The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has a vocation concern, but not the one most people might think of. In fact, the number of young men seeking priestly vocations is growing — as is the cost of their education. But this year’s Pentecost Collection has yielded the highest amount of donations ever, an impressive feat in the midst of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cause of the increased outpouring of charity might be a letter written by Father Andrew Budzinski, director of vocations for the diocese. The letter, according to Jeff Boetticher, secretary of Stewardship and Development, was sent to select households based on a sampling of people who traditionally give to the Annual Bishop’s Appeal. In it, Father Budzinski described the temporary “work at home” life that he experienced during quarantine, along with two of the diocese’s seminarians.
Boetticher stated that as a general rule, donation request letters are kept short. But the length of Father Budzinski’s letter was irrelevant, as Boetticher himself was “totally drawn in; it was a compelling letter” that he believed touched many people. “It added a personal touch to the appeal; gave people a moment to pause, think and pray about giving.”
Father Budzinski wrote that “our seminarians have done some amazing things to embolden the life of our parish while quarantined here at St. John the Baptist.” He shared some of the many examples, including organizing a eucharistic procession of 70 cars of parishioners who drove a 2-mile route through the neighborhood on Easter Sunday. “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my 10 years of priesthood. Our seminarians have responded to the challenge of global pandemic in heroic and humble fashion,” he wrote.
He also shared how the seven men who had been awaiting ordination to priesthood and diaconate this spring had all chosen to continue with ordination, despite the many necessary health precautions that included a reduced congregation size, because of their zeal to begin their service to the life of the Church as soon as they could.
The Pentecost Collection was instituted nine years ago to assist with the rising costs of educating the diocese’s young seminarians. It is typically carried out in second-collection style at Masses, and often seminarians home on summer assignment will give witness at various churches to the importance of the collection. But with Masses having just resumed at or after Pentecost this year, the Development Office had to rethink its approach to seminarian education funding. This led to the idea of the letter, as well as an online donation site created for this specific cause.
The amount collected as of July 17, prior to the end of this year’s collection period, was $347,872.97. That compares to totals of between $179,594.12 and $284,866.96 at the end of collection years 2011-19.
The 2020 collection may be the largest ever received, but there are still opportunities to aid in the education of future priests. The Pentecost Collection accepts donations year-round and may be found on the diocesan website at http://www.diocesefwsb.org/Pentecost-Collection. Another option is to send a check in to one’s parish or to the diocese labeled “Pentecost Collection.”
Boetticher emphasized that it is important to recognize that giving to the seminarian education fund need not be a once-a-year occasion. “People can donate to seminarian education all through the year.”
Holden Berg, a second-year seminary student on summer assignment at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, said there’s a crucial need for this aid and that it means a great deal to those who benefit from it, namely himself and his fellow seminarians. He was pleased to learn that so much had been given, particularly in light of the great need of many organizations during the pandemic. “It shows that people really value this; they desire good and holy priests and feel so strongly about it that they dig deep to support us,” Berg said. “It’s really humbling to see people willing to invest in me and my brother seminarians.”
Money is certainly necessary to raise up godly and humble priests, though Berg stated that prayers are even more powerful. He asked for continued prayers for all those in priestly formation. “We all have our crosses … but we trust in the power of prayer.” In Berg’s case, he reminds members of the Church that they are constantly in his prayers as well and that he and the other seminarians use their prayers as a means to show how they care for the people of the diocese.
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