Growing up, Chris Allen ’13, an only child, had wanted just one thing: a brother. Now, after having professed his first vows as a member of the religious order of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (OSFS), not only does Allen have one brother, he has hundreds across the United States and around the world.
Having dreamt of being a diocesan high school history teacher ever since his junior year at Bishop McDevitt Catholic High School, Allen chose the Oblates partly because it enabled him to live that dream. This was also the reason he chose to embark on his collegiate education at CHC.
“Chestnut Hill College offered the bachelor’s degree in history with the minor in secondary education that I was looking for,” Allen says. “It was also good since I knew I was going to be a commuter and it was a small school, something I had been used to for my entire educational experience.”
Finding CHC to be “the perfect fit,” Allen quickly got involved with Campus Ministry by serving dinner at St. Francis Inn and tutoring at Holy Name Elementary School in Camden, N.J. His work with Campus Ministry continued to evolve and by the time he was ready to graduate, Allen had participated in the Appalachia spring break service trip three times, and had served as a SEARCH retreat leader twice.
Additionally, Allen was a Scholar in Service to Pennsylvania, an orientation leader, a student ambassador, a tutor in the writing center, a member of five honor societies and the winner of the President’s Leadership Award, an award presented annually by President Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., in recognition of seniors who have personified a concern for the “Dear Neighbor” throughout their college career.
Through all of this, Allen was in discernment, a process that had started in high school. A fourth generation parishioner at Our Mother of Consolation (OMC) Parish, Allen was first introduced to the Oblate community beyond OMC by Father Bob Bazzoli, OSFS, who was also instrumental in fostering his vocation to the Oblates. Furthermore, in his sophomore year, Allen began volunteering at Father Judge High School, where he was introduced to Father Jack Kolodziej, OSFS, and where he developed a love for high school ministry and a deep appreciation and connection to the Oblates.
“At Father Judge I was able to watch the Oblates interact with students while I tutored, chaperoned a Kairos retreat or even just worked on observation hours for my secondary education minor,” Allen says. “It was through this that I saw the sense of community that was evident and that always stuck out to me.”
In August of 2013, three months after receiving his diploma, having completed his discernment process and having decided that the Oblates was, as CHC had been, “the perfect fit,” Allen began the first stage of his priestly formation, postulancy.
Through his postulancy, Allen was assigned to pre-theology studies at The Catholic University of America, where he currently studies, in addition to working in the campus ministry office of Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va., and teaching fourth graders in the religious education program at the Catholic Chaplaincy at Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va. During this time, Allen also became a member of the Knights of Columbus College Council 9542, served as a Fourth Degree member of the James Cardinal Hickey Assembly for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and volunteered as an altar server and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
A year later, Allen entered into his novitiate year. This intensive and internal formation allows the novices to learn the spirituality of the Oblates, develop a life rooted in prayer, and learn about the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The year is lived in the remote Brooklyn, MI, and allows the novices to be able to better focus on prayer and their studies.
Following the 366 day novitiate, on August 1, 2015, Allen professed his First Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Upon profession, he returned to Catholic University to continue his studies and his ministry, this time with a homeless shelter run by Catholic Charities.
Allen will continue his studies at Catholic University for approximately three and a half more years with an apostolic internship in between that allows the Oblates to experience what life will be like in full and active ministry as well as give them a chance to apply what they have learned and to continue to discern if the order and the priesthood is in Allen’s words, “where God wants me to be.”
“I discovered that quote by Bishop Frederic Baraga on the wall of the chapel in the National Shrine,” Allen says. “It has become my daily prayer: that at the root of all I desire, may be the desire ‘to be where God wants me to be.’”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14