By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Fifteen men ranging in age from 19 to 42 are in various stages of formation to be priests of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
This year’s class is comprised of 10 men who are continuing formation for the archdiocese and five who are new to seminary.
Father Michael Wimsatt, director of the Vocations Office, called the men a “strong, diverse group.”
“They enjoy one another’s company a lot. When they are together, there is always a lot of laughter. That is so important in priestly life,” said Father Wimsatt, who also serves as the pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption.
The men come from various backgrounds. One just completed high school. Another taught high school for several years. They hail from a dozen different parishes. And two men are from Vietnam.
Prior to the start of the fall semester, the seminarians attended a provincial gathering with other seminarians, vocation directors and bishops from the seven dioceses in Kentucky and Tennessee that make up the Province of Louisville.
The collegial spirit of the gathering was a “powerful witness,” Father Wimsatt said.
“Most people are accustomed to seeing one priest — their pastor. So it’s unusual to see multiple priests interacting in one setting. It’s a powerful witness.
“That healthy collegiality can be a tool for evangelization, a way of proclaiming the faith,” he said.
Three seminarians are expected to be ordained priests in the spring — Deacons Tony Cecil, Steven Reeves and Kirby Rust.
Father Wimsatt, who has served as vocation director for five years, said that while the Catholic Church in the United States is experiencing difficult times, there are reasons to remain hopeful.
Candidates for seminary, he said, go through a rigorous application process, some of which was put in place after the sex abuse crisis hit the church in 2002.
The process includes a two-day psychological evaluation, carried out in the Archdiocese of Louisville by the St. Luke Institute. The process also includes a background check and an extensive personal history and reference check.
Father Wimsatt said that prior to submitting applications, men typically spend at least a year in discernment with the Archdiocese of Louisville and get to know the Vocation Office leaders, which includes Father Peter Do, associate vocation director, and Benedictine Sister Sarah Yungwirth, associate director for vocations.
Men interested in applying must be invited by the Vocation Office.
“We don’t begin to go down that road with most guys unless we think they are credible applicants,” said Father Wimsatt. “We try to do our homework.”
The church needs good, holy men, he said, to guide the faithful to lead lives inspired by the saints, whose feast days dot the church’s liturgical calendar.
“In a way, the purpose of the priesthood is to help nurture and build up more saints in our church and in our world,” he said.
In an effort to foster new vocations, the Vocation Office is renewing its Called by Name program, an initiative that asks pastors, parish leaders and high school principals to nominate a young person they think would be a good candidate for the priesthood or religious life.
A link to submit names electronically is available at louisvillevocations.com/called-by-name.
“There are a lot of people out there who God is calling. We pray young people consider the possibility of the priesthood or religious vocation,” said Sister Yungwirth.
The office also plans to host Vianney Gatherings, informal get-togethers where young men will have the opportunity to meet priests and learn more about the priesthood.
The first one will be held on Nov. 7 at St. Margaret Mary Church. If you or someone you know is interested, call the Vocation Office at 636-0296, ext 1270.
Seminarians of the Archdiocese of Louisville 2018-2019
Deacon Tony Cecil, 25, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky.
Deacon Steven Reeves, 32, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. Louis Bertrand Church.
Deacon Kirby Rust, 25, Mount St. Mary’s of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio. His home parish is St. Catherine Church in New Haven, Ky.
Robert Hale, 30, Mount St. Mary’s of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio. His home parish is St. Bernadette Church.
Edwin Jarboe, 25, will complete a pastoral year. His home parish is St. Aloysius Church in Shepherdsville, Ky.
Loi Pham, 32, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. John Vianney Church and he is originally from the Diocese of Vinh, Vietnam.
Quan Nguyen, 30, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. John Vianney Church and he is originally from the Diocese of Vinh, Vietnam.
Dustin Hungerford, 30, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. Peter the Apostle Church.
Fermin Luna, 22, Mount St. Mary’s of the West, Cincinnati, Ohio. His home parish is St. Rita Church.
Cole McDowell, 24, Theological College, Washington, D.C. His home parish is the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky.
Kenny Nauert, 22, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. Lawrence Church.
Jeremy White, 42, Theological College, Washington, D.C. His home parish is the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Michael Schultz, 20, Bishop Simon Bruté Seminary, Indianapolis, Ind. His home parish is St. Athanasius Church.
Evrard Muhoza, 19, Bishop Simon Bruté Seminary, Indianapolis, Ind. His home parish is St. Bartholomew Church.
Conor Wellmann, 29, St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind. His home parish is St. Bernadette Church.