“We know that our future is bright and we know that these men merit your support,” Father Jonathan Sawicki, Diocesan Director of Vocations, told the crowd of 400 at the annual Fishers of Men Dinner.
The attendees filled the dining room at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg on Oct. 4 in a demonstration of their financial and prayerful support of seminarian education and formation.
“These men didn’t drop in out of the air,” Father Sawicki said of the Diocese’s 27 seminarians. “They come from our parishes, from our schools, from our religious education programs and campus ministries. But most of all, they come from our families.”
The average cost of one seminarian’s education is approximately $40,000. With 27 seminarians, the Diocese spends upwards of $1 million annually for their priestly formation.
“Thanks to all of your kind support, the Diocese has the ability to support a large number of seminarians, a much larger group in proportion to other dioceses,” seminarian Peter Rettig told the parishioners, clergy and religious in attendance.
“Because of your generosity, we have the means to be formed as holy men, and to learn the key truths of the faith to be ordained, offer the sacraments and, in the end, help guide all of you to heaven.”
Rettig, from St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Waynesboro, has studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pa., at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, where he advanced his Spanish-speaking skills, and is now in his third year of Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
“Thanks to the education and the formation that I’ve received, I can proudly say that I – and all the other seminarians present here tonight – are looking forward to serving you as priests in the future,” he said.
Rettig’s classmate, Aaron Lynch, also stepped to the podium during the dinner to express his gratitude for those who have financially supported seminarians in their education and formation,
I realize the sacrifices you all must make in order to allow my brothers and I to devote so long a time to study and prayer,” said Lynch, a native son of St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle. He is in his seventh of eight years of formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
“I cannot express the love and comfort you have been for me and for all my brothers, not only for these seven years, but for the years stretching back and the years ahead,” he said.
“Knowing of your love, I say that I am confident and unafraid, and that whatever God has planned for me, I’ll do it – not alone, but in unity with you. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for the generosity you show by being here. I hope that you can see that our future is strong in the Diocese of Harrisburg,” Lynch said.
Bishop Ronald Gainer also expressed gratitude for those supporting one of the most important aspects of the life of a diocese – preparing men for ordination to the priesthood.
The Diocese’s 27 seminarians range in age from 19 to 63. Five are in college, nine in pre-theology and 13 in theology.
The bishop asked those gathered to consider some statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate regarding the 481 priests ordained in 2019, and how they can continue to encourage vocations to the priesthood.
“It took, on average, four people to regularly encourage a priestly discernment,” he said of the national statistics on newly ordained priests. “Seventy percent said a parish priest was a major influence, 48 percent said a friend, 47 percent a parishioner, 37 percent a mother, 30 percent a teacher, 26 percent afather.”
The priests, parents, educators, Knights of Columbus councils and Serra Club members on hand were recognized for the important role they played in the seminarians’ discernment of the priesthood, and Bishop Gainer showed his appreciation for those who financially support their education and formation.
“It is money well spent on our future,” he said. “The need is great today, but the promise of our future is also great.”
(Learn more about the Diocese’s seminarians and how to support their education and formation at www.hbgdiocese.org/clergy/vocations/.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness