By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
With just five weeks to go until the end of the calendar year, the 2017 Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) is nearly three-quarters of the way complete.
Gifts and pledges to the campaign total $2,761,337 as of Nov. 16. That represents 74 percent of this year’s $3.75 million goal.
The CSA is the largest annual free-will offering to the Archdiocese of Louisville. It supports more than 100 ministries and programs within the archdiocese, including the Vocation Office.
Seminarians — men who are studying to become priests — receive direct support from the CSA through the Seminarian Education Fund. The average cost to educate one seminarian per year is $45,000.
Separate pledge cards for the fund were included in this year’s CSA mailing, which was sent to each registered parishioner’s household earlier this fall. Individuals may elect to donate specifically to this fund.
Sarah Wunderlin, director of annual giving for the Office of Mission Advancement, said the response to the 2017 campaign has been “wonderful,” thanks in large part to “the support of our pastors and administrators.”
Within the nearly $2.8 million total, $191,282 has been designated for the Seminarian Education Fund, which supports seminarians who are currently in formation.
Fermin Luna, a 22-year old seminarian for the archdiocese, attends college seminary at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis, Ind. He said the support of the CSA means a great deal to him and his brother seminarians.
“We are able to go to school, to seminary, through the generosity of people, through the CSA. It’s really overwhelming,” he said.
“There are a number of opportunities
that we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s really directed to our growth and formation so one day we return to the archdiocese, God willing, as priests to give back what has been given to us,” he said in a phone interview last week.
Being in seminary, Luna said, has been the “best experience” of his life.
“I’ve grown in knowledge of my faith, deepened my prayer life, become more devout and gotten to know myself,” he said.
Luna, a parishioner of St. Rita Church, said he first had an inkling of his call to the priesthood during his senior year of high school. During that year, he attended two retreats. One of those retreats was the Teens and Twenties Encounter Christ (TEC) retreat, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults.
“Prior to that point, most of my faith development had been with my family or at my church. I never had any close friends who were devout. It was motivating to encounter other high-school age people that were trying to dedicate their lives to God,” he said.
At that TEC retreat, Luna also met Father Michael Wimsatt, who is now director of the Vocation Office and pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption.
“At that point, he was probably the youngest priest I had ever met,” Luna said of Father Wimsatt. “It put the idea of seminary in perspective, that a young man could enter the seminary and become a priest.”
A seed was planted, Luna said.
Following high school, he attended Jefferson Community and Technical College for one year. During that year he would visit St. Martin of Tours Church to think and pray in between and after classes, he said.
Now at Bishop Simon Brute, Luna expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in Catholic studies in the spring. Following the completion of his college seminary studies, he will attend a major seminary for four additional years, where he will study theology.
Luna said he looks forward to walking with his parishioners when he becomes a priest.
“One thing I’m looking forward to is accompanying people, walking with them through the path of life,” he said. “Seeing people grow in their spiritual life, I look forward to being a part of that and helping them grow.”
At the start of the school year, there were 19 men in formation to become priests for the archdiocese. They enrolled in the following schools: Bishop Simon Brute in Indianapolis; Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati; the Pontifical North American College in Rome; St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Southern Indiana; and Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corner, Wisc.
To learn more about the CSA, visit www.archlou.org/CSA.