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Return of the Seminarians

Seminarians from Pontifical North American College ordained as deacons in St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican
CNS photo by Paul Haring

As I have written about previously here at Liturgy Guy, the Catholic Church in America is currently experiencing an increase in seminarians. This resurgence of young men who are responding to God’s call bodes well for the future, while serving as a source of hope for today. It is interesting to see where many of our seminarians are coming from by taking a closer look at which dioceses are fostering vocations to the priesthood.

The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska
Currently the diocese has 47 young men in seminary despite having only 134 parishes and less than 98,000 Catholics. The Diocese of Lincoln has long been recognized (on a per capita basis) as a leader in producing vocations to the priesthood.

For over 20 years Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz created an oasis of orthodoxy in the heartland of America. The diocese is known for its refusal to permit girls to serve at the altar, a strong support of the Traditional Latin Mass, many Catholic schools (including 6 high schools), multiple religious orders, as well as being home to the North American Seminary for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP). The success of Lincoln continues following the installation in 2012 of its ninth bishop, the Most Reverend James D. Conley. Which brings us to the next success story.

The Diocese of Wichita, Kansas
Currently Wichita has an astounding 59 young men in seminary. It is interesting to note that back in the 1990’s the chaplain for the Newman Center on the campus of Wichita State was none other than Father James D. Conley, now Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska.

This vocations rich diocese of only 91 parishes was shepherded by Bishop Michael Jackels from April 2005 until May of this year. Prior to his installation as bishop, however, Father Jackels had been a priest in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska under Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, serving at one time as his Assistant Director of Vocations.

The Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona
Prior to Bishop Jackels arrival in Wichita, the diocese had been led by Bishop Timothy Olmstead from 2001 to 2003. However, in 2003 Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Olmstead to the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona. Much like in Wichita, Bishop Olmstead has fostered vocations in Pheonix as well. Currently this diocese of only 92 parishes has 27 young men in seminary.

The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia
On the east coast of the United States there are a few more success stores to share, beginning with the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Despite only having 68 parishes, the diocese currently has 38 seminarians. For years Arlington and Lincoln were the only remaining dioceses in the United States to prohibit girl altar servers.

While the Arlington diocese eventually granted permission for girls to altar serve (at the pastors discretion), approximately 60 percent of parishes have maintained the tradition of altar boys only. The reason most frequently cited: to assist with the discernment process and to foster vocations to the priesthood. In addition, the Diocese of Arlington has made the Extraordinary Form of the Mass more widely available to the faithful. Currently there are 12 parishes which offer the Latin Mass on a regular basis.

The Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina
My home Diocese of Charlotte currently has 22 young men in seminary, with approximately 175,000 registered Catholics within the diocese. The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis was installed as the fourth Bishop of Charlotte in August 2003. Immediately following the release of Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, Bishop Jugis sent several priests to learn how to offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. In addition, many of our current seminarians are being taught how to offer both forms of the Roman Rite. As our liturgical heritage is rediscovered, and the traditional and sacred beauty of the Church is presented to the faithful, we are experiencing a significant increase in vocations.

Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter
In addition to these diocesan stories there is the also the ongoing success of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP). Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary is home to the Fraternity’s English-speaking candidates and is located in Denton, Nebraska within the territorial boundaries of the previously mentioned Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. The Fraternity has nearly 80 young men studying for the priesthood at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Currently the society has a presence in 34 dioceses in the United States and 6 in Canada. These young men are drawn to the Fraternity, which has a charism to “offer the Sacred Liturgy, including the Holy Mass…as well as the other sacraments in all of their traditional solemnity according to the Latin liturgical books of 1962.”

While these are just a few of the success stories, there are more. At the same time, there are still far too many dioceses that are struggling to foster vocations. I would suggest researching your own diocese to find out how many seminarians you have. Then pray for those young men. In addition, pray for all of the young men still discerning.

Finally, we cannot be surprised by what we find where vocations are abundant. Faithful families. Strong orthodoxy. Beautiful liturgy, often in the Extraordinary Form. In many cases, the venerable practice of male only altar servers, specifically for the purpose of fostering vocations. And always we find people of prayer.

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