By Jennifer Barton | Catholic News Service
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) — Johnathan and Michael Hickey share a great many things — hobbies and interests, musicality, their love of Corgis.
They even share the same face — they are identical twins.
It’s not unusual for twins to share just about everything, but in the Hickeys’ case there is something else: The brothers share a calling to the priesthood.
The twins, studying at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, are in separate years of formation since Johnathan discerned his vocation a year earlier than his brother.
In high school, they both considered a call to the priestly life, becoming involved in the Melchizedek Project and attending “Come and See” retreats. However, both chose to study criminal justice at Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne (now Purdue University Fort Wayne).
Looking back, they remember wanting to be police officers from childhood. The “cool equipment” that police officers carry, the cars, the uniforms, the television show “Cops” — and most importantly, the aspect of helping others — stirred in them a desire to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Michael said he still feels that call to help people, which he said fits into priestly ministry.
In college, the brothers chose studies that complemented the priesthood. The main differences in their paths were their college minors. Johnathan minored in philosophy and psychology; Michael in psychology and sociology.
Their paths diverged again with their college internships, “and that’s where I kind of leapt into seminary as well,” Johnathan stated. His internships took him into the probation side of law enforcement.
One year he helped with drug testing for male parolees, occasionally talking to those who tested positive for drug usage about their life situations and the choices they were making.
“I think where I brought Christ into the probation,” he said, “was just the silent witness of praying for people and being like St. Joseph; just a silent, distant prayerful source right there.”
The brothers were on the fence about their priestly discernment, but Johnathan decided to try it immediately after graduating from college.
Michael began working as a public safety officer for Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne. The hospital campus is located directly across from St. Jude Church, which boasts a 24-hour adoration chapel.
“I ended up working night shift for about a year and a half and it was a blast. You see some crazy stuff. It was amazing, though,” he said.
One particular encounter that stands out in his memory was when a woman was brought into the hospital in the midst of a psychotic breakdown. Everyone present tried to calm her, but she continued screaming and asking everyone if they were Catholic.
Michael told her he was and she asked if he would pray with her.
“I’m walking through the ER holding her hand, praying the Our Father out loud, and in the hustle and bustle of the ER, that’s something you don’t see. Kind of a calming presence,” he told Today’s Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Michael applied for a job as a city police officer, and though he passed the test, he didn’t get an interview. That was when he knew it was time to give the seminary a chance.
“I felt like I was in the car, hitting the gas, hitting the brake and pulling the emergency brake. It’s like I wasn’t going anywhere with discernment and that was the next logical step,” he added.
The twins both say they hope to put their criminal justice backgrounds to work in their future priesthoods.
Johnathan said he hopes to look into prison ministry and Michael said his experience at the hospital helped him to “respond to calls to help people literally at the worst day of their life. … And so being able to be that way that they can find Christ, I think that’s very helpful.”
He spoke of how he often doused his hands with holy water and kept his rosary handy during night shifts.
While the twins are so similar they can nearly speak for each other, their service to God and the church is vastly different.
As Johnathan put it: “We tell this all the time: We don’t need two Michaels or we don’t need two Johns … we’re each individuals for a reason.”