The child of Army parents, Zachary Parker spent his childhood moving from place to place. He lived in Japan, Germany, New York, and Alabama, before answering God’s call to move once more and make a home at St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami.
“When I started studying more about faith, I fell in love with Jesus and I fell in love with the Eucharist,” said Parker. “It’s hard to explain but I feel if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t be able to do anything else happily in my life.”
Parker acknowledges that the peace he has found pursuing the priesthood has been made possible by the prayers and donations of the people in the Diocese of Orlando.
“Without them I wouldn’t be able to go to seminary,” Parker said. “My dad is a disabled veteran and without the money we couldn’t afford to send me to school. It’s through the generosity of the people of God that I can go to school.”
Support of the annual Seminarian Collection, January 21-22 ensures that Parker and 32 other diocesan seminarians receive adequate tuition assistance, so that money is never an obstacle between a man and this sacred vocation. Preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Orders is a nine year process of intellectual, spiritual, pastoral and human formation that prepares men to answer the call they have received to serve God’s people in love and humility. The cost to the diocese is $45,000 a year per seminarian that includes tuition, medical insurance, books, plus room and board.
“We have a great group of men who are seminarians,” said Father Jorge Torres, vocations director for the Diocese of Orlando. “They come from all walks of life. A lot of them have left professional work, some of them come out of high school, some of them have a master’s degree, some of them have left six figure salaries, and they each know their own journey. They have felt a call and their desiring to say ‘yes’ to the Lord. The support of the diocese to help them discern makes it possible. Without it, it would not happen.”
The formation of faithful and holy priests is one of the most important investments the faithful can make in the future of our Church, especially as the full cost of a seminary education is frequently beyond the reach of men who are discerning a call to the priesthood.
“The support of the people of the Diocese is what enables us to become priests,” said Christopher Cammarata, a Theology I student at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach. “Because the generosity of the Church is what makes us generous as seminarians and God willing, as priests one day. The way God’s people pour themselves out to us is what inspires me to pour myself out both in gratitude and in love. Honestly, it would not be possible on a monetary level for me to go the seminary.”
His mom, Ramona Cammarata, has embraced this vocation for her son but realizes that her son is placing his trust in God and the people of the Diocese of Orlando who are now an extended family in many ways.
“There is no steady income for seminarians except for a stipend given by their sponsoring diocese. Seminarians rely on the generosity of their families, diocese and church communities. It is truly a lesson in humility and sacrifice. Imagine what it is like to figure out how to pay for car insurance or a car when you don’t hold a steady job and need to travel around the diocese and beyond? This is something that would never have come to mind prior to having to experience it through my son,” said Ramona.
She also asks that each person open their hearts to the young men discerning the call to priesthood.
“I have been very fortunate to spend time with numerous seminarians over the last several years. They are my sons, and I love them and support them as much I support my own son, and our home is always open to them. They are solid, well rounded, ‘normal’ young men who have a fierce love for their spouse, the Church. I am often humbled by their joy. They need our love, prayers and financial support. These men are the future of our church, and we can be active participants in helping them,” Ramona added.
Support the Annual Seminarian Collection January 21-22
Learn more about how your support helps our seminarians on the path to priesthood. To make a donation, visit cfocf.org/seminarians.