August 11, 2010 // Uncategorized

Seminarian numbers make an upward leap

Diocesan seminarians gathered for this photo last week during their retreat at Noll Hall on Lake Wawasee. Eight men — bringing the total to 23 seminarians — will begin seminarian studies this month.

By Tim Johnson

FORT WAYNE — One of the greatest fruits for the Year for Priests just may be the increase in the number of young men interested in discerning the priesthood. The numbers have increased by eight this year, bringing the total to 23 men studying for the priesthood, and more are interested.
“This is the largest entering class in 25 years,” says Msgr. Bernard Galic, diocesan director of the Office of Vocations. Msgr. Galic credits the increase to the Year for Priests.

“The Year for Priests awakened an awareness of the people to pray for vocations,” Msgr. Galic says.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades tells Today’s Catholic, “I think the increasing number of seminarians is due to the prayers of so many of our people who are asking the Lord to send ‘more laborers into His harvest.’ I also attribute the increase to the example of our priests, the strong catechetical and youth ministry programs in our diocese, including our Catholic schools. And, of course, the ‘seedbed’ of vocations — the faith and devotion of parents and families.”

Inquiries from young men came throughout the Year for Priests and interest has not waned since the close of the Year for Priests in June. Msgr. Galic says he expects several more men will enter seminary in the fall of 2011 as the interview and interest continues.

Associate Director of Vocations Father Jacob Runyon notes, “While it is true that we have a large number of seminarians entering this year, we have actually had pretty good numbers the last few years.”

He adds, “But I do think we could attribute the spike this year to the fact that it was the Year for Priests. There has been much discussion and prayer about and for the priesthood, I think that could be part of it.”

Father Runyon reports that the Andrew Dinners and the discernment retreats have been well attended, “thanks to the support of our priests.”

This year, 10 diocesan seminarians will begin their studies at Mouth Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md., the seminary where Bishop Rhoades once served as rector. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will be one of the largest delegations at Mount Saint Mary’s, Msgr. Galic says.

Six seminarians are studying at Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Seven college seminarians are taking their undergraduate studies at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Winona, Minn.
The increase of eight seminarians does pose a challenge.

“One challenge I am facing is funding the education of our increased number of seminarians,” Bishop Rhoades says. “This has added a significant cost in our budget, seminary tuition, room and board. I am hoping that we will do well in the Annual Bishop’s Appeal this year to help with this budget shortfall and also to institute an annual diocesan collection on Pentecost Sunday for seminarians’ education.” The Annual Bishop’s Appeal launches this upcoming week.

For men discerning the priesthood, Bishop Rhoades advises, “I would tell a man … to pray about it, to spend time in the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I would also encourage him to discuss his calling with a wise priest.”

There are two types of priests: religious and diocesan priests.

“A religious priest is a priest who is committed to a particular religious order, obedient to their religious superior. This order usually has a certain charism: Franciscans live poverty, Maryknolls do missionary work, etc. Priests from these orders could be sent anywhere in the world to exercise this charism,” Father Runyon says.

“Diocesan priests, on the other hand, are committed to a particular piece of land,” Father Runyon continues. “We are attached to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, obedient to the bishop of the diocese and his successors. It is usually the charism of the diocesan priest to work in parishes.”

Bishop Rhoades encourages men discerning between the diocesan priesthood and priesthood in a religious community to check out both, “discussing priestly life and ministry with both diocesan and religious priests.”

The laity also share a role in Holy Orders. “As far as encouraging vocations goes, pray for the young man. That is most important,” recommends Father Runyon.

“Secondly, you might just want to mention something to him,” he adds. “It can be a powerful experience to hear another person say that he might be a good priest.”

And Bishop Rhoades says, “I encourage the laity to continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I also encourage parents to support the discernment of their sons who may be called to serve as priests.”

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