A happy problem: more seminariansBy: Bishop James V. Johnston Jr.
“The priesthood is destined to last in endless succession throughout history.” —Blessed Pope John Paul II, “Pastores Dabo Vobis” (“I Will Give You Shepherds”), March 25, 1992.
A letter I sent
Two years ago I sent every registered Catholic household in the diocese a letter. In this letter, I outlined the great responsibility that every member of the Church has to foster vocations to the priesthood. At a minimum, it is our Christian duty to follow Jesus’ command: “pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38). We are called to encourage our youth to be generous and eager to serve Jesus and his Church. We are also called to support those who courageously and generously answer God’s call, including the expenses that come with seminary education and formation.
Along with my letter, I included a small tear-off slip of paper upon which one could write the names of young men whom people considered to have “the right stuff” to be good priests, and send to me. I contacted these men with a follow-up invitation to attend one of the many discernment opportunities that we offer across the diocese.
Well, I want to get back to you on that letter of two years ago. First, I want to thank you for your response. Through your prayers, your recommendations, and mostly, through the generous response of many good young men, our diocese will have 13 seminarians in January studying for the priesthood—a significant increase. We are also in discussion with several others who are prayerfully taking steps to move in that direction, and assisting several more who are in the process of prayerfully discerning their call. All of us should be truly thankful to the good Lord for his goodness to us.
In the coming days you will receive another letter from me, including a special mailing about our seminarians: who they are, where they are from, and where they are studying. This includes a “refrigerator ready” mini poster of our men so that you can be reminded to pray for them throughout the year as they follow Christ’s call. Now that they are in seminary, we need to redouble our prayers for them while in formation.
My letter will also ask you to continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially from our own youth. This is among the most important things for which you must pray. These are the men who will be providing the sacraments of salvation to your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. These are the priests who will feed them with sound teaching and good counsel. They will be there bringing Christ to our families, literally, from womb to tomb. Please also pray for those young people, women and men, who are being called to the joyful witness of serving Jesus in consecrated religious life.
In the mailing, I have again also included the tear-off sheet for you to recommend good candidates. I, or one of the priests who assist me, will contact them with a simple invitation to explore whether the Lord is leading them to take another step. It will also allow me to invite them to special vocation retreats or informational gatherings such as a Project Andrew dinner. These have been beneficial to many of our young men, including a number of our current seminarians.
The Christmas Collection
Having more seminarians carries with it a “happy problem;” The cost of educating and forming them increases! In this current year alone, the cost to the diocese of educating our seminarians will be around $350,000. A primary way that we fund this expense is through the annual collection at the Christmas Masses. A portion of this collection also is used to help fund the expenses associated with our retired priests. I ask that you be generous in supporting this collection, supporting those who have served and those who will serve. If you will be away for Christmas, I have included an envelope for you to participate—simply drop in the parish collection when you are able, or mail it to your parish or into the diocese.
Thank you again for responding to the call that every member of the Church has to foster vocations. May the Lord of the harvest bless us with many more men and women willing to serve His people!