The Catholic Times ran a story about this happy increase two weeks ago (with my emphases and comments):
The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has 20 seminarians studying for the priesthood. This is up nine men from last year, and is almost three times as many seminarians as the diocese had in 1999 [it's the largest number in more than twenty years, too].
"The last time the diocese had nearly this many seminarians was in 1986, when it had 19. That is the year Msgr. Carl Kemme (vicar general and moderator of the curia) was ordained, and he just celebrated his silver jubilee," says Father Chris House, director of the Office for Vocations. He and Father Daren Zehnle, associate director of Vocations, had stopped by Catholic Times, to tell reporters the good news and approve the layout of a Vocations poster.
"Bishop Paprocki has made vocations a major priority of his ministry, and it is already bearing fruit," Father House says.
"Our increase in seminarians is not about programs and brochures. Those help, and they are important, but it is about parishes and priests, about everybody seeking to build a vocations culture and about families teaching their children to be open to God's call.
"It is about individuals being open to God's call in their lives. Everyone in the world is seeking truth. We are all seeking something to hold on to, and I think people are already finding they are looking in all the wrong places.
"If you want to grab onto the eternal, there is only one place to turn, and that is to the Lord. These seminarians have come to the point where they are able to say, 'Yes, it is God's will.'"
The seminarians come from a variety of places — large parishes and small parishes. Their average age is 32. Half did not attend Catholic schools. Some have completed college.
"They come from all types of workplace fields — engineers, lawyers, one person worked in politics," says Father House.
"The great wonder of it all is that God is calling all types of men. There is no cookie cutter image for a priest. But there are qualities they share — an open and caring heart, zeal for the Gospel, devotion to the Eucharist, to Mary and to the saints, and an unwavering belief in the sanctity of human life.
"These 20 guys are everyday Catholic men who are seeking to respond to God's particular call in their lives. None are perfect, but all are striving for holiness."
Father House says he relies on the help of priests and of the Catholic faithful in encouraging, inviting and pointing potential candidates for the priesthood in the right direction. "They are invaluable."
How a man answers God's call differs from person to person, he says. "Some do a great deal of discernment, while for others it is a daily 'yes' to God's grace, to God's invitation.
"There are men out there that the Lord is calling. The work of vocations is for everybody — to pray for, to encourage, and to invite. They are in the pew next to you at Sunday Mass, they are your neighbors, they are in your Catholic schools and in your PSR programs," says Father House.
"Many times we pray for more vocations, but God is already providing what we need. We have to call them forth."
Theology IV: Deacon Albert Allen, from St. Katharine Drexel, Springfield, at Sacred Heart Seminary, Hales Corners, Wis.; Deacon Zachary Edgar, from Mother of Dolors, Vandalia, at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis; Scott Snider, from St. Gregory, Chicago, doing pastoral work;
Theology III: David Curtin, from Cathedral, Springfield, at St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind.; Hyland Smith, from St. Michael, Greenfield, at Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein;
Theology II: Steven Arisman, from St. Agnes, Springfield, at Mundelein; Seth Brown, from St. Peter, Petersburg, at Mundelein:
Theology I : Samuel Bagyo, from St. Paul, Highland, at Mundelein; Adam Prichard, from Blessed Sacrament, Quincy, at Mundelein; Jason Stone, from Blessed Sacrament, Quincy, at Mundelein; Martin Smith, from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Mt. Zion, at Mundelein;
Pre-Theology II: Derek Burns, from St. Paul, Highland, at Sacred Heart Seminary; James Himpler, from St. Joseph, Downers Grove, at Sacred Heart Seminary;
Pre-Theology I: Matthew Clarke, from Cathedral, Springfield, at Mundelein; Michael Friedel, from Holy Angels, Wood River, at Mundelein;
College IV: Braden Maher, from St. Anthony, Effingham, at Bishop Bruté Seminary, Indianapolis;
College III: Wayne Stock, from Mother of Dolors, in Vandalia, at Bishop Bruté;
College II: Gregory Fleckenstein, from St. Joseph, Springfield, at Bishop Bruté; Cody Sandschafer, from Sacred Heart, Effingham, at Bishop Bruté;
College I: William Jansen II, from St. Isidore, Dieterich, at Bishop Bruté.