The Road to the Seminary

Avatar

By Todd Smith

When we reach adulthood, we choose careers to support ourselves and our loved ones.  Whether we become doctors, teachers, or maintenance workers, all vocations are essential to our personal development and to the enrichment of society.

The path to the priesthood, however, is quite different, primarily because the future priest does not choose the vocation — he is called by God.  Much like Christ called his 12 apostles, each seminarian is inwardly summoned by God to serve as a minister of the people and as mediator between God and man.

Each seminarian’s vocational calling is different.  Michael Pitio, a seminarian at Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary (RM), felt called to the priesthood at an early age.  He chose RM because he felt that his vocation was to be a missionary priest.

Trevor Lontine, a seminarian at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary, recently shared that he entered a seminary immediately after high school, where he remained for two years, before he decided to leave and attend college.  It was during his college years assisting in ministry work when he heard the call to return to the seminary.  He was filled with joy knowing that our Lord was calling him back.  And this time, it’s going very well for Trevor, who is even more confident in his vocation.

Within the Church, there are numerous religious orders.  Typically, a religious order will focus on a specific apostolate, like teaching, education, health care or missionary work.  Diocesan priests, on the other hand, focus primarily on parish work.  With many vocational options available, each seminarian is encouraged to research and pray to determine where he feels God is calling him.

We are blessed to reside within a diocese that offers spiritual discernment retreats where men focus on their vocational calling.  If a potential seminarian determines that he is being called to serve as a diocesan priest, he will meet with the Director of Priestly Vocations on a regular basis before starting the application process.  He then undergoes a rigorous psychological screening and a background check.  Once accepted into the seminary and before participating in ministry work, he must complete the Safe Environment training program.

When appointed as the Director of Priestly Vocations, Father Ryan O’Neill told the Denver Catholic, “To be a real man is to come to the realization that your life is not about you.  Men want to make a difference in the world, but you can’t leave a mark if you aren’t committed to something. There’s no fruitfulness without commitment.”

All of us are called to a life of prayer and service to one another.  Seminarians are no different.  At St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, all students enroll in the Spirituality Year Program to cultivate a deeper communion with Christ through intense prayer, Eucharistic adoration, retreats, studies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scripture, and spiritual classics.  During the Spirituality Year, they also engage in various corporal and spiritual works of mercy — visiting the elderly, teaching youth, or ministering to the sick — as an opportunity to serve others and grow closer to the heart of Christ.

During the second year, they will advance in their academic studies and spiritual formation.  On average, each seminarian will invest seven years in preparation for the priesthood.

When asked what he is most looking forward to after his ordination to the priesthood in May 2020, Adrian Hernandez, a transitional deacon at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, replied, “I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of story God is going to write with me.  As Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, ‘I am just a simple pencil in God’s hand.’  He is the writer, I’m just the pencil.”

To contribute to the missions of St. John Vianney and Redemptoris Mater in forming our future priests, donate to the Annual Seminaries’ Appeal today at sjvrm.org.

If you or someone you know feels God’s inward calling to be a priest, please contact Father Ryan O’Neill, Director of Priestly Vocations at 303-282-3429.

COMING UP: New Lourdes church ‘in harmony with the beauty of the Liturgy’

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

New Lourdes church ‘in harmony with the beauty of the Liturgy’

Our Lady of Lourdes in Denver completes renovation of continually growing church

Avatar

When the first parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes began their community in 1947, they never imagined the growth that the parish was going to have decades later.

Today, more than 70 years later, the parish, which began as folding chairs and the hardwood floors of the first Masses celebrated in the gymnasium of a children’s shelter, has become not only one of the fastest growing parishes in Denver, but also one of the most recognized Catholic schools nationwide.

Father Brian Larkin, pastor of the parish for the last 5 years, has witnessed huge growth in the last few years.

