With the academic semester well underway, 14 men are in various stages of priesthood formation for the Archdiocese of Louisville.
This year’s class includes young men fresh out of high school and several coming to Louisville from the Diocese of Vinh in Vietnam.
Father Anthony Chandler, director of the Vocation Office, describes the seminarians as a group of young men who enjoy each other’s company and are starting to form a fraternal bond.
“They are very friendly to one another. They are very helpful to one another. They like one another. They miss each other
if someone is not at something. They are very attentive to each other,” said Father Chandler in his office at the Maloney Center last week.
The men range in age from 18 to 33. They come from nine different parishes across the archdiocese and attend colleges and seminaries in Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio and Washington, D.C.
Father Chandler said he’s encouraged by the number of men currently in formation and noted three men were ordained priests in May — Fathers Anthony Cecil, Steven Reeves and Kirby Rust.
Several men are expected to be ordained to the transitional diaconate April 25 at St. Patrick Church, he noted.
But there’s still work to do, Father Chandler said.
“We are battling the culture,” he said. “Being a priest is counter cultural.”
He noted a recent Pew Research Center study which characterized those who are 18-30 years old as having grown up in a godless generation.
“We have young men coming out of that generation who still believe in God and still feel a call from him to serve his people,” Father Chandler said. “I find that very encouraging. After all we’ve seen and heard there are still people yearning to serve.”
It isn’t only the job of the Vocation Office to promote and encourage vocations. Parishes, family and friends must also create a culture of vocations, he said.
“Many seminarians come from parish youth groups so we need to support the youth of the parish. We need to encourage the youth to be involved in worship. Participation is very important,” he said.
A young man entering seminary isn’t expected to be certain of his vocation, Father Chandler noted. As the director of the Vocation Office, he said he’s the “voice of realism for true discernment.”
“Anybody that goes to the seminary doesn’t know if they are going to come out as a priest,” he said.
The point of seminary, he said, is learning and discerning.
“You are trying to grow in understanding of your life’s vocation. If you feel as though you are called to the priesthood, that’s what you are trying to discern: Is this truly my life’s vocation?” he said and added that priesthood is not a job but a lifestyle.
Sister of St. Benedict Sarah Yungwirth, associate director for vocations, said she encourages people discerning a vocation to find moments of silence.
“I think those quiet moments just centering on God’s presence, speaking to God back and forth as friend. It’s out of that friendship one can hear God’s call,”she said. “That friendship with God — that intimate relationship — is what leads a person to authentically be able to joyfully live out that call, whether it’s priesthood, religious life or married life.”
Father Chandler added that seminarian formation should also prepare men to work.
“When you are ordained, we expect you to be a product that is ready to go to work,” he said. While spiritual formation will continue throughout a priest’s life, “we would hope that when we send you out into the vineyard you are ready to work.”