January/2024 Keeping God’s appointments By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Father Acrea was…
This year, our diocese was able to bring 28 young men to St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the Vianney Visit. The annual visit is an opportunity for high school- and college-age men to see the seminary. The goal is to give these men an experience of seminary life so that, when they are praying about their vocation, seminary is not an abstract concept but a concrete reality that can be an option for them.
I have been going on this visit for many years – once as a participant and now as the leader. Year after year, I am struck by the faith and energy of the men who come. This year was no different.
This was an impressive group of young men. On our way to the seminary, one of the men got word of the horrific shootings that had occurred in California. He came to me to ask for permission to lead the others in prayer for the victims and families of those affected. After we arrived at the seminary, we had some free time. During a time when they could just be hanging out, reading a book or watching sports, many of our Grand Rapids men chose to go outside for a “rosary walk” on the campus of St. Thomas instead.
On our way home, we prayed the rosary together on the bus and concluded with evening prayer. Then they all had a chance to share how the visit went for them. One of the guys stood up and said, “Brothers, many of us have said how much we appreciated the fraternity and the common goal of living for Christ at the seminary. My question to all of us is, ‘Why not at home? Why can’t we live like that at home, in our schools and with our friends? We all experienced the beautiful life at the seminary, and I’m challenging you to take that experience of brotherhood and fraternity back home to your friendships at your schools.’”
These are the moments that I feel privileged to witness and be a part of. These young men are men of prayer. They love Jesus and are open to the call to the priesthood. How many of them will go to the seminary? I do not know. But I know this: Without the Vianney Visit, our diocese would not have the success we are having in increasing our number of seminarians. I am grateful to the Knights of Columbus for providing the funds to make this visit possible. Because of this generosity, the men are able to go on this trip for free. I am proud of our diocese, the Knights and the young men willing to travel nine hours by bus to explore seminary life.
We have been greatly blessed with the opportunity to visit the seminary. And we have been blessed even more by the quality of young men who love Jesus, who love the Church, who are open to the priesthood and who become seminarians. May we continue to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in Grand Rapids.