You may be wondering who the bearded man serving at mass is. That would be me! My name is Aaron Alford, and I am a fourth-year seminarian for the Diocese of Gallup.
Having completed three years of study at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and a Spirituality Year at St John Vianney Seminary (‘SJV’) in Denver, Colorado, I will be beginning four years of theological study at SJV in August.
I have traveled a long road (both literally and figuratively) that has led me to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Gallup, one which has taken me from Ontario, Canada to California to New Mexico and Arizona.
Born and raised in a non-Catholic Christian home the province of Ontario, Canada, I began working with a missionary group called Youth With A Mission (‘Y-WAM’ for short) a few years after high school. YWAM is an international, ecumenical missionary organization, and our chapter in Kitchener, Ontario (not far from Buffalo, NY) worked with teens and college students in the area of short-term missions to foreign countries. Through my work in YWAM with Christians from various cultural and denominational backgrounds, I became very “Catholic-friendly” in my faith.
In 2003, I moved to California to help a friend and fellow YWAM worker pioneer a simple, relationship-based ministry among the homeless, the addicted, and the forgotten of Modesto. Our goal was to provide “creative, compassionate community” for those who had none. It was during this time that, through a close friendship with one of our volunteers who was Catholic, I became more attracted to the Catholic Church. Given the work I was involved in, I was especially attracted to the Church’s social teaching, and was impressed with her care for the poor. However, what “sealed the deal” for me was Christ’s True Presence in the Eucharist.
During my journey into the Church I began to sense that God might be calling me to the priesthood, and around the time of my confirmation, I felt this very strongly. But after much prayer, I came to understand that, although the priesthood was almost certainly in my future, God was not yet asking me to leave my community and mission in Modesto. I prayed that, when the time came, I would recognize God’s hand and be willing to be led.
It was about ten years later that I met Fr Josh Mayer (your former Parochial Vicar!) when he was at my parish for a mission appeal. I enjoyed the stories he told about Gallup, and I introduced myself after mass. We stayed in touch, and about a year later, in 2016, he invited me to Gallup to give a Theology on Tap presentation about my work with YWAM Modesto. I spent a week here and saw the beauty of the land, the people, and the priesthood in this diocese. By the end of the week, I knew that this was the time and Gallup was the place that I had been waiting for. It was less than a year later that I began seminary studies for the Diocese of Gallup.
I have had previous summer assignments in Winslow, Arizona and Cuba, New Mexico and I am very happy to be here at the Cathedral this summer. I’ll be here until the end of July, and I hope to meet more of you while I’m here. Thank you so much for your prayers for us seminarians, and know that I too am praying for those who are praying for me!