Collection looks to the future
Donations will be used to help fund the education of young men studying for priesthood
By Tony Staley
|Hope for the Future: Help Them Today poster for seminarian education collection
Over the next month Catholics in northeast Wisconsin will be asked to help the ministerial needs of tomorrow by supporting the education of seminarians today.
The request comes through what may become an annual collection to educate seminarians.
Because of summer vacation schedules, parishes will have until Sept. 18 to conduct the Hope for the Future: Help Them Today collection, said Fr. Tom Long, diocesan director of vocations.
Meet the seminarians
Here are the names of the Green Bay Diocese's seminarians, their homes parishes, academic year and name of the seminary where they are studying:
Jason Blahnik, Stella Maris, Egg Harbor, Theology III, Mundelein Seminary, Mundelien, Ill.
Timothy Brandt, St. Anthony, Tigerton, Theology I, Mundelein.
Michael Brummond, St. John-Sacred Heart, Sherwood, Theology III, North American College, Rome.
Adam Campbell, St. Anthony, Oconto Falls, Theology I, Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio.
David Duffeck, St. Raphael, Oshkosh, Theology IV, St. Meinrad, St. Meinrad, Ind.
Joseph Fleischman, St. Casimir, Krakow, Theology I, Mundelein.
Andrew Kysely, St. Josaphat, Oshkosh, Theology III, Mundelein.
Ryan Krueger, St. Mary, Menasha, College II, Josephinum.
Quinn Mann, Corpus Christi, Sturgeon Bay, Theology IV, Mundelein.
Daniel Schuster, St. Mary, Oshkosh, Theology II, Mundelein.
Ben Sember, Sacred Heart, Oshkosh, Theology IV, North American College.
Joel Sember, Most Precious Blood, New London, Theology IV, North American College.
Walter Stumpf, Holy Spirit, Kimberly/Darboy, Theology IV, Mundelein.
Daniel Wagner, St. Augustine, Wausaukee, Theology I, Mundelein.
Michael Warden, Ss. Peter & Paul, Green Bay, College I, Josephinum.
The diocese requires seminarians to pay for their own college education. The diocese then pays for major seminary (graduate school) at a cost of some $40,000 a year per seminarian - a total of $625,000 in 2005-06.
The diocese has paid for seminary education mainly with money earned from the sale of the former Sacred Heart Seminary in Oneida and donations for education of seminarians. But with increases in both the number of seminarians and the costs of seminary education, additional funding was needed, Fr. Long said.
This year, the diocese expects to have 14 students in major seminary - pre-theology or theology - up from six seminarians five years ago. Two other seminarians are in college.
"Admittedly the number of ordinations in the coming years will not equal the numbers of older priests who are retiring, but we continue to be encouraged by this increase in vocations to the priesthood," Bp. David Zubik said in a letter to diocesan Catholics.
"With the increase in these numbers comes a significant increase in costs to form and educate them," Bp. Zubik said. The $40,000 annual cost for seminarian education includes tuition, room and board and health insurance. Seminarians also receive a small stipend because the demands of preparing for their future ministry make outside jobs impossible.
For example, Fr. Long said, during the school year, they spend all day in classes or studying. In addition, they are involved in spiritual formation and ministries, such as assisting in parishes, jails or nursing homes.
Fr. Long said his ministerial activities included teaching religious education classes, helping in a homeless shelter and staffing a suicide hot line.
Working on the hot line was scary, but insightful, he said. "It taught me how to listen and not to give a quick answer, but to respect the struggle they were going through and to help them find hope despite the difficulties they faced."
During the summer, seminarians engage in parish ministry, a mandatory Spanish-language immersion program, Clinical Pastoral Education or a spirituality program offered by Creighton
University in Omaha.
Catholics can promote vocations in several ways, said Fr. Tom Long, diocesan director of vocations.
These ways include:
Financially supporting the Hope for the Future: Help Them Today seminarian collection being taken in parishes.
Praying for vocations in general and the diocese's seminarians in particular. Family prayer is especially important so children learn that their family will support them if God calls them to priesthood.
Adopting a seminarian as a parish, school, religious education program, family or individual. Pray for the seminarian and send him cards periodically. The Vocations Office will publish a prayer card listing the seminarians and can arrange matches.
Greet and welcome seminarians in your parish.
Encourage young men to consider a vocation to the priesthood.
For more information, contact Fr. Long at 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8293, or (920)272-8293; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a long time, Catholics have been praying for young men who would be willing to serve as priests of the diocese, Fr. Long said. "Now that their numbers are increasing, this is a way for us to support and help them so that hopefully, one day they will come back and serve in our parish."
In an audio tape provided to parishes for the collection, Fr. Brian Belongia, said: "Attending seminary afforded me the gift of being able to pray and learn about our faith on a
continuous basis. It truly immersed me in the richness of the Catholic tradition, as well as in ways to truly and more completely configure myself to the will of God."
However, continued Fr. Belongia, who has served as associate pastor at St. Pius X Parish, Appleton, since his ordination on May 21, "If I hadn't been supported financially, I don't know if I could have or would have continued. I just couldn't have dealt with the finances."
On the same tape, Fr. Carl Schmitt said the diocese paid $125,000 for his education.
"For most people, the thought of paying for an advanced degree of study that cost this much is unrealistic unless you are going to be entering a high-paying field," said Fr. Schmitt, who also was ordained on May 21 and is now the associate pastor of St. Raphael Parish, Oshkosh.
"But for me I recognized that I would not be entering a high-paying field from a money standpoint, but a high-paying field in bringing the Word of the Lord to the faithful of Northeastern Wisconsin. For this, I am grateful," Fr. Schmitt said.
Supporting the collection is also good stewardship, Fr. Long said.
"These men are living stewardship by giving their life to the church in ordination," Fr. Long said. "We can respond to that gift through our own generosity in prayer for them, by
financial sharing and with service by supporting them with cards, greeting them in our parishes or inviting our own children to consider a vocation to priesthood."