The Diocese of Wichita's St. Joseph House of Formation will soon house seven seminarians
Bishop Carl A. Kemme won't have to travel a great distance to visit his neophyte seminarians when they begin studies later this month – he could walk to see them if he wished.
They'll be on the campus of St. Joseph Parish, about two miles southwest of the Chancery, in the St. Joseph House of Formation, located between St. Joseph Church and the parish school.
Bishop Kemme approved the college seminary formation program for diocesan seminarians during their first and second years of college.
Father Michael Simone, director of the house of formation, said the change was made so that the diocese can have a local program of formation, and so that they can be exposed directly to parish ministry.
The program was named in honor of the parishioners and the pastor, Father Stuart Smeltzer, who "have graciously opened their arms and found a place for them to live," Father Simone said.
The seminarians will take basic college courses at Newman University as part of the formation program and will graduate in two years with an associate degree.
Father Simone said Bishop Kemme recognized that the diocese has a dynamic vocations program and that the house of formation seemed "like the next logical step."
Seven men will begin formation on Sunday, Aug. 23. They will begin general education and theology study at Newman University on Friday, Aug. 28. The diocese has 46 men in various phases of formation.
"This month (July), before they begin, we've begun to gather them in so that we can elicit their ideas about what seminary life will be like," Father Simone said, "and so that Father Arnold and I can begin to put the program together with our own local flavor, with our own local philosophy, and be able to have a seminary-like formation program in the diocese."
Father Chad Arnold is director of Vocations for the diocese.
The seminarians will be engaged in apostolates, both in the parish and in diocesan institutions, he said, and will have local spiritual directors – diocesan priests.
Father Joe Gile, dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Adult Education at Newman University, said he was excited about the undertaking.
"I think it's going to be good for the diocese," he said when the program was initially announced. "I think it will be great for the parishes to see some of our seminarians here out doing apostolic work. I think it could be great for vocations and I think it's certainly good news for Newman University as well."
Dr. Noreen Carrocci, president of Newman University, said she was grateful for the support the school has received from the diocese and saw it as "a wonderful natural continuation of our partnership."

St. Joseph House of Formation at-a-glance
• The Diocese of Wichita has established a two-year initial formation program for its seminarians called the St. Joseph House of Formation.
• The men in the program will live in the former rectory on the campus of St. Joseph Parish in Wichita.
• The seminarians will enroll at Newman University for their general studies. After receiving an associate degree from Newman, they will transfer to a college seminary to complete their requirements for a bachelor's degree in philosophy.
• Seminarians complete their academic training by studying for master's degrees in theology at a seminary before their ordination to the priesthood.