Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) – Bishop James D. Conley has announced that Father Brian Kane has been given a newly-created position: director of seminarians.
Father Kane will remain in residence at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he is in his third year as dean of men. Father Robert Matya will remain director of vocations for the diocese, and Father Steven Mills will remain assistant director of vocations.
“The director of seminarians position is an effort to ensure men who are discerning the priesthood have every necessary resource available to them during their journey,” Father Kane explained.
He noted the rigors of formation mean it’s important for the diocese to offer comprehensive support throughout their time in seminary. That can be six years for a man who enters with a college degree, and as many as eight for one who has not.
“During those years men are formed in four dimensions: spiritual, academic, pastoral and human,” Father Kane said.
He quoted Pope Francis from “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” the Vatican’s 2016 document on priestly formation: “Each dimension of formation is aimed at ‘transforming’ or ‘assimilating’ the heart in the image of the heart of Christ, who was sent by the Father to fulfill his loving plan… Those responsible for the formation of men for the priesthood have an important duty to guide and encourage this transformation of a seminarian’s heart in the image of the heart of Christ.”
Father Kane said he takes this very seriously.
“The opportunity to help guide and mentor young men discerning the priesthood is a privilege and important responsibility,” he said. “I see this new position as one way of helping the seminarians of the Diocese of Lincoln to blossom and mature in their discipleship of Jesus and in their discernment of the priesthood.”
Though his position is a new one, Father Kane recognizes that he is building on the firm foundation laid by the current and previous directors of vocations.
“I’m following in the footsteps of influential priests in the Diocese of Lincoln who have been working with seminarians for many years,” Father Kane said.
Fathers Kane and Matya were at St. Charles Seminary together, for Father Matya’s final year as deacon, and Father Kane’s first year in theology studies. After he was ordained, Father Kane served as Father Matya’s assistant vocations director.
“I will be working closely with Father Matya and Father Mills,” Father Kane assured. “Their work at the Newman Center, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish at the University of Nebraska, and their outreach through FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) has been a critical part of the large number of men who are discerning a call to the priesthood for our diocese.”
More than half the priests in the diocese have come through the Newman Center at the University of Nebraska.
“Young men are attracted to the priesthood when they see the witness of happy priests,” reasoned Father Kane. “Vocations are also nurtured in holy families and encouraged in our parishes and schools. “
There are 39 seminarians in various stages of formation for the Diocese of Lincoln. Eight are with Father Kane at St. Charles. Seven are at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and three are at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The remaining 21 men are in college-level formation at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward.
“All three of the theological seminaries we use have outstanding faculty members and formators who work with our men in their spiritual, academic, pastoral and human formation,” Kane said. “Utilizing seminaries outside our own diocese allows our seminarians to gain a wider understanding of the Church both in the United States and in the world.”
Father Kane is also happy to be working with the staff at St. Gregory the Great Seminary.
“I am looking forward to collaborating with Father Jeffrey Eickhoff (rector) and the other faculty members there,” he said.
Though he is currently residing in Philadelphia, Father Kane will be able to establish mentoring relationships with the men who attend other seminaries, just as Bishop Conley and Father Matya do.
“Bishop Conley and Father Matya make regular visits to all the seminaries to interact with the seminarians and to see how they are doing,” Father Kane said. “I will be able to make the same visits to our other seminaries while assigned to my position at St. Charles.”
Mount St. Mary Seminary is only a two-hour drive away. In fact, Lincoln seminarians at each campus frequently get together for fraternal activities.
Father Kane will also communicate regularly with seminarians through email and telephone.
He is invigorated by the enthusiasm that he sees in the diocese’s seminarians.
“I have found that today young men want to be ‘counter-cultural’ in their formation,” Father Kane said. “They want to rise early in the morning to make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. They want to learn how to engage the culture, and effective methods of sharing the message of the Gospel with their peers and others who have abandoned faith and the Church. They want to be examples of simplicity of life, humility and holiness.”
He concluded, “Our prayers for them are critical in supporting their zeal and desire to be missionaries of mercy.”