The Road to the Seminary

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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: Ms. Taylor: St. Louis’ fourth grade founder

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The following interview was conducted by the eighth grade class of 2020 at St. Louis Catholic School in Louisville to honor Ms. Lydia Taylor, the school’s beloved fourth grade teacher who is retiring after 20 years of teaching at St. Louis.

Our beloved fourth grade teacher, Ms. Taylor, has been working at St. Louis for over 20 years. As such, she has plenty of experience teaching in a Catholic environment. Since she is retiring this year, the 8th grade class at St. Louis decided to interview her and find out about Ms. Taylor. These are just a few of the many answers we received from her.

What are some things you wish more people understood about teaching in a Catholic School?

“I feel like we address the whole person… and [teach] life skills that can be carried on into their grown-up lives.”

Ms. Taylor feels that in Catholic schools, children receive an education that is applicable in all aspects of life, not just the academic portion. Catholic school teachers help children with social skills and independence among other skills. At public schools, teachers don’t get to know their students on a personal level, unlike Catholic schools. A personal connection with their students allows teachers to educate them on important life matters. Our Catholic faith and morals also allow our teachers to help students without having to worry about offending or insulting them.

What will you miss most about teaching at St. Louis?

“I’m going to miss the students for sure, and I’m actually going to miss the parents. I have had a lot of friendships over the years… A lot of my teaching friends have left before me, but I still keep in touch with them.”

Since Ms. Taylor was hired at St. Louis three days before the school year started, her room was a mess, and she wasn’t going to be able to clean it up in time. The parents at St. Louis saw how worried she was and stepped in to help by cleaning her room and organizing her lesson plan. She says she has met some truly incredible people here at St. Louis.

How would you like to spend your summers when you leave St. Louis?

“I think I’m going to move back East and vacation here in the summers… When I became a teacher, I thought I would have the summers to write, but I don’t, so I will probably catch up on my writing when I retire.”

Ms. Taylor has a passion for writing and even used to be a newspaper reporter. Her passion to write is still strong, and she hopes to do plenty of it when she retires.

Ms. Taylor with the eight grade class of 2020 at St. Louis. (Photos provided)

What accomplishments fill you with pride over the last 20 years at St. Louis?

“Having student teachers come back. I enjoy having my students come back wanting to pursue a job as a teacher.”

Ms. Taylor feels that she did her job properly when she inspires her students so much that they come back asking for assistance so that they can be just like her. She also enjoys hearing from students who have graduated and she can see what they are up to and how she impacted their lives.

Is there a quote/ saying that you live your life by?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Ms. Taylor believes that if you want to improve the world, you will have to set a good example of how we should treat each other and how we should live our lives. Ms. Taylor sets a good example for her children in hopes that they will go out and set a good example for the rest of the world.

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” Ms. Taylor believes.

She thinks that people shouldn’t worry as much about the minor issues in life but focus on the things that are more important.

What would students be surprised to find out about you?

“This is kind of embarrassing, but I was actually in the Mrs. Massachusetts pageant… It was great for all my friends because they got to watch me up on the stage, but for me, it was like, “What do we do now?” and “Why am I doing this?”

Ms. Taylor also brought in a picture of a quilt she made with her class one year, which hung in the capitol building for one month. The whole class received official certificates of their work from the quilt, and the quilt sold for $2,000 at our school’s Gala.

Ms. Taylor is an incredible teacher and has been here for her students for over 20 years. We wish her luck in her further adventures and will always remember her here at St. Louis as an amazing teacher and friend.