My Discernment Journey
with the Claretian Missionaries, CMF
My name is Joseph Michael Kunkle. I am 25 years old and I am discerning to become a Religious Priest or Consecrated Brother for the community of the Claretian Missionaries of the Province of United States and Canada. I am the eldest child out of three boys and continue to live with my wonderful parents. Their names are Warren G. Kunkle III and Elga Nancy Kunkle.
Currently, I am attending East Los Angeles Community College in the city of Monterey Park. My major is Child Development. At the same time, I am on track for graduating with my Associate's Degree of Transfer with Early Childhood Education this Spring of 2020. I am a student worker at East Los Angeles College with the Student Services Department with the Early College Programming. My job title is working as a Student Ambassador at our Information Booth, providing student ID Cards and answering questions. But at the same time, some of the students tend to seek out our information booth as they start their academic journey. I discovered the Claretian Missionaries at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the City of Montebello for a Marian Shrine Blessing.
Later at the reception, a priest friend introduced me to Father Shahaya Rubiston, CMF who is the vocation director of the Claretian Missionaries in the western part of the United States. From there, Fr. Rubiston and I stayed connected and he invited me to attend a weekend retreat called “Come and See” during this accompaniment experience. I felt welcomed and got to experience the life of the community. During my experience with the Claretian Missionaries, I have enjoyed how the formation team keeps up with the Monthly Days of recollection. There we discuss our discernment journeys with spiritual growth.
In December of 2019, I had the opportunity to have a beautiful encounter in participating in the weekend Posada Mission in Fresno. I had the opportunity to learn about what it is like to live in the farming community for the population seasonal workers that travel from Latin America, many of whom are undocumented families.
I started to discern my calling to the priesthood since I received my First Holy Communion and became an Altar Server at my home parish, Saint Thomas Aquinas in Monterey Park. I never knew about any signs or potential calling until I went to my first Mass of Priestly Ordination in the Cathedral of Our Lady the Angeles in Los Angeles. Before the closing prayer Cardinal Roger Mahoney asked the faithful to pray for an increase in Religious Vocations in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and I began to feel the spark of the Holy Spirit. Being an altar server gave me a closer relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Mass.
My discernment has given me plenty of challenges since for any human being life can be difficult. But thanks to a very good Spiritual Director, Fr. Gerry O’ Brien, a former pastor from Assumption of the Blessed Virgen Mary in Pasadena. Each of our meetings always starts with an opening prayer and then we have our meeting. There we talk about vocations and discernment in very different and elaborate ideas. As always he gives me some at-home assignments like researching about different religious orders besides discerning the diocesan priesthood.
I always want to be near Los Angeles. Fr. Gerry encouraged me to attend an annual silent retreat in Mater Dolorosa Retreat House in Sierra Madre, California. I had the privilege of being sponsored by the parish. During my time of spiritual direction experience, Fr. Gerry O’Brien took me and my parents out on a day retreat up to Saint Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, California. There we had more one-on-one time. During my visit, I had the opportunity to speak with the vocation director for the order of Saint Benedict and talked about considering becoming a monk and a life of silence in living a contemplative life. There I decided to discern more time of exploring my calling to becoming a priest or becoming a consecrated brother. I always receive support from my spiritual director, my parents, siblings, church family, and close friends which give me extra support in finding my calling.
While discerning as a 25-year-old college student, the question that I always ponder is: Is this going to make me happy? This is where I put my faith into action and put every day in God’s hands saying in my heart. “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will. Send me!” (Isaiah chapter 6:8-9). This is my prayer each day. I repeat it over and over, praying, “Lord if it is your will, guide me along the way.” Spending time discerning my vocation has given me a better understanding that discerning with the Claretian Missionaries has given me some sense of peace. My spiritual director should be proud that I chose a route to the religious community of the Claretian Missionaries.
There were clues when I attended the annual LA Religious Education Congress and encountered priest friends who encouraged me to think about it and pray if it is my vocation. Some other clues that God gave me were: watching videos on social media and YouTube and hearing what the life of a seminarian is like and what being a priest is like; talking to a priest about my discernment; getting to know how they were called to this ministry in giving their life to the Church and for God. Besides talking or watching through social media, daily prayer helps sincerely asking God and Our Blessed Mother and offering total trust, seeking guidance and accepting the call. I love the way our Merciful God gives a sense of peace filled with love.
My favorite scripture passage related to this is from the Gospel of Saint Matthew chapter 7:7-8. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.” This scripture passage inspired me when I attend a Youth Day event in 2011. The Gospel inspired me to discern the path of considering applying to the priesthood. I have asked God for something that is leading to this calling and I admire how the Claretian Missionaries help young men discern their unique calling that could lead to Ordination, Consecrated life or Married life.
The gifts that I use each day is the “Fire” of my smile, encouraging people to have a great day no matter what the outcome is. They receive a gift of hope and joy in their daily life. There are many ways to explain using the special gift of my talents, but my talent is mainly music. I focus more on percussion instruments and conducting a choir with the basic fundamentals of understanding music. I currently play an African Bass Drum called the Djembe with other key instruments that make very soft rain or make sounds in very creative ways. Music is another form of my prayer life, of spending quality time with God and singing praise for his glory.
My deepest passion while discerning is also working closely with children with special needs. This includes developmental and physical disabilities from all ages. I think all men have some form of a gift or talent to share in this vocation. The motto of the founder of the Claretian Missionaries, Saint Anthony Mary Claret, is “We are men on fire with the Love of God.” This fire gives birth to a religious vocation that can be called to Consecrated, Ordained Life or a Call to Marriage.
The Vocation Directors Fr. Rubi & Fr. Byron are ready to accompany you in your discernment and help you find a spiritual director if you don't have one. Contact them today!