“How many of the 110 parishes in the Archdiocese did the seminarians end up visiting in 2016?” I asked our Vocation Director, Father Michael Wimsatt. The scene was the usual week-before-Christmas gathering of seminarians (those in formation for priesthood), along with some candidates and priests who are assisting them as mentors. It is always a great evening! It begins with Evening Prayer, followed by a festive meal full of the good cheer and laughter that accompanies the days before Christmas and the days after the first semester ends. I asked the question because Father Michael had shared with me the plan that he devised with Father Shayne Duvall and Sister Sarah as a way for seminarians to experience the fullness of the Archdiocese and as a response to the Jubilee Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis.
“All 110! A seminarian visited each of the parishes in the Archdiocese this year!” was his reply. This Jubilee Year of Mercy goal of our Vocation Office was one that I heartily supported. What a win-win situation. Seminarians get to see the rich diversity of the parishes of the Archdiocese – big and small, city and rural – stretching throughout the 24 counties of Central Kentucky, all the way from the Ohio River to the Tennessee border. I remember wishing that I had that opportunity to make such parish visits during my days in the seminary five decades ago.
Not only is it good for the seminarians, but it is good for the parishes. There is no substitute for parishioners at a Sunday Mass being able to meet the seminarians in person. In some cases, parishioners are familiar with one or another of our seminarians. Perhaps one comes from the parish or has served in summer ministry. But in the vast majority of cases, the contact is a new experience. I am proud of all nineteen of these fine men and happy to have them represent the Archdiocese.
I am told that the best way to have a young man consider the vocation to priesthood is to meet a seminarian. Success begets success! I recall that during the summer I entered the seminary (1963), I met a number of seminarians at summer parish picnics. The encounter made the dream and attraction to enter the seminary very tangible. I can’t help but believe that the same is happening during these visits.
Another benefit is that parishioners may be meeting their future pastor! I reflected that ten or fifteen years from now, this seminarian would be ordained and assigned to serve these very parishioners.
The parish is the “bread and butter” of Catholic life and the core of priestly service. It is the main reason why in this edition of “The Record” my pastoral letter, “Your Parish: The Body of Christ Alive in Our Midst,” is presented for your reading. The letter is the first public step in a process of parish discernment that will span two or three years and that should provide a pathway for vibrant parishes for the decades to come. I encourage you to read this pastoral now – it is presented in the center section of the newspaper – as a precursor to when your parish will engage more deeply with it as your parish participates in the discernment process described in the letter.
I like to say that the “Archdiocese” is not some abstract concept in the sky but represents 110 parishes, united in truth and charity in Christ Jesus and seeking to help one another. It is so good that our future pastors are discovering early in their priestly formation the great gift of parish life. (For more information on opportunities to discern a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, go to the vocation office website at www.louisvillevocations.com.)
ARCHBISHOP JOSEPH E. KURTZ