Hello, My name is Ben Valentine. I was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in February of 1996. My parents are Doug and Amy Valentine and I am the youngest of three boys. My oldest brother Mitch is a recent graduate of UNI and is working in insurance sales. My brother Carter is a recent graduate of UNI and currently works for Van Meter in Cedar Rapids in Sales. I graduated from Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids in 2014 and was enrolled at St Pius X Seminary at Loras College in the fall of 2014 in order to discern (figure out) to see if God is calling me to the priesthood. My journey to the seminary started early in high school. I started to really embrace my faith after some retreat experiences in my freshmen year. Reading the Bible, praying, listening to Catholic Answers, participating in more retreats, doing service, listening in theology class, and participating in the sacraments helped me to grow closer to God in high school. I fell in love with Jesus and the Church that he founded and I couldn’t get enough of it. When I started to feel that I was called and told my family and friends, most of them were supportive but also were cautious to make sure that I wasn’t “rushing into things”. As time went on and I went to priesthood discernment events such as Operation Andrew, Thinking of the Priesthood, and an overnight stay at the Vianney House (where the seminarians live), I decided that this is what I believed God was calling me to do. After applying, I was officially accepted and am currently enjoying my studies as a freshmen at Loras and as a seminarian. Living with the other seminarians, Fr Kopacek, Fr Zinkula, and the Archbishop has been so helpful to have a support system and for enjoying my time here as well. I enjoy sports (especially the NFL – Go Pack Go), politics, movies, playing cards, and camping with friends.
Where and when did your sense of call develop?
It started later on in high school at Xavier. My sense of a call came from a few things: 1) Other people asking me if I had ever thought about the priesthood. 2) Paying attention to where God was leading me in my life by the things that I was interested in and the things that happened to me. 3) This feeling and deep love of Jesus and the truth that I found in Catholicism that I wanted to share with others.
Were you hesitant or nervous to take the first steps to enter the formation process?
I was a bit nervous in entering because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give my life to this vocation. The good part of about this fear was that the seminary is not a decision to be a priest no matter what, it is a way in which I am discerning whether or not God is calling me. “Discerning out” or leaving seminary is an option because not everyone who enters seminary is called to the priesthood.
What do you feel the role of a priest is?
For me, the role of a priest entails a few things 1) it is a life of loving service to God and others. 2) Priests administer the sacraments to God’s people (especially the Eucharist which is the source and summit of Catholic life). 3) Priests point God’s people in the direction of heaven and help them on their journey to get to heaven.
Have you come across any unexpected challenges in your seminary experience? Pleasant surprises?
So far, challenges are learning how to interact with girls without flirting with them because as a seminarian, you can’t have a girlfriend. Some pleasant surprises have been how great of an atmosphere for prayer and growing closer to God the Vianney House is. Also, I have been able to be on campus, make many friends, and have lots of fun as if I were a freshmen living in the dorms.
Were you invited by others to consider the priesthood?
As I mentioned above, I was asked by a few people if I had ever thought of the priesthood. The holy spirit led them to mention it to me and I took what they said to heart.