St. Joseph Parish to host seminarians who will study at Newman
Diocesan seminarians will soon be in a closer relationship with their bishop in the first two years of their formation.
Starting in the fall, men who are beginning their college study in preparation for a bachelor’s degree in philosophy will become members of the St. Joseph House of Formation, will reside in the former rectory at St. Joseph Parish in Wichita, and study at Newman University in Wichita.
Father Michael Simone, diocesan chancellor and director of the Vocations office, said Bishop Carl A. Kemme approved the house of formation for the seminarians during their first and second years of college.
“He’s decided that for many reasons,” Fr. Simone said. “One of them is so that we can have a local program of formation, and also so that they can be exposed directly to parish ministry.”
The program was given its name in honor of the parishioners and the pastor of the parish who “have graciously opened their arms and found a place for them to live,” he 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.”
There will be between three to five men in the first year’s cohort of the St. Joseph House of Formation, he said, adding that he believes it will gradually increase. “We’ve looked over the past five to seven years and we could eventually have up to 16 or 17 in the program.”
The parish is excited to be a home for the seminarians, Father Simone said.
“There’s a tradition at St. Joseph Parish for hosting religious men and women on campus since they’ve been in existence so we’re hopeful that this is a natural way to extend that to a diocesan family as well.”
Bishop Carl A. Kemme said the St. Joseph House of Formation is an exciting venture for the diocese.
“After much prayer and consultation, I decided to begin this new program as a way to enhance our long tradition of helping young men discern a vocation to the priesthood, as well as providing a solid formation for them in the first two years of college seminary,” he said.
“I am very grateful for the support of our priests for this new program and I look forward to welcoming our first cohort of students to the house of formation established right here in the heart of our diocesan family.”
Father Joe Gile
Father Joe Gile, dean of Graduate Studies and Continuing Adult Education at Newman University, said the idea of seminary formation in the Diocese of Wichita was studied several years ago and found great support among priests.
Bishop Michael O. Jackels, now the ordinary of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, decided at the time that the Diocese of Wichita didn’t have the number of priests available to start the program.
“And, of course, that was the right decision,” Father Gile said. “But now, with the large ordination class this year and next, I think Bishop Kemme thought we were in a position to give this another look.”
So, after consultation with his brother priests, Bishop Kemme decided it would be advantageous for the diocese to open a two-year house of studies program, Father Gile said.
“I really like the way this is ended up,” he said. “It’s still an exciting undertaking, but having a more modest start, I think is definitely the way to go. I’m excited about starting in the fall. I think it’s going to be great for the diocese and certainly great for Newman University as well.”
Newman’s theology department, which has worked closely with the diocese in its master’s degree program, won’t be heavily utilized by the new seminarians, who will be fulfilling general education requirements. They will complete their requirements for a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at one of the college seminary programs used by the diocese.
“This will be a fine educational experience for the seminarians from start to finish doing their general education work at Newman,” he said.
Father Gile added that he has been at Newman for about 12 years during which he has worked to make the university a regional center for theology.
“We’ve got some of that going on with our master’s program, but this will remind people of Newman University and will raise our profile. We will be working with the diocese on yet another level.”
He added that it’s a win-win situation.
“I think it’s going to be good for the diocese,” he said. “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
Dr. Noreen Carrocci, president of Newman University, said she was grateful for all the support the university has received from the diocese.
“This further solidifies our partnership with the diocese,” she said last week. “The Adorers (of the Blood of Christ) and the diocese have such a close connection. This is 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 will live in the old 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, the men 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.
Chaplains learning skills to be used as priests
Three seminarians studying for the Diocese of Wichita have been assigned to the Via Christi hospitals in Wichita this summer.
The three young men – Michael Brungardt, Garett Burns, and Andrew Dellasega – will be in their third year of theology studies this fall. At the end of the school year they are scheduled to be ordained to the transitional diaconate – God- and bishop-willing.
Garrett Burns, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wichita, said the trio is assisting the chaplain staff at various Via Christi locations this summer, although most of their time they are working at the St. Francis hospital location where they visit with patients and their families, and take Holy Communion to the sick.
“We offer prayers and support – especially during times of trauma or health crisis,” he wrote in an email.
