Meet Our Seminarians

Catholic Diocese of St Petersburg Office of Vocations

Louis Candelaria

Isaac Cruz

Jorel de Guzman

Alexander Fleming

Deacon Christian Galvan

Tyler Gates

John Paul Grabowski

Benjamin Harris

Caleb Malec

Austin Smith

Thuan Tran

Vincent Washburn

Shawn Young

Louis Candelaria

Hello, my name is Louie Candelaria. I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin but have spent most of my life in Tampa, Florida. I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida as a Communication Major. My parents are Sherrie and Lou Candelaria. I have 4 incredible siblings named Tom, Jessica, Julia and Sister Josephina.

I love to be physically active, read, play card games and my favorite show is “The Office.” I had a very successful career in Software Sales, but I knew in my heart that wasn’t the Lords’ plan for me. After discerning for almost two years I said, “YES” to what God was calling me to and I am excited to begin my first year of Seminary Formation at St. Vincent De Paul’s in Boynton Beach, Florida.

What excites me most about becoming a Priest is sharing Jesus’s ministry with members of my parish and anyone else in my sphere of influence. There are many lost sheep in this world, and I hope God will use me as an instrument of light to bring his mercy, healing and love to those in need.

Seminary:St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary

Studies:Pre-Theology I

Home Parish:St. Raphael, St. Petersburg

Isaac Cruz

Isaac Cruz was born in Deland, Florida. When he was 10, he relocated to New Jersey with his mom, dad and sister. He grew up in the Assemblies of God Church, a Pentecostal denomination, for most of his middle school and high school years.

In 2010, he relocated again with his family, this time to Clearwater, Florida. He felt a call to enter the Catholic Church in 2011 but dismissed the idea out of hand. After struggling with his faith for five years and going through person struggles for two of those years, Isaac felt a call again to enter the Catholic Church and began to discern and research the faith and his misconceptions of the faith in 2015.

In the summer of 2017, He attended Mass at St. Michael the Archangel, in Clearwater, and soon after enrolled in the parishes RCIA program that fall. He began to discern a call to the priesthood shortly after that.

He enjoys hanging out with his niece, watching Red Sox and Patriots games, reading history books and cooking.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Junior Year

Home Parish:St. Michael the Archangel, Clearwater

Jorel de Guzman

I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. Along with my mom, dad, and sister, I spent the entirety of my life up until seminary within the Diocese of Saint Petersburg. I began my schooling at Most Holy Redeemer and then graduated from Mother Teresa Catholic School at Saint Timothy’s. After middle school, my high school education consisted of four years at Jesuit High School in Tampa. While in high school, I worked at Panera Bread and also worked as a parker for Tampa Sports Authority at Raymond James Stadium. I am an avid reader and enjoy kayaking out on the ponds at the seminary. A huge basketball and football fan, I try to play any sport possible in my seminary attire.

Ever since fourth grade, my family and I have made Mary Help of Christians our home parish. My attraction to the priesthood, especially the Diocesan life, has found its root in my upbringing in this Diocese. In my discernment, the realization that I am asked to serve the very people that have helped me get into seminary has been nothing short of humbling.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Sophomore Year

Home Parish:Mary Help of Christians, Tampa

Alexander Fleming

I was born and raised in Tampa and graduated from Robinson High School in South Tampa in 2019. I was baptized and confirmed at Christ the King Parish in south Tampa in 2020. I worked as a cook at a local Tijuana Flats, I worked there for three years and left to go in to seminary.

I’ve always been close to my family; my mom and dad, grandparents and my brother all have played a huge role in my journey to becoming Catholic and discerning the priesthood. I first felt Gods call to discernment when I was in the RCIA program to become a Catholic. At first I thought it was just an interest in what the priesthood was, but as time moved on I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of becoming a priest. Going to Mass and a daily prayer life were two major ways that I have been discerning the call.

I love to read, especially Ernest Hemmingway novels or Sherlock Holmes stories. During the pandemic, I started to take pictures with an old film camera that I inherited and have been taking photos of the native wildlife in Florida.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Sophomore Year

Home Parish:Christ the King, Tampa

Deacon Christian Galvan

I was born in Medford, New Jersey in 1987, though my family moved to Riverview, Florida when I was 3 years old. Since then, my family and I have been members of St. Stephen Parish. My entire family is of Mexican descent.

