Reading, writing and vocational discernment: Six CC alums hear call

Dominic, left, and Ted Devine stand with their mother, Katey Devine, in front of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where the two men are studying for the priesthood. The brothers are among six graduates of Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi who are in formation for the priesthood, along with Bro. Seamus Kettner (Marian Fathers), John Vinton (Diocese of Lansing), Sean Ajluni and Dan Ryan (Basilian Fathers). Courtesy of Dominic Devine

Catholic Central grads cite presence of clergy, atmosphere of prayer as foundational influences

Novi — Sean Ajluni went to public schools until he began ninth grade at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi. Despite growing up in a practicing Catholic family, he had to adjust to praying before classes and learning theology. Before long though, his thoughts turned to the priesthood.

“Being at CC made me think about the priesthood as a possibility for my life because the priests were there with us,” Ajluni said. “I interacted with them on a daily basis and got to know their personalities, and I saw that they’re just normal guys like the rest of us.”

Catholic Central is operated by the Basilian Fathers. Currently, six of the school’s graduates are in formation for the priesthood: two with the Archdiocese of Detroit, one with the Diocese of Lansing, two with the Basilian Fathers, and one with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

At the end of his senior year in 2015, Ajluni decided to join the Basilians upon graduation, and today he’s an undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, also run by the Basilian Fathers. He lives in the Basilian scholasticate on campus with seminarians and other men discerning the priesthood.

Fr. John Huber, a Basilian priest and Catholic Central president, mentored Ajluni during his time at the school. He helps young men who are interested in religious life learn the differences between diocesan priesthood and religious orders, as well as expose them to the many religious communities and the differences between each of them and their apostolates.

“I always looked up to Fr. Huber because he took the time to help me learn about the Basilian community. I also saw how he ministered to the families and students at CC in the midst of tragedy my sophomore year,” Ajluni said, referencing the unexpected deaths of three Catholic Central students and alumni that year and severe injuries to two other students, all in unrelated incidents. “I thought I could see myself helping people deal with such things.”

Catholic education plays a role for many young men in their consideration of the priesthood. In a report to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate detailed the findings of a national survey of seminarians scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in 2018. Of the ordinands responding to the survey, 47 percent attended Catholic elementary school and 42 percent attended Catholic high school.

Dominic Devine, a seminarian at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, attended Holy Name Catholic School in Birmingham and graduated from Catholic Central High School in 2013. He admits he was more interested in pursuing girls during his time at Catholic Central than in pursuing a religious vocation, but he continued to pray about his vocation until, during his sophomore year in college, he encountered Christ in a personal way while on a retreat.

“I know that God speaks to us all the time, but that day, I believe he spoke clearly about His will for me to be a priest,” Devine said. “When you give Him control, your life falls into place.”

Dominic’s younger brother, Ted Devine, also is a seminarian at Sacred Heart. He credits his personal relationship with God for his call to a religious vocation.

Sean Ajluni, left, is in formation with the Basilian Fathers at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He attended Detroit Catholic Central High School, where the school’s president, Fr. John Huber, CSB, right, mentored him as he considered the priesthood. Courtesy of Sean Ajluni

“The majority of my pursuit of priesthood was influenced by my relationship with God,” Ted Devine said. “However, the Catholic education and atmosphere of both Holy Name and Catholic Central definitely helped me grow in relationship with Christ. The Kairos retreat at Catholic Central had a direct impact on my coming to know Christ personally.”

Dominic and Ted’s parents, Dan and Katey Devine, are grateful for the Catholic education their four children received.

“We always saw it as an investment in our children’s future. We wanted them to have a solid rock — Jesus — to weather the storms of life,” Katey Devine said. “These kids are easily influenced, and we wanted them to be with others who reinforced the values we held in our home.”

The Devine family belongs to St. Owen Parish in Bloomfield Hills. Katey recalls when Dominic was in third grade and Fr. Cliff Ruskowski invited the children of the parish to a question-and-answer session about himself and the priesthood. Afterward, Dominic approached Fr. Ruskowski and asked for his autograph.

“The priests at our parish and the Basilians at CC made a big impression on our boys,” Katey Devine said.

The religious at Catholic Central have plenty of opportunities to share their vocation stories with students. Fr. Huber says it’s important that Catholic schools create and maintain an atmosphere in which vocations are encouraged, discussed and celebrated — and not just religious vocations.

“The sacrament of marriage must be given equal respect and attention. A Catholic school is indeed a privileged environment where we can present the beautiful teachings of our Church regarding both sacraments of vocation, while recognizing that a vast majority of students will eventually celebrate the sacrament of marriage,” Fr. Huber said. “If one can claim there is a vocation crisis in the Church, I think the crisis extends to both priestly and religious vocations as well as the vocation of marriage.”

Ajluni and the Devine brothers all cite access to the sacraments at school as one way their hearts were opened to God’s call.

“With so many different voices that our young men and women are hearing in our society, having Catholic schools is a bright and burning light that is necessary for the formation of young Catholics,” Ted Devine said. “God can work through any situation, but Catholic schools provide a unique setting for kids to be Catholic together and grow in faith and knowledge of God.”