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Real seminarian stories

Here are the stories of four recent Sacred Heart seminarians, each with a different past and path to priesthood.


Fr. Tony Budnick

TonyBudnickFr. Tony Budnick was previously a broadcast TV producer for WVLT-TV in Knoxville, until 2009, when, following a growing inkling that God was calling him to do more with his life, he entered the seminary at age 37.

A seminarian for the Knoxville Diocese, Tony has been Roman Catholic since birth, has never been married, and does not have children.

“I had some doubts, as most men do, but my bishop told me, ‘You’re not entering the seminary knowing what God has in mind for your. You’re entering to discern. It’s a process – you can’t know if you don’t try it. It’s like a courtship. Long before you get engaged or get married, you have to take the first step.’”

Fr. Tony graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology and was ordained to the priesthood in 2014. He begin serving in parish ministry in the Diocese of Knoxville shortly thereafter.


Fr. Jose Cruz Zapata Torres

Jose CruzFr. Jose Cruz Zapata Torres entered Sacred Heart in the fall of 2012 at the age of 26.  Jose Cruz, who has never been married, first felt called to priesthood at age 13 in his native Mexico.

After entering the seminary in Mexico City at age 18, a fellow seminarian who was planning to study for Diocese of Memphis told him of the crying need for priests who were fluent in Spanish to serve Hispanic Catholics in Tennessee.

In the summer of 2011 he left Mexico for the first time in his life to study English in Milwaukee. He resumed his seminary studies, at Sacred Heart, about a year later. He utilizes Sacred Heart’s highly respected accent modification program at in addition to his regular formation program.

“I didn’t know English and I had never even been out of Mexico. So it was crazy to say ‘yes’ to the Diocese of Memphis,” he recalls. “But I put everything in God’s hands, knowing and if it’s His will, He will make it easier.”

Fr. Jose Cruz was ordained to the priesthood in 2014 is now working in parish ministry in the Diocese of Memphis.


Fr. Tony Viviano

Fr. Tony Viviano entered the seminary in the fall of 2007 at age 44 – the year his daughter turned 18.

TonyVivianoAs a life-long Catholic, his faith prompted him to do more with his life after years in his family’s wholesale fruit business. He started becoming very active with a Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen in inner-city St. Louis. He said he was inspired by the sisters’ complete dedication to service to God and His people. “That really kind of triggered a move toward doing something more,” he said. Tony had a friend who had become a priest after pursuing another course in life, and he encouraged Tony to consider priesthood.

Fr. Tony has never been married, although he keeps in close contact with his daughter, whom, he says, “is and has always been the light of my life,” and with her mother (who is now married and has had nine more kids). Both were big supporters of his vocation.

Fr. Tony graduated from Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in 2012 and is serving in parish ministry in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri.