I am just back from a short but wonderful visit with our college seminarians who are attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in southwest Miami. Father Len Plazewski, our Vocation Director, and I arrived at the seminary about 3:30pm and I stayed busy with private interviews with each of the seventeen men for three hours. Then we went to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner (joined by two other seminarians from this diocese who came down from the theologate in Boynton Beach to attend a special lecture). I am proud of the large group who we have attending St. John Vianney and I always enjoy spending time with them once a year as well as eating and praying with them. During our private talks, I am always amazed at how open they are and willing to talk to me about their ups and downs, where they feel they are standing at this moment relative to the long journey to priesthood, and how they believe themselves to be growing: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, maturationally, and vocationally. The seminary years are a period of discernment and they are not meant to be an easy time. There is too much on the line: a public promise of celibate chastity for the rest of their lives, obedience and respect to their bishops and their successors, and a ministry to others wherever in the diocese they are sent. We celebrated the Eucharist this morning before Father Len and I had to hightail it back to St. Petersburg for a busy week-end.
There are two aspects of their college experience which can and usually are quite challenging: studying in a Hispanic culture and acquiring the necessary language ability to survive in Hispanic Miami and serve in the Church; and, the study of philosophy, a speculative intellectual discipline that does not easily lend itself to “Wikipedia” or “Ask.com.” It is always enjoyable for me to hear how the men are doing in both regards. Overall, this group is not just coping but flourishing. Three men will be entering First Theology next year at Boynton Beach, still looking at five more years of formation. It is a long way not just to “Tipperary” but to priesthood as well. These seventeen are off to a good start.
The collegians and pre-theologians (they have completed a bachelor’s degree elsewhere and are in a two-year “crash course” in philosophy and spirituality) studying for us and their sending parishes are: Jonathan Emery, St. Clement, Plant City; Kyle Smith, Our Lady of the Rosary, Land-o-Lakes; Felipe Gonzalez, St. Paul, Tampa; Jackson Reeves, Most Holy Name of Jesus, Gulfport; Jonathan Stephanz, St. Stephen, Valrico; Gregory Visca, Nativity, Brandon; Elbert Ballado, St. Stephens, Valrico; Adrian Padilla, Our Lady of the Rosary, Land-o-Lakes; Karl Schmidt, Nativity, Brandon; Chris McBride, St. Raphael’s, Snell Island; Brian Fabiszewski, St. Catherine, Largo; Cliff Whitty, St. Cecilia, Clearwater; Curtiss Carro, St. Jerome, Indian Rocks Beach; Imad El Chiti, Christ the King, Tampa; Joseph Plesko, Nativity, Brandon; Chuck Dornquast, St. Joseph, Zephyr Hills; Anthony Ustick, St. Matthew, Largo. Here is a picture of the group:
OUR 2008-2009 COLLEGE SEMINARIANS AT ST. JOHN VIANNEY
I am happy to share with the good news that we are likely to increase our number for next year at St. John Vianney by six to possibly eight new candidates. Particularly pleasing to me and an answer to my many prayers are several candidates from the Hispanic community. Pray hard for these men that they might persevere and serve our Church as priests of God.