With an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, Andrew Hunt seemed to have his plans set for at least the next nine years, maybe more.
He'd spend four years at the academy in Annapolis, Md., then five more as a commissioned officer in the Navy. After that, he'd either become career military, just as his father, John, was for 34 years in the Air Force, or parlay his Naval experience into a rewarding career.
Either way, it seemed that he would fulfill the dreams nurtured by tagging along as a young child with his dad to Scott Air Force Base in Mascoutah, Ill.
Except for one thing.
Hunt felt a higher calling.
After a year of discernment and "lots and lots of prayer," he answered the call, transferring to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary after his plebe (freshman) year at the Naval Academy. A 2015 graduate of De Smet Jesuit High School, Hunt is now a sophomore at Cardinal Glennon College program.
"As soon as I got here, I had that peace," said Hunt, among 24 students in the college program and 112 seminarians overall.
Similar to what they'd say in the Navy, it'll be all seminarians on deck Sunday, March 5 for Kenrick-Glennon's annual open house. Archdiocesan Catholics will get to see how seminarians such as Hunt live, pray and study in priestly formation and discernment.
They'll also see the fruits of the Faith in the Future campaign, $43.5 million in renovations or new construction over the past six years that transformed the 1931-vintage complex into a state-of-the-art facility to form priests in the 21st century. The highlights include the new faculty wing, enhanced library, renovated St. Joseph Chapel and new student center, complete with a gym and workout facilities in the former power-plant building.
A football player then a wrestler at De Smet, Hunt is a regular at the powerhouse gym, passing along to fellow seminarians the physical fitness that became a habit as a midshipman.
"It's really been a good bonding experience with the guys here," said Hunt, who also has passed along an over-abundance of naval-issue athletic shorts.
For Hunt, discernment to join them commenced almost as soon as he arrived at the Naval Academy but turned serious in his second semester. He brushed aside early misgivings in bootcamp and thoroughly enjoyed the academy — "I loved it; it had everything I wanted," he said — but he started the discernment process when restlessness continued.
Conversations ensued with his parents, spiritual advisor Father Conor Sullivan and seminarian Andrew Auer, who is studying in Rome and belongs to the same parish as Hunt's family — St. Francis of Assisi in Oakville. The youngest among John and Margaret Hunt's seven children, the Navy midshipman also conferred with Father Chris Martin and Father Brian Fallon in the Vocations Office.
Then, in his second semester at Annapolis, he spoke to a military chaplain and "everything just fell into place." he said.
A military discernment retreat helped his seminary discernment, as did the academy's Catholic community. Hunt described himself as "pleasantly surprised" to find such a strong community at the academy, which has an adoration chapel in the dorm with daily adoration and daily Mass. Hunt became a regular at both and dropped in often for silent prayer.
"If was I going to do this, I really needed to make sure," said Hunt, who credited the vibrant Catholic community for helping him "have a good discernment."
Hunt sees the hand of God in his decision, calling it providence that his leave from the academy in June 2016 made the transfer possible. "I could have gotten (the leave) in August, then going to the seminary would not have happened," said Hunt, who started filling out the application for Kenrick-Glennon then returned to the academy for formal withdraw. In that two-week process, he got "a lot of confirmation and affirmation" up the chain of command — he needed 26 signatures — in getting authorization to withdraw.
At Kenrick-Glennon, his day still starts at 5 a.m., but with prayer in the chapel instead of a run.
"It's everything I hoped for ... and more," he said.
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>> Kenrick-Glennon Seminary
What • Open house
When • 1-4 p.m. Sunday, March 5
Where • 5200 Glennon Drive in Shrewsbury 63119
Why • Meet the seminarians and see how they live, pray and study while discerning the priesthood
More information • Visit www.kenrick.edu/open-house