“I believe Lourdes has flourished in so many ways simply because the glory of God’s redemption has been allowed its proper place,” Father Larkin told the Denver Catholic. “Once the love of Christ is given its primacy, allowed to radiate in all its splendor, then our faith moves from simply being an obligation and becomes what it really is: the good news of our redemption.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated the altar in the newly renovated Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver Sept. 10. (Photo by Brandon Young)

Lourdes is a very vibrant and young parish. They have large RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and marriage preparation programs to support and teach parishioners the “why” of the Catholic Church and its faith.

“The Catholic intellectual tradition is greater than any that exists, but most people aren’t aware of it,” Father Larkin explained. “I teach our RCIA class every year and I invite anyone and everyone to come regardless of whether they are already Catholic or not even interested in becoming Catholic.  Our program had about eight people in it my first year, this year we’re averaging around 90 people each week.”

In 2016, Father Brian announced the beginning of the “Capital Campaign” which intended to repair, restore and embellish the church, as well as to add a narthex gathering space for the growing community. Although at times it seemed impossible, with the contributions of parishioners and the hard work of their general contractor, Fransen Pittman, the project was successfully completed this past summer.

The current church at Lourdes was built in 1966 and had remained unchanged since then. The renovation updated and fixed major issues with mechanical and electric systems, but the main objective of the project was to improve the aesthetics of the church.

For the last couple of years during construction, half of the school gym turned into the church, but in September, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila finally consecrated the altar and re-dedicated the church.

Lourdes pastor Father Brain Larkin said he hopes the parish can be a refuge from the world.. (Photo by Brandon Young)

“A friend of mine used to say that his church ‘lied to his congregation,’ meaning that churches are meant to teach us the faith by the way they are built, and that his didn’t measure up to that standard,” Father Larkin said. “Prior to the renovation, our church wasn’t one which lied, but it didn’t inspire a deeper faith. The new church, in my opinion, is in harmony with the beauty of the liturgy — the music and the gospel resonate with the beauty of the church itself.

“Our numbers have grown, but more importantly, people are drawn into prayer with the aesthetics of the church.”

With a new and renovated parish, Our Lady of Lourdes is now serving the growing community of the south side of Denver. The parish also has one of the most recognized Catholic schools for its unique classical model of education that has been expanding over the last couple of years. In addition to the classical method of education, the school is firmly Catholic, offering daily Mass and monthly confessions, and making devotion to the Blessed Mother one of its pillars.

“Our Catholic faith is the most important part of our mission here at Lourdes Classical and everything we do begins and ends in prayer. We participate in the sacraments frequently and help our students fall in love with Jesus in the Eucharist every day,” said school principal Rosemary Vander Weele.

Evangelization means that what is eternal enters into time, so the timelessness of God breaks into 2019 America. We try to embody that paradigm in our events, in our liturgy, in our community.”

Father Larkin said he is afraid of the future of our culture and the anti-Christian feeling that seems expand daily in our country and our society. Therefore, one of his main goals at Lourdes is to deepen the faith of his parishioners.

“Christians of the coming century in the United States need to know their faith and be on fire for it, or they will likely leave as the culture battles against the Church,” he said. “My hope for Lourdes is not that we do everything, but that we go deep, that people have strong relationships with God, with each other and that the parish can be a refuge from the world.”

Furthermore, one of the greatest challenges for the pastor is to reflect the incarnation of Jesus in our society and remind us that God sent his only begotten Son into the world to provide us salvation. At Lourdes, Father Larkin said this is at the core of the parish’s ministry.

“Christ is fully God and fully man, but it has always been easier to strip him of his divinity or of his humanity.  I see evangelization that way: it’s easier to either remove Jesus from humanity and make him someone wholly alien to the 21st century, or conversely to make him just another human who looks like us, but not like God,” Father Larkin said. “Evangelization means that what is eternal enters into time, so the timelessness of God breaks into 2019 America. We try to embody that paradigm in our events, in our liturgy, in our community.”