Ave Maria

Alumni Spotlight:  Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.

The Academics blog recently published a great article interviewing AMU alumni, Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.. Father Vincent came to Ave in 2006 to pursue a degree in pre-Theologate studies as a part of his discernment process after graduating from St. Olaf in Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in Music. He fell in love with Ave and dove into the community, joining the Esto Vir household, singing in the choir, and directing musical studies at Donahue Academy. Father Vincent recently traveled back to Ave for the first time since he graduated in order to participate in the Vocations Festival as a representative for his religious community, the Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Joseph. To read more about his discernment, reflections on how Ave has changed, and current ministry, click here!


Student Spotlight: Nick Pullano

Senior, Nick Pullano, from Mundelein, Illinois, will be graduating this May with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. Nick has the heart of a servant and can always be found going above and beyond what is asked of him. After graduation, Nick plans to attend medical school, with the long-term goal of finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes - a cause close to his heart.

What did you do last summer? 

This past summer, I spent my time working at a local golf and country club as well as volunteering as a research assistant at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, which is one of the top research hospitals in the state. While I was at Lutheran General, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with two Family Practioners, one of which specialized in the genetic disorder of Down Syndrome. I was able to assist them in their research projects, which focused on reducing the cost of healthcare for both the providers and patients of down syndrome treatments, based on medical status. By working alongside these physicians, I was able to understand the dire need for affordable healthcare in America and think creatively to work toward a solution for the future.

What do you want to do when you graduate?  

After I graduate from Ave Maria University in May, I will be under review for medical school acceptance. During this time, I will be utilizing my Biochemistry degree by working as a chemist in a research lab either in Illinois or Florida. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Five years from now, I see myself completing my education at one of my top medical school choices and applying to a residency program as the next step in my healthcare career. 

What are you plans for this year to get closer to your goal?

I am currently devoting twenty-five to thirty hours per week to my online Kaplan course, which is designed to help me prepare for the MCAT examination. Additionally, I will be finalizing my applications for medical school.

Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?

I chose the medical field because I have always wanted the opportunity to bring joy to others by serving them. Before attending Ave Maria University, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. While it was initially difficult to adjust to this sudden lifestyle change, I believe that it was God’s way of calling me to the medical field; specifically, to work towards a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

How have you coped with your diagnosis?

Coping with Type 1 Diabetes is, and will aways be, a challenge for me, but I was referred to a phenomenal Endocrinologist down here in Naples by the name of Dr. Todd Brodie. He and his assistants have given me the most up to date information on how to manage Type 1 Diabetes, since I am still a newbie to this disease. The key to managing it, for me, has been to exercise regularly and stick to a healthy diet. Dr. Brodie’s insight on taking the correct amount of insulin and consistently making sure that I test my glucose 4-6 times a day has given me a tremendous blood glucose level (A1C) of 6.9!

What have you learned from participation in extracurricular activities?  

Through my participation in extracurricular activities, I have learned that it is essential to get along with others in order to create strong relationships with teammates and reach a common goal. In addition, by participating in baseball throughout my four years at Ave, I learned that time management is key in order to maintain balance in everyday life. 

Who are three people in history you admire most and why? 

I admire General George S. Patton for his bravery and extensive military knowledge while leading our country in WWII, Saint John Paul II for helping to bring an end to communism in Europe, especially his home country of Poland, and Michael Jordan for his tenacity and killer instincts which helped to lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships. 

What is the most memorable phone call you have ever received?

The most memorable phone call that I ever received was from one of my close family friends who happens to be former Cubs 3rd basemen, Ron Santo. During this phone call, Mr. Santo personally invited my cousins and I to go see him at the radio booth in historic Wrigley Field. As many of you know, I am a die hard Cubs fan, so this phone call was one of the most exciting moments in my life... besides, of course, when the Cubs won the World Series! It was great to listen to what he had to say about his life, because, like me, he is a type 1 diabetic who plays baseball. He gave me lots of encouragement to keep doing what I love, and told me to always pursue my passion.

What is the one thing you have always wanted but still don’t have? 

As the only child in my family, I have always wanted to have siblings. I always wonder what my childhood would have been like if I had had an older sibling to look up to or a younger sibling to take care of. 

What things are most important to you now? Why?  

My relationships with family and friends, my faith, striving to be the best person I can be, and helping others become the best person they can be. 

How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life? 

My childhood dreams and goals were greatly influenced by growing up in Illinois and being a huge Chicago Bulls fan. Because I saw Michael Jordan leading the bulls to many championships, I always envisioned myself being a professional basketball player. I also had an interest in meteorology because I was so fascinated by thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornados. While I do not specifically wish to pursue a career in meteorology anymore, I believe this early interest influenced my choice to pursue a science degree at Ave Maria. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes prior to attending Ave, my ultimate dream and goals evolved into a desire to work in the medical field to find a cure for Diabetes. I want to help other individuals, like myself, live a more enjoyable life.

Where in the world would you like to get lost?  

I am interested in traveling to so many places, but I think I would ultimately like to get lost in Spain. I’ve always wanted to spend time in Spain because it looks like such a beautiful country and is so rich in history. 

Do you have any good study habits to pass on?  

Throughout my four years at Ave Maria University, I have found that it is essential to establish relationships with your professors and regularly meet with them for help with material that you do not understand. After learning first hand from your professors, you can then help others understand the material better as well. This will not only help them with their studies, but also help you to solidify your own knowledge. 

