Putting On The New Man: Peter Whitfield, Matthew Vitacca, Jesse Schmitt Profiles of New Seminarians

By: Jason Songe, Seminarian, Archdiocese of New Orleans

Putting On The New Man is a series of the NDS Blog that will introduce the new faces you see in the seminary.



My name is Peter Whitfield. I am a first-year theology seminarian for the Diocese of Dallas. I want to be a priest because I have a desire to help people get to Heaven. I love to read, especially fiction, philosophy, and spiritual books. Some of my favorite authors are Flannery O’Connor and Elizabeth Anscombe. For spiritual reading, I enjoy The Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe(my favorite Saint), and The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah. An interesting fact about me is that I was “unschooled” K-12, then officially dropped out of high school to get a G.E.D. This makes me a homeschool dropout. My favorite movie is A Hidden Life, and one of my favorite scripture verses is Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” My vocation story is a lot like that. God knocked. With his help, I answered.



Hey everyone! My name is Matthew Vitacca. I’m from the Diocese of Shreveport, and I’m starting Pre-Theology 1 here at Notre Dame. I want to become a priest because I have a desire to bring the people of my community closer to God in the way that I believe God is calling me to serve Him. I think the phrase “took a few detours along the way” is the best way to describe my vocation story in seven words or less. My favorite saint is St. John Paul II, and my favorite scripture verse is “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners” (Matthew 9:13). I really enjoyed reading “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth” by Scott Hahn. The most interesting thing that has ever happened to me was the time I was able to serve at the tomb of St. John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica. Finally, my favorite movie is “Kung Fu Panda,” and my hobbies include playing soccer, fencing, and scuba diving.



My name is Jesse Schmitt, and I am preparing to enter my first year of theology here at Notre Dame Seminary. I’m studying for the Diocese of Biloxi, and I live about an hour away in Picayune, MS, although I am originally from the Westbank. I feel greatly inspired by the thought of being a witness to the Kingdom of Heaven in the most radical manner, namely by giving my life to the celebration of the sacraments. I see this to be the highest form of witness to the truth of the Gospel, and this is my main reason for wanting to be a priest. The first time that I ever thought about being a priest was during the spring semester of my freshman year of college, when I was given the opportunity to participate in a FOCUS-sponsored pilgrimage to Rome. It was there that I had two of the most interesting experiences of my life. First, at one of the Pope’s audiences, I was able to stand so close to him that I could have reached out and shaken his hand, and, second, I was able to climb the Holy Stairs, the stairs upon which Our Lord ascended on the way to His trial before entering into His Passion. These experiences, along with several others that I had in Rome, prompted me to wonder what the priesthood was all about. However, it wasn’t until the Christmas break of my sophomore year that I really felt that God was calling me to this vocation. Since then, my vocation story can best be summarized using the words of the prophet Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”(1 SM 3:10). One of the things that has helped me to “listen” to the Lord’s voice has been reading about the lives of the saints. Two of my favorite books that I’ve read about them are The Little Flowers of St. Francis [of Assisi] and St. John Bosco by F.A. Forbes. I found the lives of these two men, who are two of my favorite saints, to be very captivating and inspirational. My all-time favorite spiritual book, however, is definitely True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. This is the book that has had the greatest impact on my spiritual life. Since first entering the seminary, my main hobbies have become reading, especially spiritual classics and philosophical texts, studying languages, and learning about historical places and objects.

About the Author: Jason Songe, Seminarian, Archdiocese of New Orleans


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