. He is asked to spend time with patients and then engage in recording written verbatim and verbal feedback from the interaction.
“It is a program that involves unrelenting reflection time. We’re constantly learning more about ourselves. It’s come to the point where we’re reflecting on our reflections. I’m beginning to feel like a mirror,” Warren said, laughing.
In the future, he hopes to be a diocesan priest, a position he feels is the best use for his abilities. “It’s a good fit for my personality and talents. The different types of ministries, being able to offer liturgy and sacraments and pastoral care to a wide variety of individuals, are appealing.”
For now, Warren is depending on faith to guide him. “This time around I’m trusting in God more than ever, and his plan for me … I’m taking it day by day, and I’m relying on the Holy Spirit and our Blessed Mother to help me,” he said.
Warren will return to Wisconsin in the fall to continue his studies and, if all goes according to plan, hopes to be ordained as a deacon in June 2015.