If you could interview anyone, who would it be and what would you ask? 

If I could interview anyone in history, I would want to interview Jesus Christ. Not only is He the most interesting figure in history, but also our Lord and Savior. It would be absolutely incredible to hear an account of salvation history through the words of Jesus Christ Himself.

Following the Unbeaten Path: My Personal Reflection on the Risk of Discernment

At the end of the day, when classes are done, books are closed, and the laptop is charging, I lay on my pillow and exhale a sigh of relief. Lingering yearnings and uncertainties in my heart seem to agitate inside of me. Where am I headed? Is this where I am supposed to be? To what end are my efforts aimed? These fundamental questions pierce to the very core of my being and I am dissatisfied with a simplistic answer involving some sort of professional occupation or career choice. These are questions about discernment, the intermingled relationship of the career choices I elect, and the ultimate fulfillment of my life. 

Discernment, in the Catholic sense, is the prayerful process of judging between alternative options with the objective of accomplishing God’s will, leading to a decision.

There is a distinction that must be made between the processes of discernment and decision-making. Decision-making is the process of choosing between two things. For example, you decide whether you should choose to take the Theology of the Body class or the Philosophy of Love class as your general elective. Discernment, in contrast, is a profound process that transcends an action causing decision. It is a movement toward existential fulfillment that enjoys internal and external congruence. Discernment always includes two good alternatives; one does not discern about doing something wrong.

I want to share with you a reflection on my personal process of discernment which led me to leave the religious life and come to Ave Maria University.

1. Risk

Tradition has it that the ancient Celts had a difficult time grasping the image of the Holy Spirit as a dove. The tame and gentle symbol of a passive dove seemed contradictory to their personal experiences with the Holy Spirit. For them, the Holy Spirit sounded a lot more like a wild goose than a gentle cooing bird. There is a wildness to the Holy Spirit, an undomesticated nature of the mysterious, third person of the Trinity that resonated with the Celts for centuries.

I think I have to agree with the Celts on this. The unrelenting nature of the Holy Spirit has been an important element in my process of discernment. I have had to break away from the ideology of a controlled and structured path for my life and learn to take the risk of embracing the sporadic and creative movements of the Holy Spirit on this journey.

I entered the religious life when I was 19 years old, joining the congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, where I spent the most amazing four years of my life as of yet. Discernment (and life) seemed pretty straightforward to me during that time: you were to make an election (marriage, priesthood, religious life etc.) and enjoy living out God’s will. However, I discovered very quickly that in making the initial choice to follow God, I had signed up for an adventure. 

The systematic, formational stages of the priesthood gave me the impression that I knew the concrete path I was walking on. I quickly discovered, though, that there was no path at all. The more I learned about myself and grew in my relationship with God, I realized that I had very little knowledge of where Jesus was leading me. I quickly discovered that love constantly generates new paths and it was my vocation to follow them.

Discernment requires taking the risk of releasing control of your life. It requires surrendering the ideological structures that we hold fast to, and adopting the untamed and loving invitations of God. Only this can lead us to the ultimate fulfillment of our desires and plans. 

2. Love

Being part of the religious life, I had amazing experiences that helped me to grow in my capacity to love. Living in such a community helped me to enter into profound personal relationships with people from many different backgrounds. The spiritual formation with the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit was the best ground to grow in my relationship with God, especially the daily communitarian adoration and celebration of the Eucharist. The time I spent in ministry to others opened my heart to experience true compassion and solidarity. Through serving the sick in the poorest hospital in Los Angeles, to ministering to the small faith communities in rural Alaska, I grew so much as a person.

So, why did I leave? That’s where the wild goose comes in. 

I remember sitting in the adoration chapel during my fourth year of formation begging the Holy Spirit to leave me alone because it was constantly bugging me to grow even deeper in my capacity to love. I realized that with my personality, my drives, and yearnings, there was a fundamental dissonance in me that clashed with the particular mission of the Congregation. God was calling me to a different vocation; to be immersed in the world, on the front-lines. He called me to serve Him in a different way, and I knew I had to answer.

Discernment is an invitation to remove all of the obstacles in life that hinder us from loving and being loved to the maximum in this life. 

3. Act

I did not even attempt to figure out how to proceed along this path on my own. Instead, I consulted my formation director at the time, my spiritual director, and my community. Each of these people accompanied me both formally and informally in my process for nearly a year. In addition to this, I consulted a psychologist, a Servite religious woman, who helped me to make sure that these inspirations were not simply unresolved issues from my life that inspired my dissatisfaction. 

With this great team of helpers, I received many confirmations that the inspirations that I felt to leave the congregation were coming from God, which was His way of leading me to a more profound realization of my personal mission here on earth. There were no logical syllogisms that lead to my decision or helped me along the way. Instead, I had to pull away from the limitations of my logic and hold on tightly to God in faith.

Leaving the religious life was the most frightening leap I’ve ever taken, however, God continues to demonstrate His confirmation of decision over and over. This encourages me to keep holding on - to keep trekking on this unbeaten path and to follow closely behind Him. 

Discernment entails congruent actions to the internal motions and inspirations of God, in order to test whether these inspirations indeed come from God and lead to doing His will.