By Dominique Johnson
For some, the call to religious life comes in their youth. For others, the call comes later in life. For St. Paul the Apostle parishioner Nolin Ainsworth, he began feeling called while in college.
Ainsworth, who will be entering a year of postulancy with the Franciscans this fall, shared how he had fallen a year from the Catholic Church in his youth, but in his mid-20s found his way back. The 2009 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate said it was in a small non-denominational bible study at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Ainsworth started researching more into the Catholic Church.
In his reading, he learned more about the saints. Saints whose lives inspired Ainsworth were St. Catherine Drexel, St. Damian of Molokai and St. Francis of Assisi. “These saints appealed to me because these saints had power of some sort or influence, and they were willing to lay it down for the will of God.”
In 2016, while in his college apartment, he felt called to go deeper into his faith and began looking into religious vocations. He took an online survey through the Vision Vocation Network, which matched him with the Franciscan Order. Through the same website, Ainsworth contacted the Franciscan vocation office and began discerning a vocation.
He found out that Franciscans were serving in the Diocese of Fairbanks, he learned more about the order through those priests and made trips to Chicago during the orders “come and see” weekends.
In his discernment process, he was connected with a spiritual director through the Franciscan order and began praying more for guidance. After graduating from UAA with a degree in journalism, Ainsworth interned with the Catholic Newspaper of the Archdiocese Anchorage, The Catholic Anchor.
In 2017, he returned to Juneau to work for the Juneau Empire and was involved with different ministries at St. Paul the Apostle Church.
Following a weekend in Chicago last year, that Ainsworth decided to apply for the postulancy program. This June, he was one of three men accepted for the program at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Maryland.
During the next year, Ainsworth will learn more about the religious life and will keep the schedule of a Franciscan Friar of prayer, meals, ministry and recreation. During the period, the postulants will be discerning their calling.
For those discerning the vocation of the priesthood, “Don’t be afraid of the idea of serving the Church in consecrated life,” Ainsworth said. He shared that in his experience, when he started talking with his family and other people in the community about the priesthood, he felt supported.