A 25-year Ogden resident is a seminarian here, studying to become a Roman Catholic priest.
Stephen M. Tilley, 31, is a seminarian for the Diocese of Salt Lake City who is assigned to study theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
He expects to be ordained in 2017 and begin serving somewhere within the state of Utah at that time.
Tilley said few Ogden residents have become priests. He can only think of one priest he has met previously who came from Utah, but said there probably are others.
He believes his Utah life experiences have prepared him to serve Utahns well.
"I think that our faith requires us to recognize our vulnerability in Christ and to contemplate the great paschal mystery (meaning the death and resurrection of Christ)," he said when asked what message he would share with the people of Utah.
"I must decrease so that Christ may increase," he said, noting that sometimes people have to get rid of physical things, emotions, thoughts or wants. "We kind of have to cast those aside to be more like Christ," he said.
Tilley has been attending seminary in Rome for two months.
So far, he said, his experiences have been thrilling.
Included in his Rome adventures have been visiting the catacombs where early Christian martyrs were buried.
"The sacrifices they made for their faith have made me ask about me," he said. "Would I be willing to do that for my faith? Hopefully, one day I will."
He also has visited the tomb of Saint Paul and Saint Peter's Basilica.
Today, Tilley is excited and humbled for the chance to fast and pray along with Pope Francis for the people of Syria.
While it will take Tilley five years to finish his studies, he has been on a lifelong journey to become a dedicated Catholic.
He said his devotion to Catholicism came at the conclusion of a long faith walk where he studied in detail many beliefs.
His journey included attending services at Washington Heights Church, Ogden Christian Fellowship and St. Joseph Catholic Church. He studied the writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin and those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But Tilley said his mind became clear about what he would support when he studied in depth the Eucharist -- the teachings that the bread and wine of communion actually become Christ's body and blood.
"This is one of the teachings Jesus stood firm on," he said.
Among the verses he cited Christ as saying were John 6:53-55 in the New American Bible:
"Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink."
Tilley said he also was inspired to follow Pope John Paul II, who maintained a joyful appearance even though he was fighting difficult health issues.
Tilley became a Roman Catholic in 2006.
Because he had to prove himself before entering the four-year seminary at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore., in 2009, Tilley said he had to live the parish life at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden for a few years.
He also worked for Applegate Hospice Care and the state of Utah during that time.
But Tilley's real life challenges began as he started seminary.
His father passed away 10 days before he left for Oregon to attend seminary in 2009.
And shortly after that, Tilley's brother Tim attempted suicide, and Tilley couldn't leave his seminary studies to sit by his brother's side.
At that time, Father Kenneth Vialpando, of St Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden, stepped in for an all-night vigil at the hospital with Tilley's brother in the future priest's place.
Tilley said Vialpando's example will ever serve as an inspiration.
"He set an amazing example of what the priesthood is in this world -- it's to be Christ at that moment."
Tilley's brother Tim was successful in another suicide attempt on July 11, 2010.
And Tilley was later surprised by another brother's suicide. Justin died this past January.
The seminarian, who now is left with only one sibling, a sister, and his mother, Ria, said the challenges of facing those deaths have at times been overpowering for him.
"If it wasn't for my relationship with Christ's love, I don't think I would have gotten through my family struggles as well as I did," he said. "We are all given crosses we have to carry. All we can do is carry them with love and pray for each other and walk with each other in love."
The seminarian said an understanding of Christ's love can help a person overcome such trials, but he was careful not to imply that good people can or will avoid difficult times.
"It doesn't work like that," he said. "There are very good and holy people who will suffer. Vulnerability has to be there through good times and bad times in life."
Tilley believes that his family history, since he began his studies, will serve to make him a better priest, as it has taught him brokenness and complete vulnerability in Christ.
"It's moments like those, when you are really struggling, that you have to trust in your faith even more," he said.
He quoted Luke 10:3 in the New American Standard Bible.
"Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves," he said.
"The only thing the lamb has to protect him is the shepherd," he said. "That's when the lamb has to be the closest to the shepherd."
Tilley said the priesthood isn't something a person becomes necessarily good at. He said it's being open to Christ's grace and letting it work in you.
"I hope I can serve the people of Utah," he said. "I hope to walk with them together in Christ's love and to serve them in the capacity of a Catholic priest."
Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or email@example.com, or follow her on twitter at @jfrancis.