Paul Wells III

My name is Paul Wells III.  I grew up in Lakeland, Florida, where I was born on 15th of January, 1983. I was raised Catholic by my two parents, Paul and Peggy, who are still married, thank God. My father is a Realtor in Lakeland and my mother is a Registered Nurse at Bartow Regional Hospital. Before marrying my mother, my father was in a seminary up north for a few years and that experience, I believe, helped him to be a good father.

He always sought to bring my family to Sunday Mass when I was young and throughout my teenage years. My parents sent me to a Catholic elementary and high school. During elementary school, our family attended St. Joseph parish in Lakeland. As a youth and teenager, I was very much involved in baseball during school and worked construction during the summer. However, my life started to become too much centered on sports and unfortunately, I almost stopped praying and attending Mass all-together. In high school, my mind and heart were not occupied on the things that mattered – The Lord and the Catholic Faith – I was too focused on girls and sports, and sort of drifted away from the Lord. Thank God He never left me!

            As time passed throughout high-school (graduated in 2002) and a couple years after that, I felt more and more that something was missing in my life, a kind of void in my heart. After working three years as a music producer for Invincible Records, a company my best friend and I started after high school, I saw the movie, “The Passion of Christ”. I am certain that God, through the intercession of Mary, renewed within me at that moment the gift of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t know how to explain it, but it seems at that moment when I saw Our Lord dying on the Cross, with Mary standing there, I had an interior conversion experience. Yes, I know, every day is a conversion, but something happened when I saw that movie in theatres. It’s not something I can really explain, but it happened. I knew I needed to get back to Confession and Mass. Thanks be to God, through Our Lady’s intercession I came back to the Catholic Church and became a practicing Catholic again at that time. 

            Early 2005, I decided to work at Carpenters Nursing Home in Lakeland and attend a local community college part-time. It was at this time that I had the attraction to the religious life and also had a great desire to give myself entirely to God. I began going to daily Mass, Adoration, and monthly confession. It was at this time that I began to appreciate Our Blessed Mother Mary’s role in our spiritual lives and how she was very instrumental in my own conversion and coming back to the Church. It was for that reason, I wanted to join an order whose specific apostolate was to “bring souls to Jesus through Mary”. 

            So, in 2007, I joined the Franciscans of the Immaculate and left around 2010 during novitiate. After praying about it and learning about the contemplative life (the idea of the contemplative life was new to me) I started to feel called to it. After a couple years of speaking to my spiritual director at the F.I.s about my attraction to this kind of life, we both discerned I was called to a more contemplative order. Since I was not sure which order at that time (I was not knowledgeable about any of these different contemplative orders), my spiritual director and I mutually understood that it would be best to go back to college, get a bachelor’s degree, and while attending, to further discern my vocation.

            In 2010, I went back to Polk State College in Lakeland to finish my Associates in Liberal Arts from 2010-2012, so that I could eventually get a BA in philosophy from a Catholic University. During that time at Polk State College, I was working and also led a young adults group at my local parish called De Fide. We sought to reach out to the young Catholic adults in our locality to help them better understand and appreciate the Catholic Faith and the Sacraments. From 2012-2015 I attended Ave Maria University with a 3.7 GPA and a BA in Philosophy. During that time at Ave Maria, I was able to narrow the orders down to a few. I also worked 3 years for the university as guest attendant and hall-clerk. 

            After graduating in 2015, I went back home, worked, saved up money and started to visit a few orders in 2016/2017. I narrowed the orders down to two: 1.) The Carthusians in Vermont and 2.) the Maronite Monks in Massachusetts. I know the Carthusians were the most austere religious community in the Western Church, but I knew that if I joined the Maronites without attempting the Carthusians at all, I would have too many doubts – I had to at least try the Carthusians. I joined the Carthusians as a simple aspirant back in 2017. I was there for about 5 months. Frankly, in the end, I knew I couldn’t live their schedule. I gave it my best. They wake up from 11:30pm and pray in Church until 2 or 3am every night. Yes, I can do that for 5 months, but not the rest of my life! There were too many nights I was getting about 2 hours of sleep and, although I did, it was almost impossible for me to fulfill my duties for the rest of the day. It wasn’t for me, and that too was part of my discernment.

