Eleven young men — age 18 to 33 — returned to seminary and their priesthood formation at the end of summer break this year.
Father Martin Linebach, interim director for the Archdiocese of Louisville Vocation Office, said he finds them to be an “exceedingly dedicated and sincere group of young men who are very prayerful, committed to their academics and, just as importantly, committed to the formation process in their particular seminaries.”
Ten of the seminarians attend six seminaries — St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Southern Indiana; Theological College in Washington, D.C.; St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore; Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati; Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis; and Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
One seminarian is in his pastoral year, which he’ll spend serving and learning at St. Gabriel Church in Fern Creek.
Father Linebach, who is the archdiocese’s vicar general and pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, has served as the Vocation Office’s interim director since June. He already finds himself enjoying the new ministry, he said.
“I haven’t participated in a particular ministry that has really brought me as much joy and gratification as I have in getting to know our seminarians,” he said in a recent phone interview.
During the weekend of Aug. 21, the seminarians attended a discernment retreat during which time they prayed together, celebrated Mass and heard from Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre and Father Kirby Rust.
“We just had a blast,” Father Linebach said. “They have a good sense of humor, are able to laugh at themselves. They take it seriously but not too seriously.”
Also during the retreat, Father Linebach introduced the seminarians to a married couple who has faced hardship in their lives. They shared how important their pastor and priest friends are to them.
“I think that collectively touched them,” Father Linebach said. “Several of them later said to me, ‘I had this thought of being a priest, but I hadn’t given a lot of thought to what being a priest means.’ It helped them to truly understand the ministry of a parish priest.”
So far, Father Linebach has spent most of his time with discerners — those who have felt called by the Holy Spirit to join religious life. But he is also responsible for vocation recruitment for the Vocations Office.
He has two requests to make of the archdiocese’s Catholics: pray and pay attention.
“The first thing I would ask everyone really is the most important thing to do is pray,” he said. “Pray for vocations. Every parish is invited to pray for vocations.”
As for paying attention, Father Linebach said, “Most vocations, either for priesthood or religious life, something happens at home that plants that seed. So I would say to families, pay attention. And I would say to young men or young women, if the Lord touches your heart, pay attention to that.
“And especially if someone says to you, ‘Hmm, have you ever thought about being a priest?’ That’s the Holy Spirit.”
Three of the current seminarians happen to hail from the same church.
St. Athanasius Church in Okolona is the home parish of David Vest, 21; Michael Schultz, 24; and Conor McClure, 23.
Father Linebach said sharing a home parish has been beneficial to the seminarians because of the strong relationships they’ve developed with the current and previous pastor. He also said the support they receive from parishioners is important.
“Obviously St. Athanasius does that really well,” Father Linebach said.
In addition to the seminarians from St. Athanasius, current seminarians are:
- Cuong Le, 30
- Samuel Mattingly, 18
- Cole McDowell, 28
- Matthew Millay, 26
- Evrard Muhoza, 23
- Kenny Nauert, 26
- Van Tran, 33
- Yen Tran, 33
For more information about vocations in the archdiocese of Louisville, visit the website of the Vocation Office, louisvillevocations.com.