I attended Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa for middle school and H.B. Plant High School. I graduated with my B.S. in Civil Engineering from University of Notre Dame (GO IRISH) in 2009 and my M.B.A. from The University of Tampa in 2011. I worked for two years as a civil engineer and then three years as a construction project manager before discerning the call to priesthood and entering seminary in 2016. Some of my hobbies include singing, cooking, and going to Rays games. I’m also passionate about youth and family ministry in parish life.

When I began discerning the priesthood, I got to know several priests my own age and saw them living their vocations in total joy. Ultimately, Jesus allowed me to see my myself more fulfilled after 40 years as a priest than 40 years in an engineering career. Bearing that in my heart, I made the call to apply. It has been six years since making that call and I have loved this journey. I’m entering my Fourth Theology year at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida and anticipate priestly ordination for our diocese on May 20, 2023!

Seminary:St. Vincent Regional Seminary

Studies:4th Theology

Home Parish:St. Stephen, Riverview

Tyler Gates

I was born in Albany, NY, and lived there for 11 months, before moving to Pinellas County. I graduated from Countryside High School in 2015. I went to Florida State University and majored in Biological Science. While at FSU I was very active in the Catholic Student Union which ultimately led me to say yes to the call of the Lord. After graduating college, I moved back to the Tampa Bay Area and started working in the operating room as an OR Care Technician at Mease Countryside Hospital.

I felt the call to the priesthood during my Junior year of high school. However, after 7 years I finally said yes to this calling that the Lord had been inviting me to. One of the many things that attract me to the priesthood is the opportunity to be able to be a part of different families’ lives and to be able to provide the sacraments to them.

My home parish is Christ the King in Tampa. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, being at the beach, the pool, or on the golf course. I also enjoy watching FSU sports, the Buccaneers, and the Lightning.

Seminary:St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary

Studies:Pre-Theology II

Home Parish:Christ the King, Tampa

John Paul Grabowski

Hello, my name is John Paul Grabowski, and I was born in Binghamton, NY. After high school, I moved down to Florida from PA to study Aerospace Engineering for two years. Then I transferred over to USF where I studied Industrial Engineering for three years before transferring to seminary.

I am the fourth of five children of my lovely parents, Joseph and Alaine and my home parish is the Catholic Student Center at USF – Tampa. In the past, I have worked for the Boy Scouts, Lowe’s, Allegiant Air, and Busch Gardens.

In my spare time, I enjoy being with friends, playing the Ukulele, gaming, walking in the outdoors, and collecting LEGOs. Most importantly, I was attracted to the priesthood because of the total self-giving of different priests I have met and the sheer love for God that they emit.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Sophomore Year

Home Parish:Catholic Student Center, USF - Tampa

Benjamin Harris

Hello! My name is Benjamin Harris, and I am in III Philosophy (junior year) at St. Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, Louisiana. I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and I grew up in Hudson, Florida. I currently call Weeki Wachee, Florida home. I come from a Catholic family consisting of my parents, Stephen and Jennifer, and I have three siblings: an older and younger brother, and a younger sister (Nicholas, Timothy, and Alexandria respectively). My home parish is St. Anthony the Abbot in Brooksville.

I graduated from Hudson High School in Hudson, Florida in 2015 and briefly studied theology online at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2016. Before seminary, I worked a few different jobs, from fast food, retail, senior living, and most recently, highway construction and maintenance. My hobbies include fishing, cooking, sports, swimming, and reading in my hammock, and my interests include, appropriately, theology, spirituality, and philosophy.

Growing up, I was lukewarm in my faith, the real attraction to the priesthood came after I graduated high school when I started taking my faith more seriously. I found myself strongly attracted to the way that priests live their lives in imitation of Christ’s life.

