August 18, 2017

‘Great spirit,’ service soar among seminarians who help to spark dramatic rise in their ranks

Seminarians Samuel Rosko, left, and Michael Dedek box drinks on Aug. 8 at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Pratt-Quigley Client Choice Food Pantry in Indianapolis. The morning of volunteer service at the pantry took place during the annual archdiocesan seminarian convocation. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Seminarians Samuel Rosko, left, and Michael Dedek box drinks on Aug. 8 at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Pratt-Quigley Client Choice Food Pantry in Indianapolis. The morning of volunteer service at the pantry took place during the annual archdiocesan seminarian convocation. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Excitement is in the air as a new year of priestly formation begins for the 24 archdiocesan seminarians who are potential future priests of the Church in central and southern Indiana.

Among those 24, there are nine new seminarians starting formation this month, the largest one-year increase of men in priestly formation for the archdiocese in more than a decade, according to Father Eric Augenstein, archdiocesan vocations director.

(Related: Indianapolis college seminary starts new year with record enrollment)

“There’s a great spirit among the men,” he said. “We have a good group of new men joining a good group of returning seminarians who’ve come from all different parts of the archdiocese, from different backgrounds. There’s just a good spirit, a lot of excitement among the men to be able to be in seminary together.”

Father Augenstein shared his thoughts on the opening day of the annual archdiocesan seminarian convocation, which took place on Aug. 7-9 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

He also noted that the excitement of the seminarians was increased by the presence of Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, who had been installed as the seventh archbishop of Indianapolis less than two weeks earlier.

Archbishop Thompson spoke with the seminarians on the first day of their convocation, celebrated Mass with them and blessed the nine new seminarians.

“These guys are showing great courage, humility and generosity in being willing to discern this call to service in the Church,” he said in an interview with The Criterion. “So it’s important for me to be here with them to support them, and also to give them guidance and direction, what we expect of them so they know what they’re getting into.

“Pope Francis talks a lot about accompaniment. We have to accompany our seminarians in their formation and education if we want good, solid, healthy priests for the archdiocese.”

Although he is pleased by the increase in seminarians, Archbishop Thompson is encouraged even more by the quality of the men entering into priestly formation.

“The first thing we want is quality,” he said. “It seems like we have good quality here. We need the numbers, but we most especially need the quality. I’m encouraged by the numbers. It just shows that our young people are still discerning and being open to the Spirit.”

The annual seminarian convocation has contributed to the discernment over the past five years of transitional Deacon Jeffrey Dufresne, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis who expects to be ordained a priest for the archdiocese next June.

For him, it’s time to build up fraternity “with guys that I’ll probably be ministering with for years to come” by praying together, sharing meals, giving of themselves together in service to people in need, and having times of recreation amongst each other.

As the archdiocese’s senior man in priestly formation, Deacon Dufresne has already built up fraternity with his fellow seminarians. But adding nine new men to the group, he said, has “breathed a little bit of new life into our time together. There are plenty of guys to get to know.”

One of them is new seminarian James Huber, a member of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville, who starts formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad this month.

“It’s been really cool and awesome to get to meet the other guys who are discerning the Lord’s call in their lives like myself,” Huber said. “There’s a little bit of trepidation at the beginning. What are they like? Are they like me? Are they weird? Are they different? Am I going to fit in?

“But it’s been great to have time to pray together and just to hang out, for those barriers to break down and to become friends with these guys.”

The seminarians spent much of the morning of second day of the convocation volunteering at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Pratt-Quigley Client Choice Food Pantry in Indianapolis, which serves around 3,000 families in need each week.

“It helps to keep us focused,” said new seminarian Samuel Rosko. “What we’re ultimately discerning is a call to the priesthood, which is a call to service, service to God and service to people. So it helps us keep focused on what our ultimate goal in the seminary is.”

Rosko, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, is starting priestly formation as a sophomore at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis.

Not far from where Rosko and other seminarians were boxing drinks, Deacon Dufresne was bagging food that would be distributed to the pantry’s clients.

His thoughts went to the Gospel proclaimed at Mass the previous day when the seminarians worshipped with Archbishop Thompson. It told of Jesus multiplying five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people.

“Jesus recognized in his ministry that, in order to feed people spiritually, we also need to make sure that they’re fed physically,” said Deacon Dufresne. “That’s something for us to reflect on as we prepare for ministry.”

Dewayne Boyer, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis and a regular volunteer at the pantry for more than two years, was glad to see the archdiocese’s future priests spending time there.

“It’s a good experience for them to see how the community comes together to help those less fortunate,” he said. “They can let their parishioners know what’s available in terms of volunteer opportunities and how a few sets of hands can make an impact in the community.”

The service for which the archdiocese’s seminarians are being formed, said Archbishop Thompson on Aug. 7, is an important witness in today’s cultural atmosphere.

“More and more, we live in a culture of entitlement, radical individualism and immediate gratification,” he said. “So, for young people in that kind of culture to be discerning a life of service and sacrifice is very encouraging and inspiring.

“It also tells me that, amid all the messages of the world out there, our young people are still being guided by the Holy Spirit and listening to that Spirit.”

(To learn more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit

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