From ESPN to Seminary: A Comeback Story

After he was fired from ESPN, Anthony Federico wondered where he could possibly go next. He remembered a voice once telling him, “One day you will be a priest” — and he couldn’t ignore his calling any longer.

Video Transcript

Anthony Federico: You write a headline. The whole internet hates you for it, and then you’re called to the priesthood.

I went to Catholic high school. As with most Catholic all-guys high schools, they bring a priest in to give a vocations talk. This is so not my thing, and I’m 15, and I heard very clearly, “Anthony, you will be a priest some day.” Who said that? I knew exactly who it was. It’s unmistakable. As much as I tried to push the voice away, I always remembered what was said to me that day.

After college, Anthony became a content editor for ESPN.

It was a regular night at work. Jeremy Lin was the talk of the sports world. At 2:30 in the morning, I chose the headline ‘Chink in the Armor’ referencing a loss that the Knicks had while Jeremy Lin was starting for them. I did not foresee the potential racial connection to that headline. I got up from my desk, and I went to the bathroom, and I just threw up.

I released a statement on Twitter. I take responsibility for this. If you have something you want to say, I’m not afraid. I can dialogue about that. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails, most of them just horrific.

“You’re evil. “You’re a racist.” “I’m going to kill your whole family.” It was like the worst 15 minutes of fame. Four, five days after it happened, I was let go via conference call.

Since I was fired and had nothing to do, I started going to the church in the afternoon, just me and the tabernacle and the Blessed Sacrament. I would just kneel in front of that saying, “What the hell? Why? Why is this happening?” Only when I was in a puddle of tears in front of the Blessed Sacrament did I feel any sort of consolation.

When he was back from a road trip, we met in New York for lunch, and it was great. Him inviting me saying that there was no resentment on his part, that’s mercy. I’m grateful to him for that.

I just watched this priest come out of the confessional every day and be like, “I’m so sorry. I’ll hear your confession after mass. I really … ” and he would literally run to the front of the church, throw his vestments on. I remember saying, “Lord, if we just had more priests. Oh, I get it. I get it.”

There was a growing sense of, “Lord, are you calling me to the priesthood right now?” I was afraid, to be honest with you. I was afraid of what people might think of me entering the seminary. I was afraid of what I was giving up.

My mom said something that changed my life. She said, “Do it afraid. You need to go experience this to determine one way or the other if this is what you’re going to do with your life. You’re afraid. I get that, but do it afraid.”

This priesthood thing is an adventure. When you say ‘yes’ and go one step further, Jesus comes closer to you.
Words can be tremendously destructive when they’re not used carefully, but look at all the ways that a kind word can change someone’s life.

I’m so close to being ordained, and I just want to get in the game so badly. I am ready to rock. I pray that the Lord’s will is for me to be ordained to the deaconate and then eventually to the priesthood. Put me in. Put me in, coach.

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