If you see me around, ask me more! God bless.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Junior Year

Home Parish:St. Anthony the Abbot, Brooksville

Caleb Malec

My name is Caleb Malec. I am a parishioner at St. Stephen Parish in Riverview. I am the 4th of 5 children born in New Jersey. I grew up here in Florida where I attended St. Stephen Catholic School and graduated from Riverview High School in 2018. Growing up I loved to spend time playing sports, such as biking, motocross and lacrosse, with my siblings and friends. As I got older sports turned into more adventurous activities and traveling. Right out of high school I became a missionary with NET Ministries. The following year I continued as a missionary for Life Teen, living at Camp Covecrest. These two years were important in my formation of living the Christian life.

Thankfully, Catholicism has always been a part of my life. I began taking the faith much more seriously in high school. Ever since restoring my relationship with God, I’ve had this zeal to help others seek the mercy and joy filled freedom the Lord provides. The witness of many young priests I came in contact with during high school and my two years as a missionary helped me to realize this desire to pursue the selfless life of the priesthood, to serve God and His Church!

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Junior Year

Home Parish:St. Stephen, Riverview

Austin Smith

I grew up in Brandon, Florida, attending my current home parish of Nativity since I was a little boy. Before entering seminary, I attended Jesuit High School in Tampa and felt my call to be a priest the summer before my junior year of high school while sitting in solitude and silence.

After graduating, I moved to Nashville for two years where I ministered to teens in middle school and high schoolers with a group called the Love Good Apprenticeship Program. While in Nashville, my calling to priesthood was deepened, and after a year at Ave Maria university, I joined the seminary in the fall of 2020.

Studying and praying in seminary is a blessing, but outside of these activities, I enjoy shenanigans with friends, watching and playing sports, working out, reading fiction, adventuring, eating, and listening and analyzing music.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Junior Year

Home Parish:Nativity, Brandon

Thuan Tran

I was born in Bao Loc a small town in Vietnam. When I was 12, my family moved to America. I graduated high school and have an Auto-Body Certificate. I am the youngest in a family of five. We attend Holy martyrs of Vietnam Parish in St. Petersburg. I like to work outside and I like kayaking but I actually don’t know how to swim. In my young age I always felt the call to become a priest.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Freshman Year

Home Parish:Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, St. Petersburg

Vincent Washburn

My name is Vincent Washburn and I am a seminarian from St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Hudson. I spent my entire childhood growing up in Hudson, graduating from Fivay High School in 2016. After attending Pasco-Hernando State College, I transferred to the University of South Florida, Tampa in 2018 and graduated in May 2020 with a degree in Psychology. I was involved in my parish for many years as a volunteer before joining the staff in 2018 as the youth minister; eventually becoming responsible for Liturgical Ministries and our outreach to the sick and homebound as well. My hobbies include watching movies and TV, reading, playing piano, exercising, and hanging out with friends.

While the idea of becoming a priest has been in my head since a child, I seriously began discerning the possibility of a vocation during my transition from high school to college. Encountering a priest much like myself, who joyfully lived out the gospel in his own vocation, opened my eyes to the Lord’s call for me in my life. After an amazing first year, this year I am in my second year of Pre-Theology studies at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Pre-Theology II

Home Parish:St. Michael the Archangel, Hudson

Shawn Young

I was born in Hartford, Connecticut, but moved to Florida when I was just 18 months old; I have lived in Dunedin since 2012. I am the youngest of three and I have two older sisters. I went to East Lake High School and graduated in 2017, after that I went to St. Petersburg College for a year and a half when I transferred to University of South Florida where I studied History.

I was born and raised Catholic, but the faith was never my own until after I was confirmed my freshman year of high school. I was an altar server, reader, and later I was a core team member for both EDGE and Life Teen at my home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes. When I was a sophomore, I began to feel a call to go to seminary, yet I did not initially pursue the call due to my stubbornness. After spending years working and going to school, I finally decided (after a lot of prayer and conversations with priests and friends) to enter the seminary in 2021.

In my spare time, I love to spend time outdoors, reading, spending time with my friends, and supporting our Tampa Bay teams.

Seminary:St. Joseph Seminary College

Studies:Senior Year

Home Parish:Our Lady of Lourdes, Dunedin

All seminarian pictures are done by Will Staples Photography