Men from many different backgrounds are answering “yes” to the Lord. Their stories are unique, but all have one thing in common. All had a deep desire to serve the Lord and the people of northeastern Wisconsin. Over the last 15 years, 36 men have been ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Green Bay.
Newly ordained priest, Fr. Kevin Ripley said, “It all started with an invitation to consider the priesthood by a priest and through time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Also, many people asked me, ‘Have you considered the priesthood?’ and it really started to grow on me.”
Fr. Greg Parent explained, “Over the years of learning to pray, learning how to hear the voice of God — it was a pull on my heart that became stronger and stronger. I knew God created me to be a priest.”
Many priests have stories, similar to Fr. Ripley and Fr. Parent, of how God touched their hearts. Through the Office of Vocations and with support from the annual Seminarian Collection, men find the help they need to say “yes” to God.
The 15th annual Seminarian Collection kicks off Aug. 1 and 2 in every parish in the diocese. Gifts from this collection help seminarians with such things as tuition, room and board, insurance and support of the Office of Vocations. Annually, it costs nearly $40,000 per seminarian.
“Being present for men wherever they are in their journey, answering questions, talking with their parents, helping them understand if it really is God calling them, that’s my role as the vocation director,” explained Fr. Mark Mleziva.
According to Fr. Mleziva, young men start thinking about becoming a priest around the age of 13. More than 80% are altar servers and nearly 75% have attended Catholic school at some point in their life. Currently, 14 men are in formation and the goal is to have 30 seminarians by 2025.
“To increase the number of men in seminary, we need to have a presence in the places they spend time, such as in our parishes, Catholic schools and colleges. All of us need to start having conversations with our youth about a vocation to the priesthood,” explained Fr. Mleziva. “To be able to serve the 156 parishes throughout the Diocese of Green Bay, we need more young men to answer this very important call.”
“For 15 years, the people of God have been generously supporting our seminarians. If you have made a gift to the Seminarian Collection in the last 15 years, thank you,” said Bishop David Ricken. “If you have not had the opportunity to make a gift, please consider making a gift this year. Our seminarians are the future of our church and need our prayers and financial support.”
Gifts to the Seminarian Collection make a tremendous impact in the lives of our seminarians, said Fr. Mleziva. For many, they would not be able to become a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay without the support of many generous families and individuals.
“Probably the most humbling thing I’ve seen was a young second grader who gave the money he received for his first holy Communion to the Seminarian Collection. People are sacrificing more than I can ever imagine,” said Fr. Zach Weber, Catholic campus ministry director for the Newman Center at UW-Oshkosh.
Fr. Ben Johnson, a newly ordained priest, adds, “To all those who have given to the Seminarian Collection on behalf of myself and my brother priests, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us this chance, this opportunity to study and ultimately become a priest of Jesus Christ for this diocese. Thank you and may God bless you.”
“I am grateful for all the people who so generously support our seminarians. Through this generosity we are able to lead more souls to the kingdom of God,” said Fr. Mleziva. He urged members of the diocese to continue praying “for more good, holy priests like Fr. Ripley, Fr. Parent, Fr. Weber and Fr. Johnson to answer ‘yes’ to our Lord.”