ROCKVILLE, Md. — Paulist Deacon Evan Cummings’ vocation crept up on him while he was trying to avoid doing his homework. After graduating from St. Joseph Catholic High School in 2009, Deacon Cummings, a Clearfield native, became a Utah State University mechanical engineering student. One day, with some grueling engineering homework ahead of him, Deacon Cummings suddenly had the idea to research more about his religion, he said. So he pulled up Wikipedia on his computer and began reading about the Catholic Church and its religious orders, including the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, also known as the Paulist Fathers.
Looking back, Deacon Cummings said he can now see “the Holy Spirit was waiting for me to get to the p’s and was very intent on me reading the Paulist article. It was like he put flashing lights around it to make sure it stuck.”
“In hindsight, I can see it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to a conversion in life and a new direction,” he said.
Eight years later, Deacon Cummings has made his final promises to the Paulist order. He is expected to be ordained a priest in the Paulist order in May. Deacon Cummings “fell in love” with the charism of the order and could not be happier, he said.
“I am overjoyed to have made my final professions,” he said. “It felt so great to say to God, ‘Yes, God, here’s what I want to do for you and your people.’ I feel incredibly settled, very still; it was exactly what it is supposed to be.”
When he had that first Wikipedia experience, Deacon Cummings had already started to become disillusioned with engineering, wondering if he really wanted to enter that field. Then, “I had that Paulist thing going on in the back of my mind the whole time,” he said. “So I said to God, ‘I’m going to shut up for a while and let you do the talking,’ and that opened up the gateway to discernment.”
Once Deacon Cummings discerned his vocation, he changed his major to philosophy and finished up at USU. That fall he entered the novitiate seminary at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C. and made his first promises to the Paulist order the following summer. He has spent the last five years serving with the Paulist order and studying at the Catholic University of America. He spent a pastoral year at Newman Hall-Holy Spirit Parish, the Catholic campus ministry served by the Paulist Fathers at the University of California at Berkeley.
He was ordained a transitional deacon on Sept. 1 and is currently serving at St. Elizabeth Parish, Rockville, Md. and taking five classes at Catholic University. He is looking forward to being ordained next May and to receiving a Master of Divinity degree.
“It’s the light at the end of the tunnel at seminary and to do fulltime ministry – I’m excited to do that in a way I feel called to do it and to be in a parish and to be with people pastorally,” he said. Deacon Cummings, who will find out his assignment next spring, said he has a particular love of campus ministry but is happy to go wherever he is needed.
He advises those who are discerning a call to the priesthood to cultivate a strong prayer life where they can listen to the Holy Spirit in life and in the people around them. He suggests they use the Liturgy of the Hours, a set of prayers often called the Breviary or Divine Office. He also recommends getting in touch with the vocations director of the order they are thinking about joining.
Deacon Cummings’ parents, members of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Layton, are proud of the path their son has chosen.
“The overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for the opportunity to be ringside for this,” said his father, Kevin Cummings. “It has certainly caused us to reflect on our own faith and our own engagement with the Church and living the Catholic life.”
His mother, Kit Cummings, said while her son has become more serious and focused in some areas, in other ways he’s still her child “and still wants Legos® for Christmas.”
Deacon Cummings may not be the only family member with a permanent connection to the Paulist order. When he made his first promises, his older brother Ian promised he would get a tattoo of the Paulist emblem if Evan completed the process. When Evan made his final promises in August, he reminded his brother of that commitment. True to his word, Ian is planning to get a tattoo of the Paulist symbol, Kevin Cummings said.