Called to religious life, but not a priestly one

By David Singleton(scranton) Times-tribune, Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 30, 2015 at 10:10 a.m.



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SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — John Baldino heard the calling to religious life. It just took time to recognize where it beckoned.

In the fall of 2010, at age 36, Baldino headed off to Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, starting a journey the Carbondale native fully expected would end with his ordination as a priest in the Diocese of Scranton.

God had another idea.

A year after his arrival at Mount St. Mary's, Baldino realized it was not for him and left the seminary.

"The education was awesome, and I knew there was a reason I was there, but I wasn't sure what it was at that point," he said. "What it came down to is I knew I was called to do something, and I knew it was not to the priesthood."

He emailed his cousin, the late Rev. Gerald F. Mullaly, then pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in Milford, to tell him of his decision.

"He said, 'Don't worry. God has big plans for you. Otherwise he would not have gotten your attention is such a dramatic way,'?" Baldino recalled. "That was kind of comforting because when you go into seminary and leave, you can't help but feel like a failure."

Baldino returned to his career in television, where the South Abington Twp. resident works as regional director of digital media for Nexstar Broadcasting Group.

About two years ago, he discovered — completely by accident, he said — the Secular Franciscan Order. Formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, it is an order within the Catholic Church for men and women, single and married, dedicated to the Franciscan way of life.

In January, Baldino will be professed to the order.

It will be the second of two big moments in his life in the coming months. In October, he and fianceé Rachel Decker will be married in Dunmore. One of Baldino's former fellow seminarians, the Rev. Robert Maro, newly ordained in the Archdiocese of Washington, will preside.

"Now I look back on what (Father Mullaly) said about God having big plans for me, and I guess he did," Baldino said. "He had plans for me to be a husband. He had plans for me to be a Franciscan."

The Rev. Donald J. Williams, diocesan director of vocations, said while it is not uncommon for someone to enter seminary and continue straight right through to ordination, it is also not unusual for some to step away.

"The thing for our diocese is it's a win-win," Williams said. "If someone goes into the seminary, they are not coming out the same person. ... They grow as a disciple of Jesus. They grow in understanding of the church, and most of the guys who come out end up involving themselves in the church. They are generous; they are committed, and they are helping."

For his part, Baldino teaches Catholic education at SS. Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore, performs hospice ministry and spiritual counseling and does digital media and video work for the Religious Teachers Filippini.

There are no regrets.

"In fact, what I say all the time is I could not do the ministry I do now for the Franciscan order without having had that year in seminary. ... I could not be successful in any of the ministry I'm in without that experience," he said.

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Online:

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Information from: The Times-Tribune, http://thetimes-tribune.com/

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

David Singleton(scranton) Times-Tribune

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