Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - The Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations collection will launch on Sept. 21 with a very easy and affordable way for every household in the Diocese of Lincoln to help support our seminarians.
JD Flynn, diocesan communications director, explained to the Register the importance of financially supporting diocesan seminarians.
“The diocese spends between $1.2 and $1.4 million on the formation of seminarians each year, and most of that money, right now, comes from the reserved funds of the diocese,” he said.
The million-dollar-plus total is based on the financial costs of tuition, room and board, books, and travel for each seminarian, which averaged $36,000 per year.
“Obviously, we have a unique challenge in the diocese because we are blessed with so many priestly vocations,” Flynn stated.
Among those seminarians are eight men who are scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood next May. They are: Deacons Justin Fulton, Stephen Graeve, Corey Harrison, Ryan Kaup, Denton Morris, Cyrus Rowan, Ryan Salisbury and Christopher Stoley.
Currently, these deacons are finishing up their final year of seminary, split between Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.
Each of them is consciously grateful for what the appeal means to them.
Deacon Fulton, who was raised in Auburn’s St. Joseph Parish and attended Lincoln’s North American Martyrs Parish prior to entering the seminary said, “I feel many of us would not be able to enter seminary if it were not for the cooperation, monetary help, support, and prayers of the entire Diocese.”
“Leaving college and, in turn, giving up a scholarship, was a tough decision to make,” said Deacon Kaup, who hails from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Lincoln, “but knowing that my educational expenses would still provided for made taking the leap into the seminary that much easier.
“It has continued to be a great gift these past seven years,” he said.
Student loans would be a possibility but several of the deacons agreed that repayment would be an insurmountable burden.
“It would be difficult to pay the interest, let alone the balance,” said Deacon Graeve of St. Peter Parish in Lincoln.
Deacon Salisbury, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Hastings, joked that he might have had to resort to hosting bake sales were it not for the generosity of the people of the diocese.
More seriously, he stated, “This allowed me to give my heart more fully to Christ during my years in seminary.”
Each of the seminarians has met peers from other dioceses who are required to fund their own education and formation, “which makes it much more difficult to pursue priestly life,” noted Deacon Graeve. “This is probably one of the reasons that we have so many vocations in our diocese.”
Though the cost of funding so many seminarians is high, the burden is light when spread out among all the households in the diocese.”
“Bishop Conley will ordain eight men to the priesthood this year,” Flynn reasoned. “If each family gave $8 month for those eight priestly vocations, that would be only $96 a year.”
With more than 90,000 households registered in the diocese, the Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations can potentially meet the needs of every seminarian.
Additionally, the diocese has set up an online giving system with the opportunity for automatic payroll deduction. Donors throughout the diocese can simply go to www.lincolndiocese.org to give.
Flynn is hopeful that the charitable spirit that is so characteristic of the Diocese of Lincoln will help make this year’s appeal succeed.
“Everybody knows how good of an investment it is to support our seminarians, because of the good we have received from our priests,” he said.
The eight transitional deacons offered their gratitude to — and prayers on behalf of — everyone who is able to financially support their formation.
“The generous people of the diocese enable all of us to freely discern God’s will without inhibition, pressure, or coercion,” said Deacon Fulton. “This truly shows us that we are all united in the Mystical Body of Christ.”
“It is a testament to their faith that they want to support seminarians who become their own parish priests,” added Deacon Rowan, from Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Falls City.
Deacon Kaup agreed.
“Not only does it fill me with a deep gratitude, it also bespeaks to the greater reality of the priestly vocation,” he said. “The priesthood isn’t about me. It is directed toward the other — toward the people of the diocese who I am called to serve.”
He continued, “A priest is ordained to offer sacrifice on behalf of the people, uniting their daily lives to the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Therefore, it is fitting that we are all in this together — supporting vocations to build up the Kingdom of God.”
For more information about the Bishop’s Appeal for Vocations, consult your parish priest or visit www.lincolndiocese.org.