August 22, 2014

Pilgrimage takes seminarians to Catholic high schools

Transitional Deacon Adam Ahern speaks on Aug. 12 with students in a theology class at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. (Photos by Sean Gallagher)

Transitional Deacon Adam Ahern speaks on Aug. 12 with students in a theology class at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. (Photos by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

For more than a decade, the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis have gone on pilgrimage just prior to the start of a new academic year. They’ve usually visited historic parish churches or shrines in central and southern Indiana.

This year’s pilgrimage was a departure from the past as more than 20 men in formation for the priesthood visited three Catholic high schools in Indianapolis on Aug. 12—Cathedral, Roncalli and Providence Cristo Rey.

Father Eric Augenstein, archdiocesan vocations director, said it was important for the future priests of central and southern Indiana to be exposed to Catholic schools since they are a significant part of the life of the archdiocese, and because some of the young men haven’t been students at them.

He also noted that it is good for Catholic school communities in the archdiocese to get to know the seminarians.

“Their very presence there is a statement to the students and the faculty that we have great young men who are in seminary for the archdiocese,” Father Augenstein said. “Some of them could be there one day as well.”

Seminarian Casimiero Samano-Reyes is a graduate of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis. He will be a freshman at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis this fall.

He said that the presence of priests and seminarians in Catholic high schools can help students be open to vocational discernment in their own lives.

“It will help the students to have seminarians come to their schools,” said Saman-Reyes, a member of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. “It kind of gets that thought going, an interest in the seminary or priestly life.”

Transitional Deacon Adam Ahern is entering his final year of priestly formation, and expects to be ordained a priest next spring.

He said he hoped the seminarians’ visit to Catholic high schools would help broaden the students’ understanding of a priest’s ministry.

“It lets students know that priests are available and accessible,” said Deacon Ahern. “You can talk to a priest. They’re not just there at confession and at Mass. It’s outside of that as well. It points out that the Catholic way of life is a whole way of life, not just on Sunday.”

Standing in a hallway at Roncalli, his alma mater, seminarian Anthony Hollowell spoke of the importance of Catholic schools to him and his fellow future priests.

“This is a part of the mission of the archdiocese,” he said. “We need to be prepared to learn about it and support it because souls are being formed by it.”

The pilgrimage to Catholic high schools was part of the annual convocation of archdiocesan seminarians that took place at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

Over his eight years of priestly formation, the convocation has been an important means for Deacon Ahern to build up friendships with his fellow future priests.

“It’s vital,” he said. “As a parish priest, a lot of times you’re the only [priest] there at a parish. You come home to an empty house at your rectory at night. At this convocation, we form the community with our fellow seminarians. It will sustain us in the lonely times when we’re off by ourselves.”

During the academic year, the seminarians have few chances to be together as a group. The archdiocese sends seminarians to three different seminaries—Bishop Bruté, the Pontifical North American College in Rome and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

At the start of this academic year, there are 26 men in formation for the priesthood for the archdiocese, one less than at the start of the 2013-14 academic year. Ten seminarians are in formation at Bishop Bruté; 14 are at Saint Meinrad; and two are at the North American College.

Although the seminarians are spread out across the world during the years of priestly formation, coming together for their annual convocation and pilgrimage is an important way for them to be formed for priestly ministry in central and southern Indianapolis.

“One of the greatest things that our vocations office can do is introduce our seminarians to the archdiocese and introduce the archdiocese to the seminarians,” Father Augenstein said. “There are a lot of ways that we do that. But these pilgrimages are one of the best ways that we have to do that in different places.”
 

(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, log on to www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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