This year the Diocese of Orlando has a record number of seminarians preparing for the priesthood at St. John Vianney College Seminary and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. According to Father Jorge Torres, vocations director for the Diocese of Orlando, the number of men discerning the priesthood is a tremendous blessing but can also be a challenge.
“This year we have 39 seminarians and we hope that number will continue to grow” says Fr. Torres. “It’s a historic number that fills my heart with joy for the future. With that comes an incredible and beautiful responsibility that the people of God undertake.”
The path to priesthood is a nine year journey, four years of philosophy and five years of theology. The full cost of a seminary tuition, insurance, and books, exceeds $400,000 during the nine year formation period. The people of the Diocese of Orlando will have the opportunity to support a seminarian on his journey during the Seminarian Annual Collection the weekend of October 24 and 25. The support of parishioners ensures that the seminarians receive adequate tuition assistance and are properly formed to serve as future priests.
“What someone does when they give financially to the education of a seminarian is they’re enabling him to live more prayerfully and more perfectly with God, with others, and with themselves really” explains seminarian Thomas Coppola. “What the seminarian does is he says ‘I’m letting go of my life, I’m letting go of everything in the hopes that God’s people will catch me.’”
The full cost of a seminary education is frequently beyond the reach of men who are discerning a call to the priesthood. The annual collection ensures that money is never an obstacle between a man and his vocation. It is a gift that seminarian Blake Britton is especially grateful for, as it allows him to devote himself entirely to his calling.
“For the past 6 years the people of God have fed me, they’ve clothed me, they’ve allowed me the opportunity and the freedom to give every aspect of my mind, my body, and soul to Jesus Christ, without distraction from anything material” says Britton. “That way I can one day surrender my life to them as a priest after the heart of Jesus without any distraction so that my life can be entirely theirs.”
Fr. Torres says that a donation to the Seminarian Annual Collection is really an investment in the future of the Church and ensures that the spiritual needs of future generations will be met.
“Anybody who looks to the future of the Catholic Church and wants to support it, strengthen it, I invite to prayerfully consider supporting the seminarian collection. In the past we’ve always asked parishes to pray for vocations, that they may come, that the Lord would be generous in sending them. Now that they are here, we come back to the people and we trust that they will not only say yes, but that their yes will be similar to the historic number of vocations – that their yes to the seminarian collection would also be historic.
“When I ask people to contribute to this I ask them to not only think of themselves, I ask them to think of their children, I ask them to think of their grandchildren. I ask them to think of who will be there to teach their kids the faith. Who will be there to baptize the child that needs it? That is why it is so important – it’s the passing on of the faith.”