One of the greatest delights of the Christmas season was the Dec. 29 reunion at Becket Hall of the men studying for priesthood in the Diocese of Rochester. It gathered the current residents of Becket Hall and students home on vacation from the Theological College at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md.; and Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary in Boston. Our student at the North American College in Rome, David Tedesche, was not able to be with us.
It was a great pleasure to be among those men that evening. They are a talented, personable and committed group who, God willing, will enrich our local church with their priestly ministry for years to come. It was good to see them gather to meet one another for the first time or to renew friendships already begun. It is clear that each draws encouragement and energy for the journey from such enthusiastic companions.
I have revisited the evening many times since then, and thought that you might find helpful an update on our current vocations picture. The following points, I hope, will give you some sense of where we are:
* We currently have 21 men preparing for priesthood. Six of them are at Becket Hall, which is housed in the former rectory of St. Thomas More Parish in Brighton; 15 are matriculating at the seminaries mentioned above. As recently as three years ago we had only six individuals traveling the road to priesthood.
* Of those candidates, five are from Colombia. We have recruited these high-quality candidates with two goals in mind. In the short term they will help us serve the growing Hispanic population in our diocese. In the longer run, it is my hope that they will inspire individuals of Hispanic ancestry to step forward for priesthood in our diocese. We have never ordained a Hispanic or African-American priest. I hope that much sooner than later, we’ll be able to say otherwise.
* While we work with young boys and teens who are interested in priesthood, we do not formally sponsor aspirants to priesthood until they have completed their undergraduate work. When we do accept them they spend a year at Becket Hall. During that time they receive instruction in such areas as prayer, spiritual development and the history of our diocese. Some take philosophy courses at St. John Fisher College, which are required for acceptance into the major seminary, but which were not included in their undergraduate work. Our Colombian students take intensive courses in English. All of them do ministry in local parishes.
* After a year at Becket Hall we assign students to a major seminary for their continuing theological, pastoral and spiritual training. Once accepted by the receiving seminary, they begin a four-year course of study in preparation for ordination.
* In our diocese we have the practice of calling a student home midway through his theological studies for a pastoral year, i.e., a year in which he serves as a pastoral minister in one of our parishes under the supervision of the pastor. It gives him a chance to experience the kind of life to which he will soon permanently commit himself. It also gives us further insight into the person’s character and abilities. The experience opens the seminarian to a deeper sense of the importance of his training for the life of ministry.
* Two innovations are part of our program this year. For the first time we have a student at Blessed Pope John XXIII Seminary in Boston. The program there is designed for older candidates for priesthood. We also sponsor one student attending Immaculate Conception College Seminary in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
* If you would like further information or have any questions about our vocations program or our Becket Hall students and seminarians, you can visit www.dor.org/vocations or call 585-461-2890.
I hope that you are as pleased to receive this information as I am to share it with you. Please pray that God will bless the journey to ordained priesthood for all of these men.
Peace to all.