Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
February 21, 2023 // Diocese

Goal to Educate 30 Seminarians for 30th Anniversary of Worldwide Seminarian Support

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

A single heartfelt prayer can change the world.

John Becker, a current parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, was living in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Patty in the 1980s. While deeply in love, this Catholic couple was struggling to conceive, in part due to Patty’s endometriosis. Together they agreed to attend a healing service led by a well-known priest, Father Ralph DiOrio. Although they had been married for seven years without any children, they continued to pray and trust in the Lord. While at the healing night, Father DiOrio announced that he believed someone in the audience there would be healed from infertility. Based on the additional specifics he shared, Patty believed that message could have been meant for her. Sure enough, the Beckers soon discovered that they were pregnant. They rejoiced at the birth of their daughter Bridget, followed soon after by the joyful arrivals of Benjamin, Robert, and Bernadette in future years. They are now blessed with twelve grandchildren and Robert is a seminarian in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

In light of these events, Patty says enthusiastically, “I am a poster child for ‘willing.’ I was willing to show up to the healing Mass. I was willing to continue to be open to life. I just kept pursuing God’s will and trusting in Him. God is so good; He is better to us than we deserve.”

Patty Becker
Members of the Worldwide Seminarian Support Board of Directors stand with Father Daniel Scheidt and Father Edward Erpelding in the Monsignor John Kuzmich Life Center following Mass offered for their 30th anniversary. From left: John Faylor, Benjamin Becker, Joshua Burkhardt, Father Scheidt, Father Erpelding, John Becker, Monsignor Pius Ilechukwu, Bruce Cadwell, and Austin Kindig.

In gratitude for the gifts bestowed upon his family, John Becker deeply desired to do something heartfelt for the Lord. Around the time of Robert’s birth in 1992, Father Nicholas Nilema was the Associate Pastor of their parish, St. Therese in Portland, and a member of the Apostolic Life Community of Priests (ALCP) based in Tanzania, Africa. The ALCP had been invited to serve the diocese by then-bishop, later Cardinal, William Levada, who would eventually become Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Father Nilema shared with Becker that the ALCP had an overabundance of men desiring to be seminarians but not enough funds to educate them. Becker recounted that Father Nilema said, “Our community had 200 men who wanted to enter seminary, but we could only afford 10.”

Regarding the opportunity before him, Becker said, “The healing of my wife and the miracle of my four children would not have been possible without priests of Jesus Christ providing us with healing and the sacraments. We need to support our priests and help our Church be able to continue to bless others and save souls throughout the world.”

When Becker learned that it cost $1,000 a year to educate a seminarian in Tanzania, he made a pledge to try to raise $5,000 to fund five seminarians. On Feb. 13, 1993, the non-profit Worldwide Seminarian Support (WSS) was founded, with Becker serving as President. Through God’s grace, the organization received more support than expected and was able to fund 10 seminarians that initial year.

Now, through 30 years of raising funds to educate priests in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States, WWS has provided the financial support for 68 men to become ordained to the priesthood, including two who are now bishops in Tanzania.

In addition, the current ALCP Superior General and ALCP Provincial Superior also received their seminary funding from WSS.

Beyond the tuition payments, WSS has helped fund seminary construction projects to expand formation programs and improve living spaces in developing world countries. In total, they have been able to raise more than $1.2 million for seminary support since their founding in 1993.

To commemorate three decades of success, Mass was celebrated on Feb. 13, 2023, at St. Vincent de Paul Parish for the intentions of their organization by Father Daniel Scheidt, concelebrated by Monsignor Pius Ilechukwu and Father Edward Erpelding. In his homily, Father Scheidt emphasized the necessity of prayers, encouragement, invitation, and support for vocations to flourish. He also shared the encouragement he received from a former teacher who was a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration who had prayed for him to become a priest. Asking all the school children present to earnestly pray for one another, he implored, “Let us pray for those who will marry, for those called to the priesthood, to the brotherhood or sisterhood beyond a natural family, or to consecrated virginity, so that each of our lives will be a sign that shows the meaning of life: a grateful sacrificial love!”

Shortly after WSS’s founding in 1993, Becker was blessed with an opportunity to move to Palm Beach, Florida. While there, he met with then-bishop, now Cardinal, Sean O’Malley, to discuss WWS. Upon learning of Becker’s efforts, O’Malley spoke with the leadership of the ALCP, requesting five priests come to serve in the diocese of Palm Beach. Five ALCP priests continue to serve that diocese to this day.

In 2004, the Beckers moved to Fort Wayne, where they developed a cordial friendship with Bishop D’Arcy and later, Bishop Rhoades. During the past 19 years, they have provided financial assistance for Fort Wayne-South Bend diocesan seminarians and the former Franciscan brothers. In 2022, their efforts also led to Bishop Rhoades ordaining one of the men WSS had been sponsoring towards priesthood in Nigeria, Father Michael Okodo. Becker remarked on the occasion, “We love our priests. We love our diocese. We love our bishop who continues to support us and vocations around the world!”

In light of these 30 years, Becker shared, “It has been incredible to see how God continues to bless us and allow this ministry to continue. The world needs the sacraments of the Church and it is a privilege to work for the building of God’s kingdom in this way. I will never be able to adequately thank the Lord for the gifts he has given to my family! Our board at WSS likewise feels grateful simply to be able to participate in this initiative of sacrificial love for the sanctification of the world.”

Currently, WSS is sponsoring 22 seminarians in five countries. As part of their 30th anniversary campaign, they are hoping to raise enough money to support 30 seminarians. While the cost of seminarian tuition in Africa has risen to about $4,000 per year, any amount of support is appreciated. To learn more about WSS or to donate towards their ministry, please visit

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.