On Saturday, six young men professed vows with the Society of the Divine Word. This week, we invite you to get to know them. Today, we introduce Samuel “Sam” Lollar.
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Languages: English and Spanish
Ministry: Assisting retired confreres at the Divine Word Residence and serving as Guest Master at the Divine Word Novitiate
Favorite book: “The Song of the Bird” by Anthony De Mello
Tell me about a time when you felt God’s presence:
I have felt God’s presence with me during various moments throughout my life. One such moment was when I enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school. It was challenging for me to leave my family and North Little Rock, Ark., where I had lived for the majority of my life. However, I also felt excited whenever I thought about the things that I would eventually learn in the Air Force and the places that I might go. Though basic training in San Antonio, Texas, was rather difficult, especially with the nearly constant presence of the shouting drill instructors, I was eventually able to graduate and move on to tech school training in Biloxi, Miss., and later Wichita Falls, Texas. I believe that the stress from the increasing demands placed on me and the constant changes encouraged me to rely more on God for strength and stability. Therefore, I began to read the Bible a lot more, as well as other religious books, such as “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. I also prayed that God would help me to discern what He wanted me to do and where He wanted me to go. God helped to ease my anxiety and blessed me with many wonderful friends who encouraged me and helped me to succeed in life, as well as in the Air Force. About four years after I entered the military, I went on a couple of deployments that changed my life and helped me to discern my call to missionary life.
When did you first feel the call to be a missionary?
I first felt the call to be a missionary during a deployment to Ecuador while serving in the Air Force in 2008. During this deployment, I had the opportunity to leave the base and go to the city of Manta with the chaplain and some of my friends to help tutor the elementary school students and give food and clothing donations to needy families. I thoroughly enjoyed the ministerial work and felt a sense that I was doing exactly what God created me to do while I was there. Later, I had a vision of myself later in life speaking to a group of people outside in what appeared to be a rain forest. They were sitting down on the ground and seemed to be looking up at me and listening intently to me as I shared with them the Good News and love of Jesus Christ. I was also dressed in white, and it seemed as though energy and words were flowing through me from a higher being that I believe was the Holy Spirit. After I had this vision, I desired nothing more than to make this vision a reality. Therefore, I accepted this as a call from God to become a missionary and made it my goal to follow God’s will for my life as a missionary.
How has living with the SVD brothers and priests at Techny inspired you?
I considered it a blessing to have the opportunity to spend time with the SVD brothers and priests everyday while at Techny. They were all generous in sharing their missionary experiences with me and always gave great advice on how to succeed in the novitiate and later on at the seminary and in the mission field. Also, even though we were limited on how often we could go out this year due to the pandemic, I was able to go on trips with a few of them to see the Christmas lights show at Northbrook Court and to watch a movie at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, Ill. Because of the time that I got to spend with them, I feel much more confident and joyful about becoming a Divine Word Missionary and following in their footsteps as I minister to various people throughout the world and share with them the love of Jesus Christ.
What was the biggest challenge during this past year?
The biggest challenge for me personally was avoiding eating too much while at meals and socials. The kitchen staff always cooked delicious food during meals and weekly socials. Moreover, we novices, as well as the novice master, cooked meals on Fridays and during holidays and even had the opportunity to visit Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters who always shared delicious meals with us. Those who know me know that I love to eat, so it was difficult to limit myself and even say no sometimes to all of the delicious food that was offered to me. Before I came to novitiate though, many people warned me that it was very easy to gain weight while in novitiate. Fortunately, I was actually able to lose weight during novitiate rather than gain weight.
How did the early experience of novitiate change after the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic during the novitiate was challenging and somewhat disappointing since we were limited by what we could do. For example, we were unable to do ministry outside of Techny, and we were unable use the Techny Towers for various events such as Inter-Community Novitiate classes or the profession of our first vows. Also, it was sad to hear that some of the members of our society contracted the virus. Nevertheless, I feel blessed that we were able to do our 30-day retreat at Bay St. Louis, Miss., and our vows retreat at East Troy, Wis. Also, we were able to go out in the community and visit the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters Convent towards the end of the novitiate year, which I enjoyed very much.
What are your hopes for the coming year?
I hope to do well during my first year living at the Divine Word Theologate and attending classes at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU). I also hope to develop strong friendships with my fellow confreres at the Theologate and at CTU as well as staying in touch with my friends from Techny. Finally, I hope to have some wonderful ministry experiences around the Chicago area.