by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
During the summer months, several people mentioned to me that they missed my weekly column in The Leaven. I took this as a good sign that they noticed my regular column was not found in the summer editions of The Leaven.
As was reported in the Aug. 27 edition of The Leaven, one of the highlights of the summer for me was making a pilgrimage to Colorado with 27 of our 31 seminarians. It has been quite some time since the archdiocese has had more than 30 men in the seminary.
Some of the early feedback from the feasibility study, regarding a possible capital campaign focused primarily on strengthening our Catholic high schools and youth ministry programs, was the question: What is the archdiocese doing to provide an adequate number of priests to provide pastoral leadership and care for our 110 parishes?
A key element in cultivating vocations to the priesthood is to make certain that we are providing adequate resources so that our high schools and youth ministry programs can fulfill their mission in helping to form the next generation of Catholics. The primary purpose of our Catholic high schools and our youth ministry programs is to form disciples of Jesus Christ.
If our high schools and youth programs succeed in producing enthusiastic young disciples, then some of them will hear the call of Jesus to serve him and his church as a priest. Another highlight of the summer months for me was the opportunity to celebrate Mass at our archdiocesan camp. It was beautiful to see the devotion and enthusiasm of our young people for the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist
Only one man (Father Scott Wallisch) was ordained a priest this year for the archdiocese. God willing, I will ordain three new priests next May. We need to ordain, on average, three men every year to be able to grow slightly the size of our presbyterate.
Many people throughout the Archdiocese have been praying for many years for an increase in vocations to the priesthood. The Serra Clubs in the archdiocese, the Knights of Columbus, the vocation office, our priests and many parishioners have done a great deal to encourage and promote vocations to the priesthood.
Our 31 men in the seminary are the fruit of God’s grace, but also of your prayers and efforts. However, vocations are not just about numbers. Father Mitchel Zimmerman, our excellent vocation director, remarks that many people ask him: How many seminarians do we have for the archdiocese? He says that very few ask him about the quality of the seminarians.
My time on pilgrimage with them provided me an opportunity to gain a better firsthand knowledge of our seminarians. Thus, I can confidently tell you, that not only do we have many seminarians, but we have many very good seminarians.
We need to keep our seminarians in prayer. Our 31 seminarians are spread over eight years of formation. We know that not every one of them will be ordained. Nevertheless, we should be grateful to each of them for their willingness to give time to discern if, in fact, God is calling them to serve his church as priests.
Pray that our seminarians will come to understand more clearly God’s will for them. Pray that they will use the opportunities that seminary formation provides them — not just to gain theological knowledge, but to develop the virtues they will need to be great shepherds for the church. Pray most of all that they will grow in their friendship with Jesus and in their love for his people — the church.