by Kara Hansen
Special to The Leaven
LAWRENCE — They come from all kinds of backgrounds and all corners of the archdiocese.
But they share one thing in common: the desire to become a Catholic priest.
And even though they might be at different seminaries and at different points of their formation, every year all archdiocesan seminarians are brought together for the Serra Club Mass and luncheon.
The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, was held at Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence on Dec. 29. Numerous priests of the archdiocese concelebrated with him. A luncheon followed for priests, members of the Serra Club, and seminarians and their families.
“It was great to meet the Serra Club members and thank them for their support of our seminarians,” said Don Schmidt, a parishioner at Holy Spirit in Lee’s Summit, Mo. Don is the father of Trent Schmidt, a seminarian for the archdiocese.
The Serrans promote and support vocations to the priesthood and religious life, including raising and providing financial support for archdiocesan seminarians.
“The monetary support is a huge plus for the seminarians because they are basically full-time students and can’t support themselves through seminary,” Don said.
The Mass and luncheon also provide a rare opportunity for parents of seminarians to meet and connect with one another.
“I was glad for the opportunity to get together because we don’t get to see the other families very much,” said Gail Schmitz, a member of St. Dominic Parish in Holton.
“We come from all walks of life because there’s such a range of ages and interests among the seminarians — from straight out of high school to men in their 40s,” she said. “This gives us a chance to meet and get to know some of the other families we might not have much in common with otherwise.”
Gail is the mother of archdiocesan seminarian Daniel Schmitz. She said that Daniel was sure he wanted to pursue a vocation to the priesthood when he was a junior in college, but she and husband David wanted Daniel to wait — not because they were unsupportive of a vocation to the priesthood, but because they wanted him to be certain.
“To us, going to the seminary is like being engaged,” said Gail. “We wanted Daniel to be sure this was what he wanted to do. And by the time he finished college, we were all certain of his calling.”
When Trent Schmidt first talked to his parents about pursuing a vocation to the priesthood, they were caught a little off guard.
“Trent entered the seminary later in life than a lot do, and he was already involved in a career as the superintendent of a golf course,” said Don Schmidt. “We were a little overwhelmed at first.”
The Schmidts, who had always been actively involved in their parish and their children’s Catholic schools, were also excited about the step their son was taking in following his faith.
“One of the things Trent first brought up to us was his concern about not continuing our legacy, since he was our only son and would not be having any children of his own as a celibate priest,” said Don. “I told him, ‘If you’re able to do this and end up becoming a priest, you’ll be doing bigger and better things for our faith and in our church that will reach a lot further than our legacy.’”
Daniel Schmitz’s parents are similarly supportive.
“Daniel is one of our kids, so naturally we want him to be happy. And he really seems happy,” said Gail. “We love him, support him and pray for him.”
Seeing all the other seminarians at the Mass and luncheon was also inspiring to Don Schmidt.
“To see so many people realizing there’s more about life than making money and a living, and to see them taking their faith seriously, is really encouraging to me,” he said.