For about 13 years now, an annual Fall rite of passage has taken place in the institutions of the Diocese of Erie. A new seminarians’ poster is hung up on the walls of our schools and parishes. Each year, some seminarians from the previous year are absent from the poster. Some of them have “graduated” off of the poster, being ordained to the priesthood. Others take a leave of absence, or leave the seminary program. Those blank spaces on the poster are happily filled with the faces of new seminarians. Each year brings a change. Every year, the seminaries that form and train our seminarians change, too. With additions and subtractions in seminarians and seminary staff, one year can be very different from the next.
Currently, we have seminarians studying for their theology prerequisites and undergraduate degrees at Gannon University, Erie, Pennsylvania. They are also enrolled at St. Mark’s Seminary Formation Program in Erie. These men are taking the first step of their seminary formation program, in what is referred to as “minor seminary”. During the day, these men attend classes at Gannon, and they participate in the formation program at St. Mark’s in the evenings.
We also have seminarians studying in theology school, otherwise known as “Major Seminary”. While minor seminary is very much the “college experience”, major seminary is a stand-apart formation focused specifically on priesthood preparation. We currently have men studying in the major seminaries at St. Vincent, Latrobe, PA and St. Mary’s, Baltimore. The program of minor and major seminary for a Diocesan seminarian lasts 6-8 years, depending on circumstances. At the end of the 3rd year of Theology studies, a man is ordained to the Diaconate. At the end of the 4th and final year of Theology studies, a man is ordained to the Priesthood.
It is a brave thing for a man to enter the seminary in these days. There is not a lot of social support for the priesthood in our culture, although the faithful are deeply appreciative and supportive of seminarians and priests. Still, someone who is discerning priesthood is looked at skeptically by many. It is hard for people to understand the intentions of such a young man. Therefore, it is very appropriate for young men discerning a vocation to come together in a group setting, supporting one another, receiving appropriate direction, and receiving a good education. We need more seminarians. We need to pray for our seminarians!
Here are the names of our men in the seminary. Please hold them up in prayer as they start their new semester of studies at their various seminaries. Pray that they can follow God’s will as they discern their life’s calling. Pray for their perseverance, as seminarians often times struggle to see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Pray that our seminarians will become shepherds after the heart of Christ, and pray for those charged with their formation, that they may be faithful servants of Christ’s Church. Here are the names of our seminarians, in no particular order:
And if any of these guys are reading this article – I don’t see any of you on a regular basis – be assured always of my thoughts and prayers for you. Thanks for your generosity!