Seminarians are men of different ages, temperaments, gifts and cultural backgrounds who share a common creed and vocation. They desire to share their love for Jesus and Mary with the Church – that’s us! They want to inspire us and give us the means necessary, through the sacraments and spiritual direction, to help us on our way to Heaven. Because they are not perfect (after all, they are human like us), they share the struggle to become holy with us.
I have been blessed to meet and get to know personally many seminarians from around the country since my time at St. Bartholomew Church. Our pastor teaches Church History to the seminarians at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. Because of his connection and our relative proximity to the seminary, we often have seminarians at our church services and events. As deacons, they deliver their first homilies to us and baptize our babies. Younger seminarians may lead us in the Stations of the Cross and assist at our Masses.
Often, we have a seminarian assigned to our youth group. How blessed our young people are to get to know these young men, not much different from them, who have a sincere desire to following more closely in Jesus’ footsteps.
What impress me most, however, are the unique qualities and gifts of each one.
P.J. has just returned to Kansas where he will be ordained on the 23rd of this month. We were blessed to have his presence in our parish for two years. P.J. says rural Carroll County (where I live) is a lot like Kansas, but with hills. He has a stature that looks like he could wrestle a bull, let alone a calf! Nonetheless, P.J. has such a gentle spirit. He has a way of speaking to any and everyone – the whole parish in a homily, the kindergarteners in Religious Education classes, the elderly at the nursing home, and the teens at a youth group event. No matter the group, no matter its size, P.J. seems at ease talking and sharing with others. Best of all, one always walks away with something to contemplate. Thanks, P.J., for sharing your wisdom.
Then there is Tyler. This young man is brilliant. Many have pegged him to study in Rome one day; they say they wouldn’t be surprise to find him working in the episcopate one day. Tyler, however, has more humble aspirations. He wishes only to be a parish priest. One time considering a Jesuit vocation, Tyler said he really felt God calling him to serve the Body of Christ in a parish. He has a gift to see people’s foibles as endearing qualities and always assumes the best in people. One day, a parish will be blessed to have him as their shepherd. Thanks, Tyler, for sharing your humility.
On the other hand, Philip has a missionary heart. It is his desire to serve one day as a military chaplain. Soldiers would be well-served by this good-nature, often smiling, seminarian. Thanks, Philip, for sharing your missionary heart.
During my first year at my new parish, there was a seminarian who was very quiet. Despite his silence, I always felt he was really listening to me. He was a man of few words, unusual among seminarians. I hear now that he has a reputation for being a wonderful confessor. Parishioners wait in long lines to have him hear their confessions.
There was one seminarian that the girls refer to as “Fr. What-a-Waste.” They were dismayed to learn that God doesn’t just call ugly men to the priesthood! More importantly, they learned that what makes a person truly attractive is the light of God’s love shining through them.
God calls all kinds. Each of their stories of what they were doing when they heard God’s call and how they responded is as different as they are. Still, God has a plan for them. He will use their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses.
Pray for our seminarians and their vocations. Ask God to grant them perseverance and zeal.
31 deacons who studied at the Mount will return to their home dioceses to be ordained. Their bishop will assign them to 31 blessed parishes. There are deacons all around our country who will be ordained this month. Pray for them. Pray for P.J. and the many others. Ask God to sustain them in their priestly vocation.
Finally, beg the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into the vineyard. Pray for the vocations of your own children.
If you have a son, suggest to him being a priest when he grows up. Ask young men in your parish if they have ever considered the priesthood. There was a time when I would have prefaced “young men” with the adjective “devout,” but I have since learned that God calls all kinds. If needed, God will provide the devoutness. Just suggest the idea – the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Do you have any seminarian stories you want to share? I would love to hear them. Vocation stories are among my favorite.
Copyright 2015 Kelly Guest.
Image: St. Philip Neri Blessing English Seminarians by Lawrence, O.P. (July 4, 2013) via Flickr, CC.