Grant Monnig of Glasgow, Mo., is one of four men entering the Glenmary formation program in the fall of 2014. He is a priesthood candidate who has begun studies in the pre-theology program at St. Meinrad Seminary this fall. He graduated from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., this past spring with majors in history and theology.

Grant, 23, was born and raised Catholic in his small rural hometown as the oldest of three children of two teachers. "My parents had an enormous effect on my religious upbringing and eventual desire to become a priest," he says. "From my mom I learned the importance of turning to God in prayer when in need, and I always admired my dad's willingness to help others without seeking any return. I think it was a combination of these influences—prayer and service—that really gave me the base for my vocation."

He adds that he realizes now how big a role his faith had in shaping his life during his childhood and grade school years, whether it was gathering around the Advent wreath during December, saying the rosary a couple of weeks in October, or going to First Friday adoration and benediction with his classmates. He first thought about being a priest as a sixth-grader, when his class went on a field trip to a diocesan career day: "I can remember making a promise to God back then that I would become a priest. The idea remained in the back of my mind." It was near the end of his senior year in high school when Grant felt a strong sense that God was "calling me to serve him."

Even though his hometown is mostly Catholic, though, he had a lot of experience interacting with other faiths growing up, because one of his best friends came from a non-religious family and the other was African American and the son of a Baptist preacher. He says he had to very quickly get used to explaining and answering questions about Catholicism.

During his summers while in college, Grant worked at a steel galvanizing plant in Glasgow and learned more than he expected from the experience. "The work was hot and brutal, and many of my fellow employees had been in prison at some point in their lives. Yet at the most random times in sweltering heat and humidity, I would find myself listening to these men talk about their faith and answering their questions about Catholicism. There was just something awesome about talking to these ordinary men about God in the midst of our labor. My experiences with these workers ultimately helped influence my decision to apply to Glenmary, because there is a part of me that just wants to minister to people like them: the ordinary working poor of rural America."

He became involved in a variety of activities during college, such as holding leadership positions in the social justice club (including advocacy for issues such as immigration reform) and pro-life club (including participation in the D.C. march for life), as well as being a walk-on member of the lacrosse team.

Two other volunteer experiences had a strong impact on him, too. The first, after freshman year, was tutoring low-income youth in Kansas City, which was both hard and meaningful. And the second, after sophomore year, was as part of a service-trip group doing work—such as chopping firewood—for low-income elderly people in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. As he helped deliver wood to their extremely run-down residences, he was forced to think about how poverty was not just an urban issue but a rural one.

Afterwards, when he went home to his own rural area, he began to really notice the poverty in his county. And he began to look at ways to integrate his desire to serve the rural poor with his dream of becoming a priest—a dream that had been building in him.

Then in his junior year of college, after meeting regularly with a spiritual director, he felt fairly sure he wanted to enter a religious order. He just didn't know which one. However, when he visited Glenmary Father Steve Pawelk at the Maynardville, Tenn., mission and saw a map that showed all the places in the United States that still had no Catholic presence, he felt that God was calling him to help. After praying to God for direction, Grant realized with complete clarity that he wanted to apply to Glenmary.

He says that things are going really well so far at the seminary. "I just hope that one day I will be able to serve the people of the U.S. rural missions as a priest."