By Rick Musacchio and Marnie McAllister
About 120 men — nearly all of the seminarians for the seven dioceses that make up the province of Louisville — met for a first-of-its-kind gathering Aug. 11-13 at Barren River Lake State Resort Park in south central Kentucky.
The gathering, also attended by six bishops and diocesan vocation directors, included social time, sporting activities, liturgies, meetings and a bit of formation.
It was the brainchild of Bishop David Choby of Nashville, Tenn., who said he has seen a tremendous growth in vocations during his time as the Bishop of Nashville. After ordaining nine men to the priesthood earlier this summer, the diocese currently has 28 men in seminaries and anticipates that as many as six will be ordained to the priesthood next summer.
“I spoke with the bishops of the province about having our respective groups of seminarians meet. … It seemed to me that when individual groups of seminarians were given the opportunity to realize how many other men were preparing to serve as priests, that it would be a source of affirmation, a source of support, a source of inspiration for them,” Bishop Choby said.
“Because so often, as seminarians encounter the contemporary opportunities for them to experience a secular point of view of life, it raises a question about the value or importance of something like the priesthood,” he said. “For 120 men to be together in one time, one place, praying together, eating together, talking together, I just felt like it would be a source of mutual support, and that’s important.”
And that’s just what happened, according to seminarians of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Deacon Adam Carrico, who is in his last year of formation for the priesthood, said it was inspiring simply to see so many other men in formation in one place.
“It’s always good to be with our brothers in formation,” he said a day after he returned from the gathering. “It’s good to spend time with those who are coming up along the lines with you and see before you the future of our diocese’s presbyterate and that of other dioceses.”
Deacon Carrico added that the seminarians from the Archdiocese of Louisville attend seven different seminaries and have very few opportunities to get together.
Tony Cecil, who is in college seminary, said he especially enjoyed times at the gathering when the Louisville seminarians gathered privately.
“Each night, the Louisville seminarians gathered and spent time together,” he said. “We got to know each other.”
Sean McKinley, another seminarian for the archdiocese, said he found the gathering “affirming.”
“It was a great experience to see all the support and the variety of people from other areas,” he said. He also noted that if he is ever assigned to a parish in southern Kentucky, his closest neighbors may be from other dioceses in the province.
“It will be nice to know some of them,” he said.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who is the metropolitan of the province, had hoped the gathering would build that kind of fraternity among seminarians.
“There is great merit that we’ve experienced for years and years of the bishops coming together in a province and then once a year the priests who are in the priest councils of the various seven dioceses also come together,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “It has been a source of mutual fraternity, of union with Christ and a sense of communion and then of support of one another as we do the work of Christ within the dioceses.
“What a great gift just to see them all in one room for Mass, for meetings and for the meals,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “It’s a chance for them to come to not only know each other within their own diocese but to know each other within the province and I think it builds a spirit of fraternity, an esprit de corps, so to speak, so that we are working together. I can already sense it going on right now.”
The Archdiocese of Louisville currently has 16 seminarians in formation for the priesthood, including four who are in their last year of formation.
Rick Musacchio is the editor in chief of The Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.