Edmond Philip Ilg, a seminarian at the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary in Yona arrived on Guam a year and a half ago. He has a 28-year-old son who is also a seminarian but for the Archdiocese of Washington.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I am a widower. My wife died in 2011, we were married in 1982. I have two sons, one in Heaven and Philip who is 28 years-old and is in the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Washington, D.C. He will be ordained a transitional deacon on June 13th. I was baptized as a Lutheran and never had attended a Catholic Mass until age 20 when I attended with Connie who would become to be (my) wife. I received religious education for adults at the Church of the North American Martyrs in Bayside, NY, was confirmed on the Easter Vigil in 1982 and was married at American Martyrs that September.
We moved to New Jersey in 1985 and were members of St. Francis of Assisi parish. We were active in the parish… After the death of our second son in 1993 we relied on the help of the Church, but things were difficult and our marriage was very much in turmoil. In 1996, we heard a catechesis which was given in our parish by members of the Neocatechumenal Way and we joined a community. This community was an immense help to both of use and kept our marriage together through a separation and other challenges we faced.
My wife died of a reoccurrence of Breast Cancer in June, 2011. We were helped immensely by the love and support which we received from our community in the Way who always came to visit her in the hospital and prayed.
After my wife died, I continued to work as a sales engineer until I felt I was being called to go in mission as an itinerant. Then in 2012, I went to a meeting and I was assigned to a parish to accompany the priests in prayer and their ministry.
2. When and how did you realize that you wanted to become a priest?
During the time I was in the parish I really did not have the feeling that I was called to be
a priest, I felt called as an itinerant. However, in August, 2013 there was a mini-pilgrimage in the parish where I was itinerant. It went to the Shrines of the North American Martyrs in New York and Canada and I found myself sitting on a stage at the Shrine in Toronto. That was a memory of the day after the World Youth Day with Pope St. John Paul II at a vocational meeting where I had seen hundreds of kids standing in a response to the call to the religious life. The next Saturday I went to the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The trip was a pilgrimage where God really spoke to me about my vocation and I attended a vocational meeting after seeing Pope Francis. I came back … and spoke to my catechists. They suggested that I go to the vocational meeting in Italy for men wanting to enter the priesthood … I was chosen to go
3. How has your journey of discernment been so far?
I have seen God acting in many concrete signs to call me to this vocation and I feel my call very strongly. I have been here a year and a half and feel extremely blessed to be here. The seminary life is a routine of prayer, work and studying. The spiritual direction I am receiving is helping me a lot to build my interior life which I need to do to stay close to God. Going back to university studies after 34 years was a challenge at first, but the teachers are excellent and always willing to help. This sounds ideal, it is not. I was very independent, with a successful job and my hardest adjustment is to set my pride aside and to be obedient. I have learned that this is the most important thing I can learn in the seminary through reading the lives of the saints. At this point in my life with God’s calling I am very, very grateful to be here.
4. Which pope has influenced your vocation and why?
Without a doubt that would be Pope St. John Paul II (the Great). The pilgrimage to Canada in 2002 to the World Youth Day was extremely powerful for my entire family. My son would tell you that this was a turning point in his discernment of his call. My wife and I also saw Pope John Paul II in 1995, in Giants Stadium when he came to New Jersey. Of course at both these events I was married and had no thought of ever being a priest. However, the presence of that Pope had a profound effect on all who were there… I love to read the daily messages by Pope Francis which I read every day when I was itinerant. He is a deeply spiritual man who has many profound messages which influenced me as well.
5. Advice for young people discerning for a vocation.
Do not be afraid of what others think. It is especially difficult with social pressure which is applied to young people today. The truth is that your friends and family who may make fun of religion are also searching and trying to find meaning in their lives. Be open to hearing the voice of God in events of your life, this is the way God speaks to people, through events. Pray about it and ask God to let you know what His Will is in your life, and listen to what He says to you. I would also encourage you to go to a World Youth Day, it is an awesome experience… Finally, for the notso-young, like me, it is never too late for God
to act in your life.