36 seminarians, including 11 new, a great blessing
How did the gathering of seminarians go a couple of weeks ago in Rosaryville?
It went very well. It was an opportunity for the present seminarians to spend time in fellowship and prayer and to reflect upon their discernment process. Then, with much thanks to God, we were able to welcome 11 new seminarians, who were able to get to know the current seminarians. I say this with incredible gratitude to God and also in a spirit of humility that we will have 36 seminarians this year – 29 at Notre Dame Seminary and seven at St. Joseph Seminary College. I believe it’s certainly the good work of Father Steve Bruno as vocation director and also the good work of our priests, deacons, religious and lay people who encourage vocations. I’m also very much aware that, ultimately, it is God who calls. We are there to help people hear the call and to respond. I’m incredibly humbled at God’s fidelity and generosity that we have 36 seminarians. This is very exciting. Historically, I don’t know the last time we’ve had this many, but I think it’s been about 20 years.
Can you give a profile of the 11 new seminarians?
They run the gamut. Four young men just finished Catholic high schools and will be going to St. Joseph Seminary College. One man is leaving his law practice to join Notre Dame Seminary and begin his discernment. It’s quite a wide spectrum of people.
Is there anything common among their stories?
I’ve been in vocation ministry for a long time, and I believe each story of how God works is unique to the individual. There’s usually not a great deal of common denominators among the stories. You have some people who come back to the seminary after having been there previously. Others come to the seminary out of high school, others from college and others who say their job was fine and they really enjoyed it, but they knew God was calling them to do something else.
How are vocations among women to the religious life going?
We feel like there’s been a very positive response in terms of vocations to the priesthood, and one of the things I have talked about with Father Bruno and Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, the executive director for religious, is fostering vocations to the consecrated life for women. We’re working on some exciting plans that we may be able to announce soon.
How would you characterize the work of the two seminaries in our archdiocese?
I think both St. Joseph Seminary College and Notre Dame Seminary are excellent seminaries. They provide good education as well as priestly formation, and I’m very pleased that we have two quality seminaries. There’s no doubt in my mind that men will be given very good formation that will not only affirm them but also challenge them and help them to grow.
What can lay Catholics do to foster vocations?
I put out this challenge just about every time I talk in a parish: we need people to pray for vocations, and not just for vocations in general. We need to pray specifically for someone who is in the seminary or for someone we know in the parish who we think has the attributes to become a good priest or religious sister. I really do believe with every bit of my being that the Spirit is moving and helping us create a culture that will be responsive to vocations.