Faithful Called to Answer Financial Challenge
Since 2004, the Diocese of Harrisburg has been blessed with a consistent increase in the number of its seminarians.
Eight years ago at this time, 12 young men were settling into a new academic year in the diocese’s seminarian formation program.
Today, that number totals 41 – the same number of years that have past since the diocese last saw this many seminarians. In 1971, 45 were studying for the priesthood here.
The trend in the increasing number of seminarians these past several years offers an optimistic outlook concerning priestly vocations in the Diocese of Harrisburg.
It also presents a challenge to us, the faithful whom these current seminarians will one day serve as priests.
“With the tripling of the number of seminarians in less than 10 years comes the dramatic increase of financially providing for the formation of each seminarian,” said Father Raymond LaVoie, Director of the Diocesan Office of Vocations.
The average annual cost for each seminarian in the diocese’s formation program is close to $40,000. That comes to roughly $1.6 million per year to cover the cost of education of 41 seminarians.
Think of it as having 41 sons in college.
“Our responsibility as a diocesan family is that we have 41 sons from our parishes, and during their formation, their schedule is so full that they can’t hold even a part-time job. So financial support for them comes from the people of the diocese,” Father LaVoie said.
This support comes from contributions to the annual Diocesan Pentecost Collection, through the annual Fishers of Men Dinner and through donations to the Bishop Joseph T. Daley Seminary Scholarship Fund.
“Whenever a person financially contributes to the education of a seminarian, they are investing in their own future, to have a priest in their home parish who will baptize their children and grandchildren” Father LaVoie said. “They’re ensuring that priests will be in the Catholic high schools they send their children to, that they’ll be in the hospitals to minister to the sick.
“And, we need priests to follow in the footsteps of those who have given a lifetime of faithful service to the priesthood and are preparing to retire,” he added. “It really is through the prayers and financial support of the faithful that are making the next generation of priests possible.”
Culture of Vocations
The 41 seminarians come from various backgrounds and have an assortment of interests and talents. Among them are former high school valedictorians and military serviceman, gifted athletes and talented musicians.
Though their experiences and interests vary, they all share a common desire to follow Christ and to bring Jesus to his people.
“In our seminarians, we look for men who show the beginning of a great life of faith with Jesus Christ, who love Jesus and the Church, and who have a desire to serve God’s people,” Father LaVoie pointed out. “Our seminarians have that zeal. They have a desire to give themselves away to God’s people.”
Father LaVoie attributes the consistent growth in the number of seminarians to the culture of vocations that is fostered in the diocese.
He cited the “incredible support and spiritual leadership” of diocesan bishops, expressly pointing to the efforts of Bishop Joseph P. McFadden and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who have been “catalysts for calling our young people to be open to the vocation that Our Lord has given them.”
He also pointed to “the good, holy people in our diocese.” Our seminarians come from the homes of our families who are supporting their sons’ vocations to the priesthood. The faithful also consistently support seminarians with care packages, financial assistance and prayers. And, they faithfully pray for an increase in vocations through an ongoing prayer campaign in the diocese’s perpetual adoration chapels.
Diocesan priests and the seminarians themselves also promote a culture of vocations, Father LaVoie pointed out. The priests’ example of “their holy lives, of joyfully serving God’s people” are sources of encouragement to seminarians. And, the seminarians give witness to other men by their commitment to entering the seminary.
“The Holy Spirit is doing something unique and powerful in our diocese,” Father LaVoie said. “While the sheer number of seminarians tells us that, it’s also the quality of these men.”�
“As men from our diocese accept Our Lord’s invitation to discern priesthood, we have to meet the challenge of providing for them financially,” he said. “When they enter the seminary, they become our responsibility in the diocese. Just as they step forward in faith, we too must stand with them.”
By Jen Reed
The Catholic Witness