For Brother Sebastian Richey, OSB, there was always a desire to serve others in the Church, but the finer details seemed fuzzy.
Brother Sebastian, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., joined the seminary for a year in 1997 but wasn’t sure if a religious vocation was for him yet.
“I was way too young to make that kind of decision, but it always stayed in the back of my mind,” he said.
Brother Sebastian, 46, earned his bachelor’s degree in Catholic theology from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., in 2006 before working as a youth minister in Texas, where he was reminded of his earlier calling.
“My pastor talked to me about a vocation,” he said. “He knew of a place called Subiaco. He said, ‘I think you should go up there and spend a week at a retreat and see what you think about life and where you're going.’ And I got here and fell in love with the place. That was back in 2010, and that's when I started what I like to call my 13-year formation story.”
While at Subiaco for the first time, Brother Sebastian finished his candidacy and his yearlong novitiate. However, he decided that he was not ready to profess his simple vows and left Subiaco Abbey in 2014 for Sacred Heart High School in Ville Platte, La., where he taught and coached. The next year, he went to Mobile, Ala., teaching and coaching again.
But his path led him back to Subiaco Abbey as a lay teacher and coach in 2020. The pandemic that accompanied his return gave him time to reflect on his vocation.
“One of the monks asked how my life had changed since I left. I said that it really hadn’t — I still hung out with the monks, all of my friends were monks, and I lived on the monks’ property. He asked, ‘So why aren't you a monk?’ And I realized I didn’t know,” Brother Sebastian said.
He discovered that resuming the vocational process would be easier than he previously thought, and he rejoined in July 2020. He took his simple vows that October. Abbot Leonard Wangler, OSB, then appointed Brother Sebastian to the Country Monks Brewing Taproom.
For Brother Sebastian, this sealed the deal.
“The taproom and brewery saved my vocation because it gave me an opportunity to become a part of the monastic community without the focus being school. The school was something that I loved and wanted to be in, so if I could float that way, I always would. But when they said my job was in the brewery, it made me wonder if I could live this life knowing that the thing I love is on the other side of the hill,” Brother Sebastian said.
Being placed in the taproom opened Brother Sebastian’s eyes to the other ministries available in his vocation.
“One of the things that I loved about Subiaco when I first came to visit was all of these opportunities, but I had fixated on one part and had forgotten about the rest,” he said.
Brother Sebastian finally made his solemn profession of vows July 8.
“I was never nervous like I thought I’d be,” he said. “It was when they put the pall over me that I realized, ‘This is actually happening. This is my decision, and it's being made.’ That was the moment that it became real — that this was the right choice.”
For his next assignment, Brother Sebastian will enter St. John School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, Minn., in August, with the intention of becoming a priest in four years.
While he once left Subiaco Abbey to face uncertainty, Brother Sebastian said he is feeling more confident this time around.
“One of the things I've been the most nervous about was leaving again, because I've become really good at that. It scared me at first to think that I'm going to be gone again for four more years,” Brother Sebastian said. “But I realized the difference is, this time when I leave, it's not to start all over — it's so I can come back and do something more.”
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