By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

It’s pretty much a given that the presidents of the fan clubs for priests and future priests are usually their moms.

Let’s face it, entering a seminary is a life-altering experience, and the mostly young men who do this need as much home support as they can get. That doesn’t just include parents. If they have brothers and sisters, their support is equally comforting.

Colin McGonigal, who entered St. Charles Seminary as a second year college student, and Marco Casanova, who entered in first year college, each have a brother and sister in their corners. {{more}}

In the case of McGonigal, who is from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield and the son of Jim and Marie McGonigal, that is younger brother and sister Ryan, 17, and Megan, 12.

They were both aware of his intention since his days at Msgr. Bonner High School and his freshman year at Seton Hall University and Delaware County Community College.

“I was a little bit surprised, but thought it would be very good for him. He’d been talking about it for a while,” Megan said. “I don’t think it will affect our relationship; we just won’t see him as often. We will treat him pretty much the same; we don’t argue very much. Having a priest in the family might bring us closer to God.”

As to whether or not she has considered a religious vocation, she said, “Maybe someday. I do think about it now and again, but I think I would rather be married.”

Ryan, who is a junior at Springfield High School, said, “I’ve known this since his junior year in high school, but he wanted to try college before ultimately deciding to enter the seminary.”

He and his brother played a bit of baseball and basketball together and probably won’t have as much opportunity for that now, but his entering the seminary has had a beneficial effect on their relationship.

“I think it brings us a lot closer together as a family,” Ryan said. “I feel I can trust him with anything.”

As for his own future, “I haven’t decided,” Ryan said. “I personally feel it (the seminary) might not be for me.”

For Marco Casanova, family separation means a lot more than a seminary’s wrought iron fence. He’s the son of Noe and Mary Jane Casanova of Kingwood, Texas, and his brother and sister are slightly older; Cristal is 24 and Noe is 23.

His entering the seminary is absolutely no surprise because he began talking about it in kindergarten. Growing up in St. Martha Parish in Kingwood, the idea stuck, and he made his final decision about the time he was a high school sophomore.

The only real surprise for the family is that he chose St. Charles Seminary. He liked everything he’d heard about it, but this means if his discernment comes to fruition he will be a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, halfway across the country.

Watching him grow “was just unbelievable,” his brother Noe said. “He wanted this absolutely since he was 4, and this bonds our family together much more so.”

As to why his brother chose a seminary so far from home, he said, “I think it’s the seminary program, the way they look at the Church. Marco knows what he wants and we support whatever decisions he makes. We know he will have to serve in Philadelphia, but we will visit as much as possible.”

“It’s great. I feel lucky to have a brother who wants to be a priest,” Cristal said. She came East with her parents to drop him off at St. Charles, and when she saw it, “I knew immediately why he chose it,” she said.

In spite of distances, “in our future relationships I hope nothing changes,” she said. “It is really not that far.”

Although neither Cristal nor Noe have entertained the thought of a religious vocation, they admire it in their brother. “I look up to his strength,” Cristal said.

Before the decade is out, Ryan, Megan, Cristal and Noe will all have a brother who is a priest, should Colin and Marco’s discernment come to fruition. They will be very much there for their families’ weddings, baptisms and, yes, funerals too.

Will they call them Father Casanova and Father McGonigal? Probably not. One suspects they’ll still be Colin and Marco.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.