“It was edifying to shadow Father Jeremy Huser and witness his impact as a spiritual father to not only the sick and their families, but the doctors, nurses, and staff as well,” Burns said.
“Additionally, I have experienced powerful moments of grace. Coming to the hospital is such a critical time for the faith of many individuals. Some people feel hostility towards the Lord. Others come to deeply know the true power of redemptive suffering. In every one of these situations, it is my joy to be able to present the supernatural hope given through faith in the Gospel.”
Burns said he believes he is receiving a “priceless experience” in his ministry to the sick, the dying, and their families.
“I hope to gain greater wisdom about how to more effectively preach the truth of Jesus as a way to convey hope and strength in these times of difficulty. I’m sure I will always carry with me those moments when the grace of God’s salvation overcomes all human doubt, pain, and despair. Those moments keep me going when my own faith in God’s goodness and mercy begins to wane.”
Drew Dellasega said most of his time is spent visiting patients in the hospitals to distribute Communion, work with the pastoral staff and resident priest chaplains, and learn more about the duties of chaplains.
“I have gained an invaluable insight into the operations of what it takes to care for those who are ill,” he said. “The vast number of individuals who work in collaboration to provide for our patients is truly fascinating.”
Dellasega, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Pittsburg, said he is grateful to be able to be a part of the ministry.
“Just as we all must care for ourselves physically, so, too, we must care for ourselves spiritually,” he said. “The doctors, nurses, and staff all play a vital role in caring for the physical needs of the patient; likewise, the priest chaplain and pastoral care staff care for the patients’ spiritual needs.”
Assisting patients and their families in the time of illness is an integral part of priestly ministry, he said. “I have had the opportunity to gain further experience in caring for those who are in the hospital, preparing me all the more for the holy priesthood.”
Michael Brungardt said a typical day can be anything from making Communion calls, to visiting patients, family, and staff, to responding to family needs resulting from trauma cases, and being with them if things don’t go well.
“In terms of caring for patients and family members, we as chaplains act as a kind of liaison between the medical team who is caring for the patient in critical cases, and the family members who are often waiting anxiously for news on their loved one,” he said. “As chaplains, we are able to help the family through a time that not many people are truly prepared to handle.”
Brungardt said he can “experience an entire lifetime” in one hour: seeing a newborn child at one moment to visiting someone in hospice care the next.
Because patients are out of their normal routine, he said, they begin to ponder questions about what really matters in their lives.
Their hospitalization, Brungardt said, “is an event that has the power to change how they look at life, and live their life from that point forward. So, as chaplains, we are able to do more than just provide them with ways to physically take better care of themselves, but are able to guide them to be able to face these big questions they have just encountered.”
Sometimes there’s little that can be done, he added. “Sometimes all you can do is be there with the person, with the family, or with the medical staff, leaving the rest up to God’s grace and mercy. That’s my constant prayer: ‘Come Holy Spirit, Come through Mary!’”
His work as a chaplain will be a part of what makes him a better priest, Brungardt said.
“Life can come and go in seconds. Someone that was leading a normal life one day can be on the opposite spectrum the next,” he said.
“As a priest – especially a parish priest – this ministry will contribute to my desire to want to help people face the reality of life in its entirety. Reality doesn’t begin when a traumatic event happens. Reality happens in the ordinariness of everyday life. This is just a reminder of our Christian duty to live the real, and to live it intensely. God’s merciful love will handle the rest.”
Thinking about the seminary?
By Gemma Rajewski
Several seminarians studying for the Diocese of Wichita are adding to what they are learning at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.
Since February, four Wichita parishes have been assigned interns in the form of four second-year theology seminarians. The internship allows seminarians to serve the parish in a “concentrated” way.
“Honestly, it has been a blessing to take a break from the classroom, and to get our hands dirty, so to speak, in real service” said Garett Burns, who is interning at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He said working with the parishioners and sharing in their daily lives has helped him grow spiritually.
“These relationships allow me to follow Pope Francis’ call for preachers of God’s Word to ‘contemplate the people.’ Coming to understand their joys, fears, and struggles as Christians in today’s world increases my faith and helps me to grow in my ability to lead others to trust in Christ.”
