Boundless confidence in the Lord

Seminarian Michael Bruno’s discernment story began when he was 16 in his native India. Since that time, he’s traveled to the United States, earned a Master’s degree, and crowdsourced to raise money to pay off student loans, all on his journey to Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

Detroit – Every time God closes a door, He opens a window.

Michael Bruno is proof that sometimes those windows are opened half a world away.

Bruno, a 27-year old parishioner from St. Fabian in Farmington Hills, entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary this past week to study for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Every person Bruno encounters in the hallways sees him with a smile on his face, saying they’re glad to see him starting this chapter of his life.

His journey to the seminary is a story in and of itself.

A place with cold winters

Bruno was born in Madanapalle in southern India, part of the Diocese of Kadaba, to a Catholic family. Attending Catholic school, Bruno first felt a call to the priesthood when he was 16.

“In my diocese back home, they had enough priests in the seminary for the next six years,” Bruno said. “So they closed the seminary to new applicants. Thinking they were shutting the doors on my chance to become a priest, I was scared, thinking maybe God is calling me to marriage.”

Earning his Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology in 2011, Bruno decided to continue his education in the United States. In the Fall of 2014, Bruno arrived in Southfield, Mich. to earn is Master’s in Information Technology at Lawrence Technological University.

“I had schools from the East Coast, the West Coast, who wanted me,” Bruno said. “But for some reason, I chose a school with cold winters.”

Walking the path

When Bruno arrived in Southfield, one of the first things he did was begin another journey – this time by foot.

“I arrived in Southfield on Monday, and on Saturday, I had a desire to find a church,” Bruno said. “So I started walking, trying to find a parish. With a rosary in hand, I ended up walking four or five miles — I don’t think I was using my GPS that well – until I found St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills.”

St. Fabian Pastor, Fr. Jeff Day, heard about this student walking miles to get to the parish and made sure the doors were open.

“At St. Fabian, I met some friends – Daniel King and his wife – who took me under their wings,” Bruno said. “They picked me up to go to Mass, taught me how to drive a car, helped me get my driver’s license. So much was happening to me that was a coincidence, but it was really God’s providence.”

Bruno got involved in St. Fabian parish and met other young adult Catholics in the area. His friends testify there is something about his character and disposition that makes him stand out.

“When I first met Michael, I could see he had a special gift for really allowing the love of Christ to flow through him to others,” said Tim Likes, a transplant from Illinois who met Bruno at St. Fabian. “When I see Michael, it’s like being friends with Jesus.”

Bruno praying before the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, Bruno’s favorite spot on the seminary’s campus. Bruno attributes all the blessings he’s received on his journey to God’s providence.

The call comes back

Bruno was getting into the groove as a Lawrence Tech student, worshiping at St. Fabian and seemingly making friends wherever he went.

But while singing the hymn “The Summons” at St. Fabian, Bruno felt the call once again.

“I was in St. Fabian, and the church was singing ‘The Summons,’ ‘If you come and follow me,’ and I was thinking, ‘Is it true God is calling me again?’”

Bruno met with his spiritual director, Fr. Patrick Gonyeau, then associate pastor of National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak.

“Right out of the gate, when you meet Michael, you could just tell this man had a very special relationship with God,” Fr. Gonyeau said. “The way he communicated, trying to walk with the Lord and have a serious relationship with Jesus.”

In March 2016, Bruno attended a discernment retreat at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he felt “at home.”

Bruno told Fr. Tim Birney, then Director of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, about his student loans from his studies in India. Bruno informed Fr. Birney the financial service provider in India who provided his students loans wouldn’t allow him to defer his loans so he could enter the seminary.

The fundraiser

Bruno continued studying at Lawrence Tech and got a job as an IT analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

His plan was to pay off the debt as soon as possible, then see if God was still calling him.

Then, around Easter 2017, Fr. Joe Horn, the new Director of Priestly Vocations, called.

Fr. Horn encouraged Bruno to apply for the seminary. He was accepted July 12. But that began a whole new challenge — paying off the remainder of his student loans; $12,500.

“Fr. Joe asked how far I am in paying off the debt,” Bruno said. “I told him I was halfway through, that’s when Fr. Joe asked to see what the church would do. I said, ‘Father, I people don’t know me here.’ Fr. Joe told me, for God, nothing is impossible.”

Bruno and fellow young adult Likes set up a You Caring page, a crowd-sourcing fundraiser website, to raise the $12,500. The page went live Aug. 3.

“We prayed for a week, deciding to give it a shot, seeing how generous people are,” Bruno said. “Personally, I was thinking it was never going to work.”

Likes was more optimistic, thinking within a month they would get close to the goal. They were both wrong — it only took 12 days.

“In the first five hours of taking donations, we had someone give a $7,000 donation, anonymously,” Likes said. “I remember setting up the site, going to a Bible study in Milford, and when I got out I received a text, saying someone donated $7,000.”

It only took 35 donors 12 days to raise $12,500.

For a moment I had to pinch myself, realizing I reached the goal,” Bruno said. “I was thinking the whole situation was a little ambitious. I was praying at Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, sobbing, thinking this is all I had. I fondly remember a priest telling me, ‘If God’s providence has brought you this far, just trust in His providence, He will lead you through anything.”

No coincidences with God

Bruno jokes that being from India, he’s bound to be a “doubting Thomas” from time to time, a reference to St. Thomas the Apostle who first brought Christianity to India.

From being turned away from the priesthood in his home country, to coming to Michigan, to hearing the call once again, and overcoming what seemed a tremendous obstacle, Bruno chalks everything to God’s providence.

“Psalm 46 says, ‘Be still and know that I am God,’” Bruno said. “God can never change, but all around us keeps changing.”

Fr. Gonyeau said the struggles Bruno faced, and how he overcame them, speaks to the awesome witness of laying one’s burdens before God.

“Michael’s story is a great reminder that God is always listening. And when we ask for His will, He will moves mountains,”  Fr. Gonyeau said.

Bruno can get emotional when thinking of all the people who’ve helped him out during his journey, but insists every person he’s met along his journey was part of God’s plan.

Bruno doesn’t believe in coincidence. He believes in God’s providence.

“Every time there was a challenge, I took it to the Lord, because I didn’t have an answer,” Bruno said. “Discovering my vocation was exciting for me, giving everything to the Lord is exciting for me and my life. But I can’t thank all the people who’ve helped me enough.

“We have boundless confidence in the Lord. Knowing He has a plan for us, and we just need to find it.”