The call started before Notre Dame, before seminarian Geoffrey Mooney knew much about Blessed Basil Moreau, the Congregation of Holy Cross, or Moreau’s “flame of burning desire which one feels to make God known, loved, and served.” The call came before he spent five years teaching high school in a city in which he never dreamed of living.
But through his time at Notre Dame as an undergraduate, as a teacher in Pensacola, FL with ACE Teaching Fellows, and inspired by the confidence others gave him to pursue his vocation, Geoffrey Mooney found his way back to Notre Dame, filled with the zeal of Fr. Moreau.
“I first thought about the priesthood while in high school, but admittedly refused to consider it too seriously,” Mooney said.
But Notre Dame provided him with opportunities to cultivate his faith life, through daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and through his interactions with the Holy Cross priests on campus.
“I might not have recognized it fully at the time, but witnessing my dorm community gathering for the Eucharist each week and joining the larger Notre Dame and Holy Cross communities for campus celebrations had a profound impact on my undergraduate years and my own discernment,” he said.
That zeal manifested itself in a passion for serving in Catholic schools. He was accepted into ACE Teaching Fellows, and upon graduation from Notre Dame, traveled to Pensacola to become a high school teacher.
“When I first learned about ACE in my sophomore year, I knew I was being called to join and become a teacher,” Mooney said. “I felt that was where God was leading me after graduation. As it turns out, I fell in love with teaching.”
Mooney immersed himself into Pensacola, teaching, coaching, and throwing himself into the local parish community as well. His much smaller ACE community also provided a place where Mooney could grow in his faith.
“I credit my housemates with encouraging me always to be my best professionally, but also challenging me to share myself, my faith,” Mooney said. “It was somewhere between my small ACE community and my larger school and parish communities in Pensacola that I increasingly felt the tug to consider the priesthood more seriously.”
Mooney spent two years in Pensacola as part of ACE, and then stayed for an additional three years at his post at Pensacola Catholic High School. While his ACE community members were gone, the local community continued to lead Mooney toward his vocation.
“In relationships with faculty members, students, and local families, I began to see clearly my gifts—enthusiasm, encouragement of others, ability to listen, desire to share the faith and proclaim God’s love,” he said.
After a discernment retreat in Rome at the end of 2012, Mooney said he began to consider more seriously the idea of returning to Notre Dame and entering Moreau Seminary. At the culmination of the 2013-14 school year, and through the encouragement of his students and fellow teachers, Mooney made his decision.
“I remember vividly the afternoon in April that I received the phone call inviting me to join Holy Cross,” he said. “My years in the classroom, founded firmly on my Notre Dame education, provided the grace-filled momentum God knew I needed to take that next step in coming to Holy Cross."
As the oldest member of his seminary class at Notre Dame, Mooney knows well that the call to religious life can come in various ways. For him, it came through his time in Catholic schools.
"I do not regret a single step in my journey of discernment," Mooney said. "I carry with me my years serving the youth of our Catholic schools and the relationships I fostered along the way—God willing, these will only continue to inform my formation in Holy Cross and make me a priest committed to that same zeal of Fr. Moreau.”