Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Having recently begun the glorious season of Easter, I wish to take this opportunity to extend to all of you my heartfelt sentiments of Easter joy and peace.
The tomb of Christ that once held the lifeless body of our Savior, Jesus Christ, was found empty. For over two millennia, the church has given steadfast witness to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the promise of a similar resurrection for us who believe. May our Easter faith strengthen us, encourage us, and support us as we are called to witness to all we meet that indeed Christ’s tomb remains forever empty. A blessed Easter to all!
It is also great honor to use this Easter season to make an important announcement to the diocese. As we all know and appreciate, we are extraordinarily blessed with an exceptional number of young men who have or are discerning a vocation to the priesthood in our diocese. We joyfully welcome these men each year to journey with us in a process of formation in a seminary to which we decide to send them. These years extend from the years of college through graduate seminary.
A few years ago, my predecessor – now Archbishop Jackels – initiated a comprehensive study about the possibility of providing a four-year college seminary formation here in Wichita. After careful analysis of the many requirements that would be needed for this to succeed, Bishop Jackels decided that it was not feasible. When I learned of this study, I was personally intrigued by it and wanted to reopen it for myself.
For the past year, an ad hoc committee led by our Vocation Director, Father Michael Simone, began to study the question again, but this time using the qualifier of a two-year program instead of a four-year program. The results of that study were shared with the Council of Priests, with the Bishop’s Leadership Team, the Diocesan Finance Council, and finally with all the priests at our recent regional meetings.
Today, I am delighted to announce that beginning this fall, the Diocese of Wichita will open a two-year program of formation called the St. Joseph House of Formation. Men entering the first two years of college will be eligible for this new program, which will reside at the former St. Joseph rectory on the campus of St. Joseph Parish in Wichita.
Newman University has been and will be a key collaborator in this program with the men attending the university for general education courses. Two priests will direct this program with other assigned duties and will reside with the men in the House of Formation. The announcement of those appointments will come later in May.
After completing the two-year program, if the men are found worthy to advance, they will be sent to a college seminary program to complete a bachelor of arts degree.
I am very grateful to the many that helped in this study. I am especially grateful to Father Simone for his leadership and to Father Stuart Smeltzer, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, and his parishioners for welcoming our seminary men to their campus. I am confident that both the seminarians and the parishioners will mutually benefit from this collaboration.
Please remember this in your prayers as we embark on an exciting and challenging venture to form our future priests for two years of their long formation right here in the heart of the diocese. Thank you and God bless you.
+ Bishop Carl A. Kemme, D.D.