Project Andrew gives young men, parents, help discerning vocations

by Jessica Langdon
jessica@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Luke Doyle entered the seminary, his little sister was in kindergarten.

“Her brother’s picture was posted on the wall of her classroom, which she was excited about,” said their mother, Jeanne Doyle. “But that doesn’t happen to most kids.”

Luke is now a fourth-year college seminarian at Cardinal Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.

While he is taking an in-depth look at his faith and the priesthood, his family has been learning a lot about seminary life.

“It’s really a process for the whole family,” said Jeanne Doyle. She and her husband, Dr. Tom Doyle, have eight kids. They belong to Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka.

This month, they shared their experiences with parents of young men considering the priesthood during a Project Andrew event at their church.

Project Andrew gets its name from the Scripture passage where Andrew takes his brother Peter to meet Jesus, explained Father Mitchel Zimmerman, archdiocesan vocations coordinator.

Every year in early October, young high school- and college-aged men are encouraged to attend one of these sessions to learn more about what God might be calling them to do.

This is a place where the priesthood can be highlighted, said Father Zimmerman.

Not all attendees enter the seminary, of course. It’s not a recruiting event, although it does open a door for future contact between attendees and the vocations office.

It’s about discernment.

And it’s only recently that organizers have incorporated a parent component into it, at which visiting parents can hear directly from parents of current seminarians.

The Doyles believe it’s important for parents to open their children’s eyes to any path that might be the one for them. If they’re interested in the medical field, they try to introduce them to everything from dentistry to medicine to nursing.

The same holds true when it comes to religious vocations.

“Every young person is called to discern God’s will for them,” said Jeanne.

In their presentation the Doyles shared what they’d learned about the years of formation with the gathered parents.

They also noted that a man who enters the seminary won’t necessarily enter the priesthood.

“It’s more of a discernment process,” said Jeanne. “Every year, they make the decision again.”

One of the things that surprised the Doyles when their son became a seminarian, they said, was that others would be praying for him.

“Having people we don’t even know telling us that they’re praying for our son is a very humbling experience for us,” said Jeanne.

Prayer at home has been transformed for Rob Tinker, father of seminarian Evan Tinker. Rob spoke to parents at a Project Andrew session at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.

Evan, the oldest of four boys, is now in his second year of pre-theology at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.

“Every time I talk to him or he comes home, I see an increased level of confidence in his decision,” said Rob.

He has visited Evan and seen that seminarians have opportunities to do everyday things. They go to dinner with friends and family or go to ballgames.

The Tinkers are members of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park. Growing up, Evan was an altar server. The family always made Mass a priority. Evan has known priests — including a good family friend — his whole life.

Now, when Evan comes home, he includes his dad and brothers in morning and evening prayers.

Friends from the seminary come to visit, too, and Rob has found morning prayer with a group of men in the living room a “unique and powerful” experience.

He believes it’s good to bring together parents at Project Andrew sessions. Many have similar questions.

“We’ve found in most sessions that parents have an endless list of questions,” said Father Zimmerman.

The young men have questions, too — everything from what seminary life is like to how they can visit one.

In the relaxed atmosphere of the sessions, Father Zimmerman answers many.

And Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who is always the keynote speaker, addresses others.

And organizers never forget when they’re planning an event that they’re working with young men — who are known to bring big appetites.

“We don’t fail to mention that there’ll be great food,” said Father Zimmerman with a laugh.

To find more on Project Andrew and vocations, go to the archdiocesan website at: www.archkck.org. Under “The Archdiocese” tab, click on “Vocations.”

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