August 20, 2010

Seminarians learn about Catholic Charities programs

Emily Able, director of community and youth services at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis, guides Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, center, archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Johnson, standing behind the archbishop, and a group of archdiocesan seminarians on an Aug. 11 tour of the homeless shelter. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Emily Able, director of community and youth services at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis, guides Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, center, archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Johnson, standing behind the archbishop, and a group of archdiocesan seminarians on an Aug. 11 tour of the homeless shelter. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

For several years, the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have gone on a pilgrimage together shortly before they return to their seminaries for another year of priestly formation.

They have usually traveled to historic churches or shrines in the archdiocese to pray at places where some of the first Catholics in central and southern Indiana came to worship.

This year, archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Johnson instead arranged for the seminarians to visit a number of programs operated by Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein accompanied the 24 seminarians on part of their Aug. 11 trip. (Related story: Seminarians increase in number, come from a variety of places)

“It’s another way of informing them of the mission of charity,” Archbishop Buechlein said. “A priest is, in some ways, a mediator not only of the sacraments and proclaiming the Word, but also in inspiring people in the mission of charity.”

Archbishop Buechlein reflected on the connection of priestly ministry and the work of charity after the seminarians heard a presentation on Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ Refugee Resettlement program.

Joseph Trimble, who became an archdiocesan seminarian earlier this year, was interested in learning about how the local Church helps refugees from around the world start a new life in central Indiana.

He had been involved in a variety of charitable ministries in Maryland, where he taught at Catholic high schools for many years.

“Refugee resettlement is a new area for me,” said Trimble, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis. “I’ve had no experience in that. So I’m interested in finding out the nuts and bolts of how it works, and how we could fit in as a parish or how students could be a part of it.”

Trimble, who was an archdiocesan seminarian in the 1980s, is a member of the Fourth Theology class at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. He expects to be ordained a transitional deacon in the spring of 2011.

Earlier in the day, when the seminarians were visiting Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ Crisis Office and Christmas Store, Father Johnson spoke about the importance of the seminarians learning about the way the mission of charity at times goes beyond what happens at the parish level.

“As men who are studying to be priests in this archdiocese, I think it’s important for them to be familiar with the mission and the ministries of the local Church as a whole,” Father Johnson said. “And Catholic Charities plays a very big part in that.”

Seminarian Vincent Jansen, a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, became familiar with these ministries through volunteering at the Christmas Store. He said that experience and volunteering at The Lord’s Pantry in Indianapolis aided him in his vocational discernment.

“It really gives you a feel for all of the people that need serving, that need ministry to them,” said Jansen. “It puts you in the mindset that the world needs help, people need help.”

Jansen is a freshman at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis.

Stephanie Davis, the director of the Crisis Office and Christmas Store, was glad to tell the seminarians about the ministries that she oversees.

“[They’ll] have more reference options and be able to make a great choice in where to direct people for services,” she said. “It gives young people an opportunity to learn about these services. Plus, it gives these young men a chance to know what’s going on in the community, what actually are the hardships out there.”

While learning about the specific ways that the archdiocese ministers to those in need in central and southern Indiana was helpful to seminarian Daniel Bedel, he was also aware that being personally active in it will be important as a priest.

“When [Jesus] was on this Earth, he was out healing people,” said Bedel, a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Enochsburg. “He was out ministering to the poor and to those in need. He came to heal the sick, not to heal those who were healthy.

“So as a priest, it’s definitely part of our identity to be helping people. And, as priests, we’re supposed to be role models for the rest of the Catholic Church. So if we’re not the ones out there helping those people, then who’s going to be doing it?”

After having lunch at the rectory of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, the seminarians visited the new Holy Family Shelter on the grounds of Holy Trinity Parish on the west side of Indianapolis.

Now in its 25th year of ministering to homeless families, Holy Family Shelter moved into its new facility last December.

Emily Able, the shelter’s director of community and youth services, gave the seminarians a tour of the facility. She said that she always enjoys showing groups of people the facilities at Holy Family Shelter. Showing the shelter to the seminarians, though, took that enjoyment to another level.

“Who they are and the fact that they may one day have congregations to work with makes it even more relevant,” Able said.

“… They might educate friends and family and maybe, one day, parishioners wherever they’re at about what the truth is regarding homelessness and about how many families are homeless.”

After visiting Holy Family Shelter, the seminarians went to Mass at the adjacent Holy Trinity Church. Archbishop Buechlein was the principal celebrant of the liturgy.

Their visits ended at St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services on the south side of Indianapolis. There, the seminarians learned about the way this Catholic Charities Indianapolis program helps women in crisis pregnancies and facilitates adoptions.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us,” said Priscilla Kamrath, St. Elizabeth/Coleman’s director of community relations. “When Father Eric called [about the possibility of a visit by the seminarians], I said, ‘Oh yes. Please come. We’ll do anything to have you come.’ ”

While those who minister in the Catholic Charities Indianapolis programs that the seminarians visited saw a great benefit for their ministry in informing future priests about their services, transitional Deacon Dustin Boehm said having a greater awareness of the Church’s mission of charity helps the seminarians remember “our own poverty and our own needs.”

“There’s a really beautiful thing that the poor do show us—how much we all need God,” said Deacon Boehm, who expects to be ordained a priest in the spring of 2011. “We all need each other. To have that witness always before our eyes and in our mind is a really good thing.”

(To learn more about archdiocesan seminarians and about becoming one, log on to To learn more about Catholic Charities Indianapolis, log on to

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