Peyton also felt the call to the priesthood on that trip, thanks to the example of their chaperone— but his path to the seminary was not quite as direct as his younger brother’s.
“I realized for the first time: ‘Man, I could do this. [This priest] is so at peace with himself and so joyful and having so much fun. I could do this. This is a life that I could actually do,’” he said.
Despite a tug toward the seminary, Peyton decided he would pursue his original plan to study pre-med at Louisiana State University. He would go on to spend three years there in total, dating a girl he met at LSU for two of those years.
His junior year of college, Peyton returned to his high school to chaperone that year’s trip to the March for Life— the same trip that had started the tug toward the priesthood several years earlier.
At one point in the trip, during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Peyton perceived God’s voice: “Do you really want to be a doctor?”
The answer, as it turned out, was no.
“And the moment I heard that, my heart felt more at peace than it had in... Maybe ever in my life. I just knew. In that moment, I was like, ‘I'm going to go to seminary,’” Peyton said.
“For a moment, I had a life's purpose. I had a direction and a goal. I just knew who I was.”
This newfound clarity came at a price, however— Peyton knew he would have to break up with his girlfriend. Which he did.
Connor remembers the phone call from Peyton, telling him he had decided to come to seminary.
“I was shocked. I was excited. I was extremely excited because we were going to be back together again,” Connor said.
In the fall of 2014, Peyton joined his younger brother at St. Joseph Seminary.
‘We can rely on each other’
Though Connor and Peyton had always been friends, their relationship changed— for the better— when Peyton joined Connor at the seminary.
For most of their life, Peyton had blazed a trail for Connor, encouraging him and giving him advice when he got to high school, after Peyton had been learning the ropes there for a year.
Now, for the first time, Connor felt in some ways like the “older brother”— being more experienced in seminary life.
At the same time, although the brothers were now pursuing the same path, they still approached seminary life in their own way, with their own ideas, and approaching challenges in different ways, he said.
The experience of taking on the challenge of becoming priests helped their relationship to mature.
“Peyton's always done his own thing because he was the first. He was the oldest. And so, he didn't have an example to go follow then, whereas I did,” Connor said.
“And so, the idea of breaking from: ‘We're going to be the same,’ was tougher for me, I think...But I think in that, in the growing pains of that, we were able to grow and really realize each other's gifts and each other's weaknesses and then rely on each other more...now I know Peyton's gifts a lot better, and he knows my gifts, and so we can rely on each other.”
Because of the way his college credits transferred from LSU, Connor and Peyton ended up in the same ordination class, despite Connor’s two year “head start.”
‘Getting out of the way of the Holy Spirit’
Now that they’re ordained, Peyton said their parents are constantly bombarded with the question: "What did y'all do to have half of your children enter the priesthood?"
For Peyton, there were two key factors in their upbringing that helped him and his siblings grow up as committed Catholics.
First, he said, he and his siblings attended Catholic schools— schools with a strong faith identity.
But there was something within the Plessala’s family life that, for Peyton, was even more important.
“We ate dinner every single night as a family, regardless of the logistics required to make that work,” he said.
“Whether we had to eat at 4 p.m. because one of us had a game that night that we were all going to go, to or whether we had to eat at 9:30 p.m., because I was getting home from soccer practice late in high school, whatever it was. We always made it an effort to eat together, and we would pray before that meal.”
The experience of gathering every night as a family, praying and spending time together, helped the family cohere and support each member’s endeavors, the brothers said.
When the brothers told their parents that they were entering the seminary, their parents were extremely supportive— even if the brothers suspected their mother might be sad that she would likely end up having fewer grandchildren.
One thing Connor has heard his mother say several times when people ask what the parents did right is that she “got out of the way of the Holy Spirit.”
The brothers said they are extremely grateful that their parents always supported their vocations. Peyton said he and Connor occasionally encountered men at the seminary who ended up leaving because their parents did not support their decision to enter.
“Yeah, parents know best, but when it comes to your children's vocations, God's the one who knows, because God's the one calling,” Connor commented.
‘If you want to find an answer, you have to ask the question’
Neither Connor nor Peyton ever expected to become priests. Neither, they said, did their parents or siblings expect or predict that they might be called that way.
In their words, they were just “normal guys” who practiced their faith, dated throughout high school, and had a lot of varied interests.
Peyton said the fact that they both felt an initial tug to the priesthood is not all that surprising.
“I think every young guy who really practices their faith has probably thought about it at least once, just because they've known a priest and the priest probably said, ‘Hey, you should think about this,’” he said.
Many of Peyton’s devout Catholic friends are married now, and he’s asked them if they ever considered the priesthood at some point before discerning marriage. Almost all, he said, told him yes; they thought about it for a week or two, but it never stuck.
What was different for him and Connor was that the idea of the priesthood didn’t go away.
“It stuck with me and then it stayed with me for three years. And then finally God was like, ‘It's time, man. It's time to do it,’” he said.
“I would just encourage guys, if it really has been a while and it just sticks with you, the only way you'll ever figure that out is to actually go to seminary.”
Meeting and getting to know priests, and seeing how they lived and why, was helpful to both Peyton and Connor.
“The lives of priests are the most helpful things in getting other men to consider priesthood," Peyton said.
Connor agreed. For him, taking the plunge and going to seminary when he was still discerning was the best way for him to decide whether God was really calling him to be a priest.
“If you want to find an answer, you have to ask the question. And the only way to ask and answer that question of priesthood is to go to the seminary,” he said.
“Go to the seminary. You will not be worse off for it. I mean, you're starting to live a life of dedicating prayer, of formation, diving into yourself, learning who you are, learning your strengths and weaknesses, learning more about the faith. All those are good things.”
The seminary is not a permanent commitment. If a young man goes to seminary and realizes the priesthood is not for him, he won’t be worse off, Connor said.
“You've been formed into a better man, a better version of yourself, you've prayed a whole lot more than you would have if you were not in seminary.”
Like many people their age, Peyton and Connor’s paths to their ultimate vocation was a winding one.
“The great pain of millennials is sitting there and trying to think of what you want to do with your life for so long that your life just passes you by,” Peyton said.
“And so, one of the things I like to encourage young people to do if you're discerning, do something about it.”