Isaac Coulter, who is interning at Christ the King Parish in Wichita, said it was the smallest things that have made the biggest difference to him.
“A simple interaction with a parishioner may be just that: a simple interaction. But each simple face-to-face encounter is rich and beautiful. Those daily moments of connection with another soul through his or her eyes or a smile are powerful enough to break my heart. Parish life will break my heart, but it will, at the same time, fill it to overflowing.”
Two other seminarians are interning in Wichita: Michael Brungardt at St. Anne’s, and Michael Kerschen at St. Patrick’s.
The seminarians will return to Mundelein in May to wrap up their internship experience before summer. According to Burns, this experience will have an effect on the rest of his schooling.
“This reminds us that our seminary formation is geared towards making us fathers and servant leaders, rather than theological scholars,” he said.
“In addition, ministering daily in the parish brings to the light many previously hidden strengths and weaknesses. I can take this new knowledge back to seminary in the fall in order to most effectively use my last two years of preparation before ordination.”
Coulter is looking forward to the future now that he has had a chance to practice parish ministry.
“Experiencing this exchange of lives now on pastoral internship excites me all the more for that for which I have been preparing my entire life: to give myself completely through Christ’s priesthood.”
Rajewski is a communications assistant for the Catholic Advance.
Editor’s note: The term “ora et labora,” is Latin for prayer and labor.
By Gemma Rajewski
Summer break isn’t a time of rest and relaxation for the diocesan seminarians. Instead, most are working in various ways to serve and to learn to better minister to the people of the diocese.
Matt Davied and Michael Brungardt will be starting 2nd Theology this fall and are two of eight seminarians in intensive Spanish studies at Pittsburg State University.
“Spanish Immersion is a program for diocesan seminarians to learn how to better minister to the growing population of Hispanic immigrants in the Diocese of Wichita.
“In the program, we attend Masses, pray Liturgy of the Hours, and take classes at Pittsburg State during the week – all in Spanish. Besides these, we spend a weekend with a Hispanic family, and are hosted by various others in the area throughout the summer for a Sunday meal, all while speaking only Spanish,” Davied said.
Brungardt believes the program goes beyond a simple language lesson. “I think it’s a very integrated program, one that challenges you personally, pastorally, academically, and, most importantly, spiritually. This program allows us to open our hearts to the Lord and to His voice; to allow the Lord to give us the heart and the grace to minister to all people.”
Davied said the program is designed for the seminarians to understand an increasingly large group of people within our diocese: “A people with a rich culture and generous spirit, many of whom are facing the challenges of establishing a new life in a new country. Understanding the language is only a part of establishing a more intimate connection with Spanish speakers, that we, God willing, as priests, may be better bridges for them to reach the Lord.”
Not all the seminarians are hitting the books this summer. Some are trying to learn other useful skills in their summer activities, including Drew Hoffman who is improving his kitchen skills at The Lord’s Diner in Wichita.
“I am a horrible cook and I’m a klutz. Those aren’t a great combination when you spend three to four hours in the kitchen every day. Honestly, I’ve been here for two summers and I still slip, drop things, and have to ask really simple questions regarding cooking. My mom really tried to teach me, but I am an utter failure in that area,” said Drew Hoffman, who will be starting 3rd theology in the fall.
Hoffman is cooking, cleaning, prepping, serving, and more at the Diner. He is one of three seminarians working with many volunteers to serve roughly 2,000 meals a day to the hungry.
Despite Hoffman’s talents and skills in the kitchen, he says that isn’t the most difficult thing about working at The Lord’s Diner. “The hardest part is seeing the pain and struggle of many on a daily basis. Numerous guests who come to the Diner or to the trucks have wonderful hearts and have a deep relationship with the Lord, and to see them struggle physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, with family issues and so on is painful to see.”
The Lord’s Diner serves meals out of two trucks in Wichita at the Evergreen Rec Center on North Arkansas and at 1329 S. Terrace, just east of Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph.
However, Hoffman finds joy in his work. “There are all different types of people and it’s an honor to be able to sit down with them. To be able to pray, listen, and laugh with them is the highlight of my day.”
Andrew Labenz, beginning 3rd Theology, is finding similar enjoyment at the Catholic Care Center in Wichita.
“It has been so rewarding to be able to get to know all the residents on a personal level. It has been such a joy to learn about their families, hear their many stories, and to witness their faith and their love for the church and for God.”
Labenz said by witnessing the suffering of the residents and families, he has learned how suffering can lead one to possess a greater hope and love for God
His responsibilities include Communion calls, serving at Mass, spending time with the residents, and teaching Spiritual Uplift classes. He will also start doing prison ministry in a few weeks.
The other diocesan seminarians are working in various other environments and trades including Totus Tuus, parish work, hospital ministry, Prayer and Action, and more.
Through their work they are growing in the vocation they feel God has called them.
“They have reminded me of why I desire to be a priest, which is to serve all of the people of God,” Labenz said.
Rajewski is advertising coordinator for the Advance.
By Ty Taylor
Holy Family Camp last summer had a very deep impact on me. Here are three thoughts that struck me at different points throughout the week.
The first was the incredibly unconditional love that the campers demonstrated to all of us who were working at the camp. It didn’t matter that I had never met them before, or that I might not remember all of their names. (Although I tried!) They didn’t care whether I was a “cool kid” or popular, or if I was the biggest goofball they had ever seen. The campers welcomed me with open arms and a big smile because they knew my inherent dignity as a human person. They knew that kindness and love are the answer to life’s problems. What especially struck me is how easy it is for them to love people. I saw that mercy and love at Holy Family Camp.
Seeing such love and kindness at the camp made me stop one day as I thought, “How, how, how can mothers abort their children with special needs? How could they deny such good, kind people a chance at life?” And I realized that their motive was most likely the same one that had almost caused me to turn down the offer to work at Holy Family Camp: fear. A fear of the unknown, fear that their child will suffer, or that they won’t be able to give them the kind of care that they need and deserve.
Fear of someone who is “different,” when they really aren’t any different. My fear of the unknown evaporated once I met the campers. We have to trust and take the leap of faith!
My camper had a difficult time walking, but that didn’t stop him from holding every door we went through. He always complimented “the ladies” as he called them, whether they were campers or Camp Buddies, young or old. Often, his “thank you” to the cooks at dinner or at other times reminded me that I had forgotten to say thank you! His example to me of what it means to be a good person – not to mention the example of all the other campers – made me realize how much I still had to work on as a gentleman and man of God. Praise God for his mercy and forgiveness, because I still have a long way to go!
Holy Family Camp was an incredible week, and I hope that I will be able to go back. The campers gave me infinitely more than I gave to them.
If you have any desire at all to work with people with special needs, please, please sign up! It will be a very rewarding week. If you’re afraid, trust me. You just have to jump in and trust that it will work out. You won’t regret it! More importantly, trust God, and always listen for his will.
Taylor is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Wichita and a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Mulvane.
Want to volunteer for the Holy Family Camp?
The Catholic Advance featured diocesan seminarians in several articles this summer. The Advance had a lot of choices for topics because the Diocese of Wichita is blessed with so many vocations.
Father Michael Simone, director of Vocations, said the number of men on the yearly poster is inspirational.
“We continue to get a lot of fine, quality young men who wish to pursue God’s call in their life,” he said.
“Receiving any young man in our vocations program is a blessing for us, but the number and the quality continue to humble myself and Bishop Kemme – especially in the ways in which they are cultivated from our parishes and our schools, and the way in which we live Christianity in the diocese.”
For the young men who might want to be on next year’s poster, Fr. Simone recommended prayer and some fatherly advice.
Any young man who believes he may have a vocation to the priesthood, Fr. Simone said, should talk to his pastor or the priest chaplain, if he is in a Catholic school.
“He should also take to prayer in one of our many adoration chapels throughout the diocese, pray about it at Mass,” he said, “and if that thought continues to tug at his heart, give me a call.”
Fr. Simone is also vice-chancellor and moderator of the curia for the diocese.
Is the Holy Spirit calling you to the priesthood?
By Don McClane Jr.
Gabriel Greer never thought he’d go to prison.
“When I first was told that I was going to do prison ministry, I was afraid,” said the seminarian. “I didn’t know what to expect. I had no clue what a prison was like. I never had my eyes set on going to a prison.
“On the first day, Jim [Rundell] and I arrived at the prison to be introduced to the prison chaplain and receive a tour,” recalled Greer. “The bars closed behind us, and there I was on my way into the prison.”
Greer and Garret Burns, both seminarians at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, spent parts of their summer doing prison ministry under the direction of Jim Rundell, program coordinator of St. Dismas Ministry to the Incarcerated. Burns, a first theology student from St. Francis of Assisi parish in Wichita, participated during June. Greer, a third-year theology student from Our Lady of Lourdes in Pittsburg, participated in July.
“Fr. Simone approached me with the idea of trying out this summer internship for seminarians in prison ministry with Jim Rundell,” said Burns. “We talked back and forth, talked with Jim, talked with my parents a little bit, and prayed about it, and decided it was the right decision.”
Burns spent most of his time at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, with visits to Hutchinson and Winfield.
“A couple times a week I was in the chaplain’s office,” he said. “I was just helping him with paperwork and things like that. But then we would attend, and I would sometimes lead, Bible study. At one of the prisons we’d have Mass once a week. At times we’d even have one-on-one meetings with some of the inmates.”
Greer spent Mondays and Wednesdays at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.
“While I was there, I would follow the prison chaplain around,” he said. “We would go to ‘segregation.’ We would walk cell to cell. If a guy wanted to visit with us, then we would stop and talk to him. Typically all the conversations ended with prayer. I even had the opportunity to take Communion to the Catholic guys that were in segregation.
The Catholic inmates in the general population could request one-on-one meetings with him.
“I think I met with a total of eight of them throughout the summer. Whatever they wanted to talk about, we would talk about,” Greer said. “And that was a really moving experience, to hear how they hit rock bottom, and prison was kind of their wake-up opportunity, and began to take the faith seriously, began to go to catechism class, go to Mass once a week, so they could learn more about the church, about Christ, and ultimately to have that relationship with Christ that they need.”
Burns occasionally sat in on “death notifications.”
“If an inmate’s family member passed away, then we would be the ones to give him that news,” he recalled. “We’d give him a phone call and then try to start some counseling or begin that grieving process with him.”
On Tuesdays, Greer spent the day with Rundell at the Spiritual Life Center.
“I would do a lot of research on what the Catholic Church says about prison ministry,” he said. “Or, we would research taking communion to inmates, or taking the sacraments to inmates in prison.”
Tuesday evenings, Greer would go the El Dorado facility and sit in on the catechism class for the inmates there. On Thursdays, he would return to Hutchinson, where there would be Mass in the afternoon and catechism in the evening.
Burns was in the chaplain’s office in El Dorado twice a week, going occasionally to Hutchinson for Bible study and Mass, and to Winfield once for Mass.
“I was not ever really scared or threatened,” Burns recalled. “I never felt that I was in danger. I was expecting to always be on guard, and you’re always self-aware, but the hospitality and gratefulness of the inmates just totally took away any feeling of endangerment.”
Greer had the opportunity to vist the RDU at the El Dorado facility, where those entering the prison system first went for evaluation. He would go cell to cell with Rundell, talking to the inmates.
“Some of those guys, there were at a very low point in their life,” Greer said. “They’d never been to prison before, they’d hoped they never go to prison, and now know that they don’t ever want to come back.
“There was one guy who told me he wanted to learn how to pray,” he continued. “He specifically said he wanted to pray the perfect prayer. I told him we were human, and we pray what’s on our heart, but we have to rely on the Holy Spirit to make it perfect, but there is one prayer that Jesus taught us in the scriptures. And I said, it’s called the ‘Our Father,’ and I said, have you ever heard of that prayer?
“And he goes, no I’ve never heard of that prayer before in my life. And so I had the opportunity to teach him how to pray the ‘Our Father.’”
Both Burns and Greer were changed by their ministry.
“It changed the way I viewed them,” Burns stated. “I was able to connect with them like I didn’t think I would be able to, both in terms of our faith life and just their struggles with sin, and mine, which I thought would be completely different but were very much the same, so we could connect on that level.
“They mostly gave me a passion for the ministry, to see that these men need and deserve and truly thirst for this ministry and the sacraments.”
“I think it could have been very easy to say, no, I’m not going to minister to them,” Greer said. “But you see how desperate these guys are to find Christ, and really just find someone that will talk to them. They might have grown up in an abusive house. They never had anybody love them growing up, and that’s all they want.
“What I can do in my limited human capabilities in giving that to them had a great effect on me,” Greer said.
“You go in there, you learn to minister to them, you learn to love them,” he continued. “The prisoners, all they want to know is, are you going to come back? When do you get ordained a priest? Are you going to come and celebrate Mass?
“It really just changed my outlook on the guys, and I think that’s big. It really allows you to see them with dignity.”
Is prison ministry in the futures of the seminarians? Perhaps.
“One day, God willing, when I’m ordained, I will continue to have that passion to serve these men, especially with the gifts of confession and the Eucharist,” said Burns.
“I’m done there currently, but it’s definitely sitting with me,” noted Greer. “How can I continue to help these guys, though I’m not there any more?”
McClane is production manager for the Catholic Advance.
By Molly Martin
Eight seminarians of the Diocese of Wichita – Andrew Bergkamp, Byron Bergkamp, Jacob Carlin, Kyle Dugan, Adam Grelinger, Ed Herzog, Clay Kimbro, and Chris Martin – are learning about how to speak “la idioma del corazon,” the language of the heart, according to Kimbro.
As part of their summer assignments, the seminarians enrolled in an eight-week, 11 credit hour, Spanish “immersion program” at Pittsburg State University. The program, which began June 2, continues until July 25 and is being taught by three faculty members for five hours each day.
“The program is much more than simple summer classes,” said Kimbro, a second year theologian from Sacred Heart Parish in Colwich. “We each spend one full weekend with a Spanish-speaking family in the Pittsburg area at the beginning of the summer to place us in a Latin American mindset, both in language and culture.”
He added that by the end of the weekend, many of their fears about speaking Spanish were alleviated because they were thrown into a situation where they were able to succeed in communicating beyond the language barrier.
In addition to classroom courses and a weekend with a family, the seminarians spend Sunday at the Spanish Mass, serving the Hispanic youth group, and eating at the homes of the Latin American community in Southeast Kansas.
“I think the best part of the program for me is the interaction with the entire community in Pittsburg,” said Kimbro. “Everyone has been so gracious in welcoming us to the community.
“First and foremost, the Hispanic families have been fantastic, better even than the food they have so wonderfully fed us. The priests have been gracious in teaching us about the community and all of the people at Our Lady of Lourdes have been so kind to us.”
Kimbro said a close runner-up to the interaction with the community would be the fraternity which is built among the seminarians from Wichita.
“Even though we speak Spanish until 7 p.m. every night, we are still able to joke with each other and have a lot of fun in the house,” he said. “We are very blessed.”
Dr. Celia Patterson is the interim chair of the Spanish immersion program founded in the summer of 2012 by Dr. Judy Berry-Bravo. Courses, such as Spanish I, Spanish II, and Cultural Heritage in Hispanic America, are taught by Monte McFerron, Roberta Shilane, and Dr. Eric Rojas.
Martin is advertising coordinator for the Catholic Advance.
Recent convert to the faith to study the law in graduate school – God’s law
By Molly Martin
While filling out applications to attend law school, Darren Beckham felt he was being pulled in another direction and began discerning a call to the priesthood. Beckham has now accepted this call and will head to St. Louis in the fall to attend Kenrick-Glennon Seminary as a seminarian for the diocese.
“I was headed toward married life, and I believed God wanted to use me in the political world,” said Beckham. “I was praying, asking God where he wanted me to go when he started talking to me about the priesthood. I was apprehensive as a new Catholic, but I felt a definite peace in pursuing this idea.”
Beckham graduated from Wichita State University last month with two bachelor of arts degrees. While attending WSU, Beckham was elected student body president and converted to Catholicism after going through the RCIA program at the St. Paul Parish Newman Center. His mother converted to Catholicism two years prior and became the person Beckham trusted to ask questions about the faith.
“I didn’t think God was leading me to join the church, but I started sensing a new emptiness in my life,” he said. “Eventually, I felt drawn to the church the more I learned about it. Cautiously, I started going to RCIA believing that God was possibly leading me to eventually join the Catholic Church. I ultimately joined the church after having decided I had found God in the Mass and that there was nothing comparable to the Catholic faith.”
Beckham is now an active member of St. Paul Parish, as well as a member of the Knights of Columbus, a regular lector and Eucharistic minister. Fr. John Hay, pastor of St. Paul Parish, described Beckham as a very normal and genuine young man.
“He is affable, caring and courageous,” said Father Hay. “All three of these are necessary to be a good priest.”
Looking forward to seminary life
Beckham says he is most looking forward to a lifestyle steeped in prayer and structured around the idea of personal development. He is also looking forward to studying philosophy and theology, a couple of his favorite subjects.
“I have changed a lot in my five years at WSU, especially in becoming Catholic,” said Beckham. “I am excited to see what God can do in my life with six years of seminary.
“The advice I keep hearing is that I need to open myself up to what seminary is there to do in my life. By being open to God’s direction, whether through learning or formation, I hope to better understand God’s plan for my life and how to serve others.”
In coming into the Catholic Church, Beckham said his understanding of the church has been “revolutionized.”
“If God is in fact calling me to the priesthood, I am most excited about bringing the power and presence of God to people in the Mass and in ministry in general,” he said.
Discerning the call to the priesthood
Fr. Hay would ask that Beckham, or any young man, whether in the seminary or not, to keep his heart open to all that God will offer.
“God wants us to come to know the infinite and unconditional love he has for us,” he said. “God does not have any of the weaknesses that we experience or know in others. But yet we often project our experiences with others on to God. And while God perfectly respects our freedom, it is only possible to love God because He loves us!”
Father Hay said most men would be shocked to hear that the seminary is a very normal place.
“Think of a healthy fraternity with prayer added in,” said Fr. Hay. “My first piece of advice would be to enjoy the fraternity and time in the seminary – it's a lot of fun too.”
Father Hay said he would advise Darren and any seminarian to give themselves over trustingly to their personal development, both spiritual and character, while in the seminary and to be docile to what God might be asking.
“For sure, the seminary offers every resource to a young man discerning a vocation, but they also help to chisel us into the new man that St. Paul speaks of in his writings – ‘put on that new man, Jesus Christ,’” said Father.
Martin is advertising coordinator for the Catholic Advance.
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By Michael Kerschen
Last summer I was given the opportunity to spend a week as a Camp Buddy at Holy Family Camp, put on by the Ministry of Persons with Disabilities. Camp Hiawatha hosted more than 80 campers with a wide variety of disabilities and nearly as many volunteers.
We spent the week in prayer and song while we played games, learned about virtues, danced, swam, and simply had a lot of fun! This camp is a wonderful experience that teaches those involved the way to truly live a life with God in the center.
As part of the volunteer staff, I was charged with teaching the campers about our Catholic virtues. However, the campers taught me more about truly living out the virtues than I could ever hope to learn in a classroom.
The honesty, compassion, and joy the campers bring with them is contagious and spreads almost instantly. The patience, generosity, and gratitude that fills every interaction contrasts many of the interactions we see in everyday life and are evidence of the many blessings God has bestowed on the campers. Holy Family Camp gives the campers an opportunity to share those blessings with others in a respectful and safe environment.
We live in a world that continually disrespects human life and that values people based on worldly achievements. In the midst of all this, many of us have been excited to witness Pope Francis carry out a papacy of love and service to every human person, especially those in most need.
Holy Family Camp is an amazing opportunity to share our Holy Father’s mission right here in Wichita! Many of the campers need help with the little tasks of life we all take for granted. Helping them with these tasks allows us a share in the work of Christ and brings us closer to Him through a commitment to others. We are blessed to have Holy Family Camp in our diocese, and I encourage you to support this mission in any way you can!
If you are a high school or college student, please consider taking a week out of your summer and giving your time by serving at this camp. It is a good chance to fulfill service hour requirements, but more importantly you will be fulfilling the Christian call to serve others and will have a lot of fun doing it!
Michael Kerschen is a seminarian for the Diocese of Wichita. He is a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Garden Plain.