Seminarians share their vocation stories, Archbishop Vigneron prays with more than 150 young men considering seminary life
DETROIT — More than 150 young men gathered March 28 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary to get a glimpse of what life might be like as a seminarian, gathering with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron for an evening of prayer, fellowship and a meal.
The evening allowed the men from across the Archdiocese of Detroit to ask seminarians questions about their lives in the seminary, hear vocation stories from those currently discerning the priesthood, and learn more about the priesthood.
“The night went great," said Fr. Craig Giera, director of priestly vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit, whose office organized the event. “A night like this is a way for a young man to see what life as a seminarian would look like. Hearing the different (vocation) stories, they can picture themselves in their own stories and think, ‘Hey, this might be a possibility for me as well.’”
The evening began in Sacred Heart's chapel, where Archbishop Vigneron led evening prayers, which included hymns, Psalms, readings from Scripture, and a canticle of Mary. The group then moved to the seminary's gymnasium to view a video from the Office of Priestly Vocations and hear testimonies from current seminarians.
First-year theology seminarian Lizandro Barba recalled how his pastor at St. Alfred Parish in Taylor invited him to the same event after his first year of college at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
“By the end of the night, I was very uneasy because I hadn’t asked God what He wanted in my life," Barba told those in attendance. "I was always telling God what I wanted out of my life. I thought I was going to go to college, then do this and that, but God was never part of those decisions.”
Barba said he wasn’t sure about his studies in college, so his pastor invited him back for a discernment weekend at the seminary, which happened to take place the same weekend Blessed Solanus Casey was being beatified at Detroit's Ford Field.
“We had the opportunity to go to this Mass, so imagine this opportunity to go to this once-in-a-lifetime event to celebrate this man who had given himself completely over to the Lord,” Barba said. “And here I was, discerning what God wanted me to do. By the end of the retreat, I knew the seminary was the right place for me.”
Karl Finkbeiner, a first-year theology seminarian from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, also relayed his journey to the seminary with those in attendance, reflecting on the role his parish played.
“Unlike a lot of my brother seminarians, I was not an altar serving growing up, but when I was confirmed in eighth grade, I decided to be a lector at the parish,” Finkbeiner said. “I started reading at Mass once a month through high school and college, and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, it brought me more joy than anything else. Looking back on it now, the seed that was planted by my parents was being watered at that time. They hadn’t begun to sprout, but looking back, just getting more involved in my parish watered the seeds of my vocation.”
Fr. Giera said events like an evening of prayer with the archbishop help men break down barriers in discerning a possible seminary life. Discerning one’s vocation isn't a one-time decision or an immediate strike of inspiration, but a long-term, thoughtful journey with God, he said.
“I’d ask these young men to not be afraid; it takes a number of years in the seminary to become a priest,” Fr. Giera said. “Not only are they discerning the call to the priesthood, but the Church is discerning with them. It’s a collaboration in which we are working together to figure out if this is right for you.
"To call the vocation director is not signing on the dotted line, but to get more information and someone to help you along,” he added.
The crowd was a mix of men who were invited by their pastors to come to the event and learn more about what it is like to be a seminarian and young men considering the priesthood who asked their pastor to accompany them.
Archbishop Vigneron thanked the seminarians for sharing their vocation stories and the pastors who actively accompany young men in discerning potential vocations in their parishes.
“What strikes me first is how proud I am of the seminarians, being here to share their stories,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “I’m also proud of my brother priests who are here as well, and I give thanks ahead of time for whatever vocation in life God is leading all of you toward.
"What God is doing in the lives of the seminarians, what God has done in my life, God will do in your life," the archbishop added. "Christ has a great destiny for each of you, and I give thanks ahead of time for what he will do in your life if you permit him.”
Discerning a priestly vocation