Family dishes hospitality to future priests

Showing support for future priests studying in the seminary can be done with a simple dose of hospitality, local faithful say.

Mary Vulcani and her husband, Steve, of St. Joseph Church in Golden want to support the young men studying to serve the Church, even with the most basic of needs, like visiting their home for good company and a warm meal.

“The seminary is very close to my heart. I think forming priests is the most important job out there,” said Mary Vulcani from her Lakewood home. “We just take the seminarians in for a meal and give them a night that feels like they’re at home.”

It’s a kind of “spiritual parenting,” Vulcani said, talking about her and her husband’s supportive role to seminarians.

Other Denver-area couples and families are adopting the same practice, giving seminarians a chance to feel at home and learn what it may be like to visit parishioners’ homes as priests.

Seminarian Adam Bradshaw, originally from Houston, has appreciated the chance to go to several families’ homes for dinner, including the Vulcani family.

“It’s such a great joy,” he said. “It is nice to have families who invite you over. It gets us out of the seminary in a different environment.”

For any seminarian away from home, it’s an opportunity to share their lives, a good laugh and delicious food.

“We relax, we tell stories and it’s fun,” Vulcani said.

Last weekend, six seminarians from the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver arrived at the Vulcani home the evening of Nov. 9 while their meal was being prepared. They sipped on drinks and caught up on the latest news in their lives.

“We talk about how great the night is and how we want to support them,” Vulcani said.

Then they sat down to a decorated table topped with grilled steak, twice-baked potatoes and roasted vegetables.

“Everything is really nicely set up,” Bradshaw said. “It’s just a great time to have conversation and eat good food.”

Their studies or latest efforts are mentioned over dinner, such as learning to hear confessions. And their evening is filled with chatter about everyday life. They end the night around 7 p.m. so they may return in time for evening prayer.

The dinners bring a benefit to not only the seminarians, but to the hosts.

“At the end of the night, I feel nourished,” said Vulcani, who added that their two sons are away for college. “You’re just with these amazing young men who are going to be doing amazing things. It feels like a very spiritually-fulfilling evening.”

She said it isn’t meant to be charity.

“This is another tangible way to support seminarians, and they love it,” she said. “They don’t owe us anything. We’re just making them dinner.”

Support local seminarians
One way to show support for seminarians is through the Annual Seminary Appeal. Seminarians continue to visit parishes across the archdiocese to seek donations that help support the operating funds of the two seminaries: St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary. The appeal is crucial to forming seminarians and ensuring there are priests in the Church to provide the sacraments for future generations.

Donate: By cash, check or credit card
Questions: Call 303-282-3441

COMING UP: Collegiality and eucharistic integrity

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The concept of the “collegiality” of bishops has been sharply contested since the Second Vatican Council debated it in 1962, 1963, and 1964. That discussion was sufficiently contentious that a personal intervention from Pope Paul VI was required to incorporate the concept of episcopal collegiality within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in such a way that the pope’s primacy and universal jurisdiction were safeguarded. The debate about collegiality has continued ever since. Now, however, it’s focused more on what kind of collegiality exists within national conferences of bishops. Is it an “affective collegiality” of mutual support and encouragement? Or is episcopal collegiality within bishops’ conferences “effective,” such that a conference has real teaching and legislative authority?  

Whether collegiality is “affective,” “effective,” or some combination of the two, it ought to be clear what truly “collegial” behavior isn’t.   

It isn’t individual bishops attempting end-runs around their national conference, appealing for Roman interventions that would forestall debates that their brother bishops wish to engage. It isn’t bishops trying to browbeat the conference chairman into changing an agenda to suit the tastes of a distinct minority — and misleading their brother bishops as to what they’re about when soliciting support for such a gambit. And it isn’t trying to filibuster a conference meeting so that no action is possible on an agenda item that the great majority of bishops wish to consider and act upon. 

If any of those three maneuvers qualifies as collegial, then “collegiality” has no more meaning than the claim that my poor Baltimore Orioles have a great starting rotation. 

For years now — and by “years,” I mean long before the idea of a “President Biden” entered the stream of national consciousness — the bishops of the United States have been concerned that ours is becoming less of a eucharistic Church than Vatican II called us to be when it taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life. Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed that conciliar summons when, in his final encyclical, he taught that “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist,” which “recapitulates the heart and mystery of the Church.” Yet all around us we see declining Sunday Mass attendance: a sadness that preceded the pandemic but has been further exacerbated by it.  Moreover, surveys suggest that too many Catholics think of Sunday Mass as essentially a social occasion, rather than an encounter with the living God in which Christ is offered to the Father and is given back to his people in holy communion — a communion in and through the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, received under the forms of bread and wine.

If the Church lives from the Eucharist and yet the people of the Church don’t participate in the Eucharist as often as they should, or don’t understand what they’re celebrating and receiving when they do, then the Church suffers from a serious eucharistic deficit. Those ordained to leadership in the Church are obliged to do something about that. 

That is why the U.S. bishops have been determined for some time to undertake a comprehensive program of eucharistic education throughout the Church. For the great majority of bishops, that determination has been intensified by the fact that our eucharistic deficit is being compounded by the eucharistic incoherence of public officials who, rejecting authoritative Catholic teaching based on both revelation and reason, nonetheless present themselves for holy communion as if they were in full communion with the Church. The longstanding episcopal failure to address this incoherence exacerbates the eucharistic deficit in American Catholicism by implying that the Church really doesn’t mean what it teaches about the sacred nature of the Eucharist. 

Those suggesting that this is all about “politics” are either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the Church and the gullible parts of the media. Concern for the eucharistic integrity of the Church includes, but goes much deeper than, concerns about the eucharistic incoherence of Catholic public officials who act as if the Church’s settled convictions on the life issues and on worthiness to receive holy communion don’t exist. That is why the U.S. bishops are forging ahead with developing a teaching document that will clarify for the whole Church why we are a Eucharistic community, what the Eucharist truly is, what reception of the Eucharist means, and why everyone in the Church should examine conscience before receiving Christ in the sacrament. 

The wheels of collegiality may grind slowly. In this case, however, they are grinding truly, and for the sake of the Gospel.

George Weigel is an independent columnist whose weekly column is syndicated by the Archdiocese of Denver. The opinions and viewpoints expressed by Mr. Weigel therein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Archdiocese of Denver or the bishops of Denver.