by Jill Ragar Esfeld
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sixty- two seminarians took the stage Friday night to a standing ovation at the 25th annual Support Our Seminarians (SOS) benefit dinner held in Union Station here.
The evening, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe Queen of the Americas, began with cocktails and a silent auction including art, statues and rosaries depicting Our Lady.
As guests bid on items, seminarians were busy selling and bagging up baked goods made by the Benedictine monks of Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri.
The cinnamon bread sold out within an hour. But that was the only disappointment of the evening.
As guests took their seats for dinner, Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB, chancellor of Conception Abbey, thanked them for their support of the future of the priesthood, and led everyone in singing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”
Bishop James V. Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph said grace and introduced the evening’s program, saying “how great it is to bring Catholics together from both sides of the state line.”
He also thanked those who spent so much time making the event successful.
Event chairs David and Emily Lopez, members of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, took the stage with their children.
In his remarks, David Lopez talked about his father, who recently died, and his deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. He found it noteworthy that this year’s SOS was dedicated to her.
“I don’t believe in coincidence,” he said. “I believe in God’s providence.”
Fellow Curé of Ars parishioner Kathy Quinn, an Emmy award-winning journalist with FOX 4 News, was this year’s master of ceremonies.
Raised in the Catholic school system in Kansas City, Missouri, Quinn recalled her own parents’ devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“They owned a restaurant,” she said. “And they always had a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in their restaurant.”
Quinn talked about her gratitude for her own pastor, Father Richard Storey, and others.
“That’s why we’re here tonight,” she said. “We’re here for the priests of tomorrow.”
As guests filled out donor cards, Father Jerry Arano-Ponce, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Topeka, took the stage.
Father Arano-Ponce, a native of Mexico, has had a lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary and received his first calling to the priesthood when his family visited the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
He recounted the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego, saying, “She showed us that [Jesus] is a human God, the one true God, born of a woman.
“She proved that we can go to Jesus through Mary.”
Father Arano-Ponce acknowledged the 62 seminarians from both dioceses in formation today, and asked the audience to pray for them.
The highlight of the evening came when the seminarians took the stage, where they were interviewed by Quinn.
Msgr. Michael Mullen, co-director of seminarians for the archdiocese, then spoke to the young men, giving them this simple advice for their future.
“Pray hard, study well and be nice to each other,” he said.
The proceeds from the evening went to support young men in formation for the priesthood in the archdiocese, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri.