By Jamie Crow | Staff Writer
At Duquesne, Academic Walk leads all students past the Laval House. But Matthew Broeren, a senior healthcare supply chain management major and Spiritan seminarian, was led to the Laval House in a different way. He entered Duquesne as a pharmacy major, and he stayed in that program for three years before discovering that another route was calling him.
“I was drawn to the Spiritans in the way that they work with the poor and the marginalized, which is very crucial,” Broeren said. “Eventually I decided that enough was enough, and I was going to apply.”
Broeren first looked at attending pharmacy school and entering the priesthood; however, the process of completing the required credits for both programs would not have worked for him. He decided to seek out other options, and his advisor suggested healthcare supply chain management, which would allow him the opportunity to pursue the seminary as well. Once Broeren changed majors and made the move to the Laval House, he felt happier and more like he belonged.
In describing his faith and his decision to follow that faith to the Spiritan community, Broeren cited his step-grandfather as a large influence on him. He said his step-grandfather taught him values that are important for Broeren to maintain.
“He was a Lutheran pastor and a person I was very close to in my family, so he did have a large influence on me,” Broeren said. “He was very accepting of my being Catholic, and interdenominational dialogue is very crucial. Interreligious dialogue is something that’s close to my heart because of him.”
The Rev. Naos McCool, who was Broeren’s Spiritan director, is another influence on Broeren. While McCool is now back in his native Ireland, he and Broeren maintain contact with each other. The memories that Broeren has with McCool are some that shaped him, and Broeren noted that one memory was particularly amazing for him.
“I remember the first time I met him personally,” Broeren said. “We were just sitting in his office, [at Duquesne] and he just looked at me and he said, ‘What have you done in your life?’ That was the sole longest confession I’ve ever had in my life, and I think I started confessing things I never actually did. From that point on he was able to just read me like a book.”
Spiritan life was not always on Broeren’s radar, and when he began to consider entering religious life, he looked toward the Franciscan community. In the Catholic Church, Spiritans and Franciscans are just two of several religious orders of priests that seminarians can join. Broeren said he was inspired by Saint Francis’ work with the poor and the marginalized, as well as his interreligious dialogue.
“I was very initially attracted to the Franciscans just by the nature of Saint Francis,” he said. “But there was a sudden realization after I contacted them that I was never going to become a Franciscan. It was just not God’s plan.”
It was then that Broeren began to look toward the Spiritan community, and he believes that he made the right decision. While he noted that nothing can ever be certain, Broeren said that he has a strong, good feeling that he is in the right place.
After graduation, the next eight years are already planned for Broeren, and they include a novice year of introspection and reflection, a track to earn a Master’s degree at a Catholic theological union in Chicago and two mission years. While the route he will be following is structured, Broeren said that he is excited for the future, but he also noted that he maintains an awareness of what is going on now.
“There’s no point to look at the end, in a sense,” Broeren said. “We’re here, we’re now. You can’t look at the poor and the marginalized of the future when they’re around you right now. You have a duty now and you have to fulfill that duty, which is whatever the community asks of you.”
On changing his path, Broeren noted that the best thing he did for himself was simply to make the change. He offered similar advice to those struggling with their direction, saying that eventually everything will work out the way it is supposed to.
“Stop thinking about it and begin acting,” Broeren said. “I’ve met a lot of people who are confused as to whether they have a calling, and my advice to them is, ‘Screw it. Just do it.’ I think the best thing to do is to just try it. You can always change paths, but you can’t know it for certain unless you do it.”