I am a Catholic seminarian currently studying for the Archdiocese of Chicago at Mundelein Seminary (~45 minutes north of Chicago). I have only just completed my first year of six (which includes two years of philosophy because my college major was a science), but I feel like my vocation is the priesthood. While I continue to actively discern the vocation itself, the thought of the priesthood fills me with much peace and it seems to "fit" well.
Along with the vocation decision, I have to make another decision within about 12 months, namely, whether I should remain in Chicago and serve as a priest of the Archdiocese or if I should return to Columbus, OH to serve there. I grew-up in Columbus and moved away in 2004 to attend college in Chicago. I feel very conflicted about this question and, so far, I have been unable to make a decision about which diocese to serve. Here is a short list of the pros of each location:
-"Feels" like home… I have lived here for 6 years and I absolutely love the area. I have numerous friends in Chicago, as well as a strong emotional connection to the area.
-Opportunity to study at the North American College (NAC) in Rome for theology (4 years)
-Myriad opportunities for graduate-level study after ordination, including ready access to an STL and STD program, which some new priests are encouraged to do by Cardinal George. While I believe my primary vocation is the diocesan priesthood and while I WANT to serve in a parish (preferably large!), I also would like the opportunity to serve the Church in other ways, such as through academic study and discourse.
-Has my family who have no plans to ever leave: being geographically near my mother and father feels very important to me.
-Is where I grew-up - I spent 18 years here before leaving for Chicago, so I sometimes feel that I should serve the diocese that "brought me to the dance."
-Has a CRITICAL vocations shortage: there is some talk about consolidating parishes and, despite a lot of growth, no new parishes can be opened in other parts of the city because of the manpower shortage; Chicago has no such shortage.
Much of my prayer is currently directed to this question. I would like to make a decision by next summer (2011) so I can begin my theology years in the appropriate diocese. Unfortunately, it seems the above reasons pretty equally weigh both locations and neither diocese "jumps out at me." My family is very important to me, but I also love Chicago and look forward to the opportunity for additional academic work after ordination (God-willing).
From the community, I would appreciate the following:
(1) Any specific advice or opinion about choosing either diocese based on reading the above (i.e., "You should stay in Chicago because…" or "You should go back to Columbus because…")
(2) Some techniques to prayerfully "discern" this question - I realize that God's will needs to be done here, not mine. While I am sure God will let me choose freely, I want to serve the diocese that best allows me to glorify Him and save as many souls as possible. I would like to come to a sense of where that may best happen, but I'm having trouble praying about such a specific issue, especially when I am keenly interested in the answer.
Thank you for reading and for your help in advance! Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis!