St. Joseph House of Formation seminarians learn life-skills

Woodworking is not part of the philosophy curriculum for seminarians of the St. Joseph House of Formation, but there is a lot of wisdom in helping the men learn about other aspects of priestly life.

Fr. Chad Arnold, assistant director of the House of Formation, said 18 seminarians recently completed a woodworking class to enable them to do something with their hands and for a break from their studies.

Seminarians take a break

“About three times a semester we break the guys up into smaller groups so that they can work hands-on,” he said. “This year we focused on carpentry. They went out to three different carpenter friends – Fr. Tom Welk, who’s stationed over at Newnan, Fr. Daryl Befort, and Mr. Joe Dockers – they all have their own woodshops and the guys went there.”

Fr. Welk’s project for his group was a mantel clock. Dockers’ project was a beside table and Fr. Befort’s was a maniturgium box. (A maniturgium is the cloth used to wipe the chrism oil off the hands of a newly ordained man. It is traditionally given to his mother at his first Mass.)

“The hope was they would learn about different types of wood, the tools in the shop, about safety, staining, and painting,” Fr. Arnold said. “It gets them out of the house, gets them working with their hands, and they learn a new skill.”

Simple car maintenance last year

Last year the seminarians learned simple automobile technology as part of their overall human formation, he said.

“They came to the house, joined us for dinner, and learned how to change oil, replace a battery, check tires – all of those little things,” he said.

“There are still guys at the house who change their own oil now – they had never done it before and they like doing it at the house. We’ve got everything they need.”

It’s good for the seminarians to take a break from their intellectual studies, Fr. Arnold said. “They do something with their hands where something looks different at the end than it did at the beginning. Papers just don’t give you that satisfaction.”

Growing up in the country where he was always working on something gave him a lot of practical experiences, he said, adding that when he was a pastor at Holy Name Parish in Coffeyville it was nice to meet with men in the parking lot and to know just enough to ask smart questions.

“I’m not a good carpenter and I’m a terrible mechanic, but I know just enough to ask a question or two. I want the guys to have that experience as well.”