August 26, 2011

'Sacred places'

Archdiocesan seminarians make pilgrimage to Richmond community and deepen fraternity

Seminarians Matthew Tucci, left, and David Marcotte kneel in prayer during an Aug. 17 Mass at St. Mary Church in Richmond. Archdiocesan seminarians went on pilgrimage to the three parishes that make up the Richmond Catholic Community that day. Tucci is a member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany, and Marcotte is a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. Both men are in formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Seminarians Matthew Tucci, left, and David Marcotte kneel in prayer during an Aug. 17 Mass at St. Mary Church in Richmond. Archdiocesan seminarians went on pilgrimage to the three parishes that make up the Richmond Catholic Community that day. Tucci is a member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany, and Marcotte is a member of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. Both men are in formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

RICHMOND—New seminarian Michael Conner grew up in Tell City in the southwestern corner of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

But in the short time that he has been a seminarian for the Church in central and southern Indiana—he was accepted last spring—he has already traveled to Richmond, the town in the archdiocese that is farthest from his hometown.

He and 23 other seminarians made a pilgrimage on Aug. 17 to Holy Family, St. Andrew and St. Mary parishes—the three faith communities that make up the Richmond Catholic Community.

“It’s great. I’ve really enjoyed it here,” Conner said during the pilgrimage. “The churches have been beautiful. We didn’t have a Catholic school in Tell City. And so seeing that and seeing how that interrelates with parish life has been cool.”

During the pilgrimage to Richmond, Father Eric Johnson, archdiocesan vocations director, and most of the 29 seminarians under his care visited with Father Todd Riebe, pastor of the Richmond Catholic Community, his associate pastor, Father Gerald Okeke, and other parish staff members.

They also visited St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School and Seton Catholic High School, and met students at both locations.

The bells of St. Andrew Church were ringing to greet the seminarians when they arrived in the eastern Indiana town.

“It’s a joy and a privilege,” said Father Riebe of the chance to host the seminarians. “When we announced to the people that they’d be coming, everyone was just overjoyed because we know that in this group are some of our future pastors.”

Father Riebe also said that the archdiocese’s future priests could learn some important lessons during their pilgrimage to Richmond.

“Years ago, we went through the process that a lot of parishes are going through now—sharing a pastor, finding new ways to be Church with fewer priests,” he said. “And so we’ve had almost 20 years of experience being the Richmond Catholic Community.

“I think that, for most of the guys here, that will be their situation. They’ll be pastor of multiple parishes, and will be challenged to bring them together as one.”

Seminarian Matthew Tucci, who spent the summer ministering in the Richmond Catholic Community, said he was “really pumped” to welcome his brother seminarians to the three parishes there.

“I get to show this place off. This place is beautiful,” said Tucci as he stood inside St. Andrew Church. “And the people are beautiful, too. The people are great.”

Tucci, who is a member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany, said that the Richmond Catholic Community felt like home for him.

Getting the seminarians to see the Church in central and southern Indiana as it exists in parishes in cities, towns and rural settings is one of the purposes of the annual pilgrimage, Father Johnson said.

“There’s a fair amount of space that we cover,” he said. “I think it’s important that guys be exposed to the different regions of the archdiocese, different types of parishes, different types of communities, different types of ministries, in order to see what all the Church in central and southern Indiana is [like].”

Some of the seminarians for the archdiocese aren’t even Indiana natives.

New seminarian James Brockmeier grew up in Covington, Ky., and got to know the archdiocese over the past four years as a student at Marian University in Indianapolis.

Brockmeier said the diversity of the Church in central and southern Indiana, as well as the hospitality he experienced in parishes here, led him to affiliate with the archdiocese as he discerned a possible call to the priesthood.

As a relative newcomer to Indiana, he was glad to have the chance to visit the Richmond Catholic Community.

“The archdiocese is so large,” said Brockmeier, now a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “It’s good to see the people of the archdiocese, the people that I’m going to be serving in the places [where they live].

“Places are very important to the Church. And to see the sacred places where the people of the archdiocese come to worship is just a reminder of how big the Church is that we’re serving, and how important it is to the people in the local parishes.”

Doing that with his brother seminarians was also important to Brockmeier.

The pilgrimage takes place at the end of the seminarians’ annual convocation held at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

During that three-day gathering, seminarians complete necessary paperwork, learn what Father Johnson expects of them and spend a day together on retreat.

But for Father Johnson, the convocation is as much about fostering a sense of fraternity among the archdiocese’s future priests as anything else.

Doing this now when they live together in the seminary, he said, will pay dividends later when they are ministering as priests, sometimes by themselves in multiple parishes.

“It’s not just good for the individual priest,” Father Johnson said. “It’s good for the health and ministry in the archdiocese as a whole.

“When the presbyterate has a common sense of who they are and a sense of community within that, I think it helps the building of the larger community of the local Church. And I think that that begins in the seminary.”

For Conner, feeling welcomed by the seminarians—many of whom he did not know—was a concern, especially since he had experienced a strong sense of community during the past two years among young adult Catholics in Indianapolis.

“These guys are great,” Conner said. “I don’t think I’ve met a single one that I don’t get along with. I’ve been laughing almost nonstop the whole time so far. It’s just been wonderful.”

(To learn more about the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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