            Nevertheless, those five months did leave me time to discern a couple things: 1.) Based on my previous discernment, I was morally certain at that point, by God’s Mercy, I was called to the Maronites of Adoration in MA. Secondly, this student loan debt was weighing very much on my heart, and I knew the Maronite Monks could not take this debt on. I prayed about it while I was there at the Carthusian Monastery, and spoke with Fr. Kim, the Novice Master about it, and we both thought it would be good to go back home, keep in contact with the Maronites, and go back to work and try to knock out the student loans.

            That’s what I did – I went back home and had been working as a food delivery driver from 2018-2022 (Bitesquad and Doordash). At that time, I was paying back my student loans on a monthly basis, and using some money on the side to invest into different companies. At the beginning of 2019, I made an investment that I thought would allow me to pay off my student loans. The investment appeared to be working quite well and I thought that it would enable me to pay off my student loans in one lump sum at the end of 2021. During that time, I was on a deferment not requiring me to make payments, so my plan was to pay everything off with this investment. However, unfortunately this investment tanked around summer 2021 and never recovered. It was clear I was essentially starting from ground 0. Near the end of 2021, after a few months of finally getting over this financial setback, I decided to call Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations. I was able to talk with Mary Radford over the phone at that time and explained my situation to her. 

            Regarding this past year, in 2022, gas prices had tripled, and inflation later hit. I was paying for my own gas expenses, car repairs (literally in the thousands), and other living expenses. Almost half of my income was just going to gas expenses this year, and I wasn’t making as much progress as I wanted to in paying back my student loans because of all this.

            So, I started looking for another job this August 2022 and was hired as an Amazon DSP Driver in order that I didn’t have to pay for my vehicle expenses and gas, which would enable me to pay back more until I enter religious life. 

            I will continue to pay back as much as possible with this new job. I cannot quit seeking the Lord and what I believe is my vocation. I will continue to pursue this with all my heart. Over these years, I know the Lord has been preparing me, although it might appear on the externals as unfortunate circumstances, setback after setback. I don’t see it that way.  I know the Lord has been working through all of this. In the process, He has been teaching me and helping me grow in many different ways, preparing me for the second half of my life, preparing me for my mission and vocation in the Church.

            How can someone communicate what is going on in their heart regarding a vocation? It’s very hard to do. The only thing I can say is this: I think it was St. Gregory, but he summarizes what has been going on in my heart since my conversion. St. Gregory said that all holy desires grow when postponed, and the desire that diminishes with delay was never a holy desire or from the Lord. I can tell you that, as time has passed since the time of my conversion back to the Catholic Faith, my vocation to the contemplative life has become clearer to me, and the contemplative call has become more desirable. The desire for this life has only increased over these past years.

            I wholeheartedly believe in contemplative mission in the Church, a participation in the life and redemption of Jesus Christ through prayer, penance, and the fulfillment of one’s duties. I have witnessed this in my own life with my friends and relatives. When things might get a little discouraging, when I am not able to reach them or change things on a human level by what “I do”, I have learned (it has taken me a while) take a step back and place them in the Lord’s Hands, trusting completely in His own Mercy and Power. Whenever I surrender people or circumstances into His own Hands, He has never failed to work wonderful things. But it only happens when I don’t rely on what I do, but on Him alone. It takes a while to be convinced of this. This is not a general principle that can be applied to everyone or at every point in time. It is, however, a mystery that the Lord is drawing me into, and I believe it has to do with my vocation.

            This continuous conversion has been also a process of letting go, and trusting God. I can’t change the past, and hindsight is always 20/20. I am obviously in some unfortunate circumstances. I tried to do this on my own, and I couldn’t do it on my own. That is why I am reaching out to the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations. I really could use the financial help in order to enter the religious life. I hope and pray I receive the grant. It’s the only thing holding me back from entering the religious life. I have done what I believed to be the Lord’s Will, and I leave everything in Jesus’ hands.

Get Updated