Each year between Christmas and New Year’s, seminarians of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois travel to Villa Maria Catholic Life Center on Lake Springfield for two days of fellowship and reflection before returning to their studies in January.
“It’s an intentional reason so they can be together as, God willing, our future priests and also to be with the bishop,” said Father Brian Alford, director of Vocations and pastor of St. Jude Parish in Rochester. “The more they have that familiarity and comfort with the bishop, the better we all work together as a presbyterate under the direction of our bishop.”
Nineteen seminarians and two more seminary candidates were greeted by several parish priests of the diocese as they joined Bishop Thomas John Paprocki for Evening Prayer.
“St. John tells us that we form a fellowship with Jesus Christ … that’s our whole reason for being here,” said Bishop Paprocki. “To our seminarians, I thank you for the hard work you are putting into your seminary studies and this opportunity to get to know each other.”
“It’s great to see the camaraderie among the priesthood and the new vocations to the priesthood,” said Father James Isaacson, SJC, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Springfield. “It reminds us that we’re all constantly called to ask for more shepherds of the sheep. The hope of the future is the young men that are interested in Christ’s calling.”
In milling around the room prior to dinner on Dec. 29, one could pick up snippets of conversation about vocations, books and Bibles studied during the break and certainly varying degrees of laughter and commeraderie. Grant Wilson, a parishioner of Our Saviour in Jacksonville, is a pre-theology student at Mundelein Seminary. He was heard discussing with fellow seminarians his Summer 2016 internship served at the Catholic Pastoral Center. “At the curia, I could see the big picture. My particular job was working with the DCJH grants.” Dave Beagles of Springfield Cathedral Parish told of his planned trip to the Holy Land this year as part of his Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology experience.
Aaron Kuhn of St. Francis Solanus Parish in Quincy is looking forward to his diaconate ordination on April 21, but knows there’s plenty of travel and study before that important step that began soon after he returned to Mundelein.
“We’ll be there nine weeks, it’s a pilgrimage taking classes three days a week and also visiting many of the Holy Land sites,” Kuhn said.
As the current seminarians began their gathering, Father Alford was wrapping up a discernment retreat. Eight young men, perhaps a future seminarian or two or three, participated in the event.