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 | By Joey Reistroffer

When Men Discern Out of Seminary

Nick Shiver and Patrick Judd called the seminary a launching pad into life.

Both buckled up for this spiritual flight that rocketed deep into their souls. While there, they discovered who they really were as men and what plans God has for them.

The path to the priesthood helps men find and define themselves, they agreed. And, sometimes, it forces them to reroute.

That is what happened to Shiver and Judd, who are still dedicated to serving the Lord — just not as priests.

“I felt called to enter the domestic priesthood,” Judd said.

The philosophy and theology courses he took in the seminary pointed the way.

“Classical philosophy is all based on logic. It cuts through the fluff,” he added. “It trained me how to think, how to look at different issues and pick them apart. If something was true, you couldn’t pick it apart.” This realization led him to the legal field. “It was a natural steppingstone.”

A natural step, perhaps, but not an easy one.

Judd entered the seminary after graduating from high school in 2014. He was inspired by St. John Paul II who said, “Be not afraid.” So, Judd was not afraid to take that initial step closer to the Lord. 

“I’m going to give God the first shot and see if I’m called to be a priest,” he said, and added that he will never regret his time in the seminary. “Those years were ... an incredibly positive experience, and the most informative time in my life.”

He said his two years at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas and two years at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., helped mold him as a young man and taught him how to be a good Catholic.

Nevertheless, Judd felt God pulling him in a different direction. He felt God had another plan for him.

“The reasons I chose to enter the seminary were the same reasons I chose to leave,” he said. So trusting in God, Judd said he left, kept praying, and God’s plan began to unfold. 

“I met a beautiful woman soon after leaving the seminary, and I wholeheartedly stepped into that relationship,” he said.

Now Judd is married, has a baby and is practicing law in Alabama.

“I’m very happy,” he said.

Nick Shiver was the best man at Judd’s wedding.

Shiver did not go directly into the seminary after graduating from Bishop England High School in Charleston. Instead, he played football at West Point for two years. While there, he said he developed a solid rapport with the priests, and he loved the military discipline.

Those priests were instrumental in helping him discern his way into the seminary, Shiver said, adding that he also met the vocations director of the Diocese of Charleston while in high school. That was when Shiver said he felt God calling him to a vocation.

“I was eager. I wanted to know. Having to wait would be difficult for me,” he said.

So after two years at West Point, Shiver answered God’s call. 

“There were no retreats and no meet-and-greets. My first time at the seminary was when I showed up,” he said.

That was also at Holy Trinity in Dallas, and Shiver said he was drawn to the strong spirituality of Father Jim Swift, CM, the rector from

“He’s been a force in my life,” Shiver said.

He said he was drawn to the discipline of the seminary because he likes structure.

Shiver thrived at Holy Trinity, then took the next step of his formation to Catholic University.

“The philosophy program there is world-class,” he said, and he also enjoyed the Dominican House of Studies, dedicated to formation of friars, which was next door. Seminary camaraderie also was fantastic.

“We had guys from all over. Guys from Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. I was blessed. I met my best friends there in D.C.,” he said.

As a young man, Shiver embraced the spiritual growth of the seminary but something was missing.

“I needed space to be able to grow independently,” he said. “I was not where I was supposed to be.”

Then his seminary studies took him to Florida, but in the fall of 2020, Shiver decided to take a break. He needed some time to himself to think. He went to New Orleans in January 2021.

“This was my place of space,” Shiver said. “I had some friends that way. I knew New Orleans was a Catholic city, a port city. It was familiar to me. New Orleans was very family-oriented.” 

While there, he savored the culture and the mouth-watering cuisine, finding his way in the restaurant business. That is when Shiver began to pursue a new path in his life.

“God was not pulling my heart back into the seminary,” he said, though, “I like working with people; I like serving people.”

So, he went back to college and now is working on his Master’s in Health Administration at the University of South Carolina. Along the way, a friendship began to grow with a young woman who “knew my high school friends … I had no idea that we would be together,” Shiver said.

That friendship blossomed, and they were married on Aug. 6, 2022.

Patrick Judd was the best man at Shiver’s wedding.

Reflecting on his four and a half years in the seminary, Shiver said he will carry his Catholic values forward “wherever I’m called to work.” That growth is a part of him.

“I wouldn’t trade those years of formation for anything,” he said. “I feel like I have a better perspective on things.
I feel grateful to have had that experience.”

Judd agreed, saying that “all young men — all Catholic men — should discern the priesthood. It’s such a positive experience.”

And, for those who do not become priests, it serves as a launching pad into other vocations and blessedly another way to build Catholic families.

Joseph Reistroffer is a long-time writer who teaches religious education classes at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg. Email him at