by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — This year, Catholics all over the archdiocese will be seeing more of our seminarians than ever before.
Thanks to a generous Catholic printer, the archdiocesan vocation office has been blessed with a boatload of new vocation posters for 2020-21 featuring its 21 seminarians — just in time for National Vocation Awareness Week, which the church celebrates from Nov. 1-7.
Normally, the vocation office has 300 large and 500 small vocation posters printed each year. This year, they have 800 large and 1,500 small. They’re going up all over in Catholic institutions.
But there is more to the new poster than a bunch of smiling faces.
This year’s new poster sends a message of commitment and names the virtues that young men studying for the priesthood need: courage, humility, sacrifice and celibacy — “For the Sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Every year, we try to come up with a new [poster] theme that is arrived at by what our seminarians are experiencing throughout the year through their prayer life and discernment, and what seems to be coming up most often,” said Father Dan Morris, director of the archdiocesan vocation office.
Father Morris gets this input by informally talking to the seminarians and the vocation team, which consists of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher, Msgr. Michael Mullen, Father Scott Wallisch and Father Morris.
In society at this time, it seems that young people are having a more difficult time than in previous decades making permanent commitments in their lives — whether they’re considering the priesthood, the religious life or marriage, said Father Morris.
“We knew we wanted a Scripture passage that really challenged and invited that commitment to be made in their lives, especially young men who God might be calling to the priesthood,” said Father Morris.
Father Morris found a bold passage in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19. In this chapter about divorce and marriage, Jesus said some men choose not to be married “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”
Originally, Father Morris thought the poster could feature a photo of two men being ordained at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. For various practical and aesthetic reasons, that didn’t work out.
Then, while studying the sanctuary, he noticed something of which he had not been aware. On the front of the cathedral altar was the symbol of St. Peter: an upside-down cross (the manner of the saint’s execution) and the crossed keys.
“There’s nothing that represents this laying down of one’s life and being willing to sacrifice for something greater than this enigmatic image that looks so backwards to this culture and world,” said Father Morris.
“It’s appropriate because our cathedral is the Cathedral of St. Peter, and it’s at the cathedral these men will lay down in front of that altar with that symbol . . . their lives matching up with what this symbol represents.”
Father Morris used his design skills to come up with a poster. It features the photos of the vocation team and the 21 seminarians around the symbol of St. Peter depicted on the altar. Directly underneath are the words “Courage, Humility, Sacrifice and Celibacy.” And below these is the phrase from the Gospel of Matthew: “For the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12).
One of those young men featured on the poster is Trey Niesen, from Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa. He’s in his first year at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
“It’s kind of a crazy situation to see myself on a poster like this, because I spent most of my life going to churches and looking at all the guys on the poster and wondering one day if I’d be on one,” said Niesen. “This is the first one that I’m on. It’s kind of a surreal situation.”
The strangeness of being on the vocation poster has worn off for Alex Rickert, from Ascension Parish in Overland Park. He’s now in his third year at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.
“What I like about the poster is that in some ways it resembles the advertisements for the military,” said Rickert. “It has a slogan that calls people to do something out of the ordinary. And I like the four words — courage, humility, sacrifice and celibacy — because they capture a fighting spirit. The priesthood is not a call to be taken lightly.”
Because the archdiocese has an abundance of vocation posters, Father Morris is inviting parishes and individual Catholics to go to the chancery at 12615 Parallel Pkwy. in Kansas City, Kansas, for a free poster. Contact the vocation office in advance by email at: email@example.com, or by calling (913) 647-0303, and the posters will be available for pickup.