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​Welcome to the website for the Office of Priestly Vocations of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI. This year twenty-five men from our diocese will be in seminary formation programs in preparation for ordination, seven of whom are new to formation. Thirteen of these men are at St. John Vianney College Seminary and twelve are at USML/Mundelein Seminary.

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Two weeks, eight funerals, and lessons learned.

Jan/Feb 2023

Two weeks, eight funerals and lessons learned.

By Fr. Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations

I pulled up to the conference center at Mundelein Seminary to pick up Father Mark Peacock. We did not know each other well yet. I was assigned to his parish, St. Patrick in Parnell, as a seminarian intern. The six-month internship would begin the following month. I was driving us to dinner during Father Mark’s visit so that we could get to know each other a bit and discuss the internship.

I’ll never forget his reaction as I pulled up. He started laughing, with this boisterous laugh, and immediately I thought, “What did I do?” He gets in the car, a 2000 Saturn, and says to me, “Dude, this is a go-cart, man. Are you sure this car can get us to dinner and back?” He wasn’t wrong. It was a small car, and it wasn’t in the greatest shape, but as a college student it’s what I had at the time. We both laughed. Only later did I realize that he was legitimately nervous about the car – he never got into it again.

Over dinner, Father Mark said he was excited for me to be at the parish, the staff was excited to have a seminarian and the parish would love having me around. Then he asked, “Stephen, what are you most worried about experiencing on internship?” Without missing a beat, I responded, “Funerals.” I was worried I wouldn’t know the best way to comfort a grieving family. With confidence he encouraged me and said, “You’ll
be fine, just love the people.”

I arrived at the parish a month later. Wouldn’t you know it, we had eight funerals in the first two weeks. As a seminarian, I could not celebrate funeral Masses, but I was definitely thrown into the fire quickly. Whether it was a funeral Mass preparation meeting with the family, a wake service or a committal service, I had plenty of experience by the end of those first two weeks. After those two weeks, Father Mark and I were sitting in the rectory watching the Red Wings. With this exhausted look, he said to me, “Hey Stephen, are you uh … nervous about anything else in ministry? I want to be prepared for what’s coming …” We both just started laughing.

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