Seminarian Derek Saldanha (pictured) spent his summer at Bishop Grady Villas in St. Cloud, which supports adults with disabilities. He said he was helping a visually impaired resident arrive at her destination when he felt God’s true presence.
“I felt the Lord telling me that just as these residents are willing to let me lead them, so must I be willing to let the Lord lead me,” Saldanha said, “I have received from the residents much more than I could give them. God’s love is at work in a powerful way at Bishop Grady Villas and this made each day a blessing. The love and affection that I received from the residents are priceless.”
Saldanha not only assisted in the Adult Day Training (ADT) class, teaching residents basic skills such as math, reading, hygiene and interview skills, but he and fellow seminarian Matthew Hawkins, also a second year seminarian, took residents to St. Thomas of Aquinas Catholic Church for the daily celebration of Mass and prayed the rosary with them every evening after dinner.
Throughout the summer months, seminarians from the Diocese of Orlando had the opportunity to grow in God’s love and grace by serving the community. Whether they assisted at a parish or participated in a mission trip in the Dominican Republic, the men embraced their call to minister to their brothers and sisters in Christ as they continued their journey to the priesthood.
“Summer internships and assignments are very important for the seminarians because they offer the experiences these men will have as a future diocesan priest,” said Father Jorge Torres, director of the Diocese of Orlando Office of Vocations.
Each seminarian experiences a mix of parish-based and non-parish-based internships that include ministering to the residents of Bishop Grady Villas, serving in a hospital setting, and carving out time for spiritual reflection and faith formation .
Adam Marchese, a third year seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary, immersed himself in parish life, serving at Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne, where he was active in several ministries including the youth group, Knights of Columbus, the Thrift Store, Ascension Social Concerns and the Ministry of the Sick.
Pictured right: Matthew Hawkins talks to the Bishop Grady Villas residents.
“Seminary is a lot of studying and sometimes we feel a disconnect from the ministry work that we love,” Marchese said. “At Ascension this summer, I was able to immerse myself with God’s people doing anything from spending time with the youth to feeding the homeless or visiting parishioners in the hospital. Working at the parish also gives me a renewed sense of faith in the Church. To not see the good that happens is to be blind.”
Marchese said the summer was filled with memorable moments and encounters, but it was the youth of the parish that had the greatest impact on him. After returning from the summer Steubenville Florida trip, Marchese was talking to Mark Kniepmann, Ascension’s youth minister, commenting about some of the teens and their knowledge of the faith. As it turns out, the youth were not even Catholic ‑-yet! It turns out the youth are in the process of becoming Catholic.
“Their friends had invited them, and they fell in love with the Church and decided to become Catholic,” Marchese said. “The biggest trend I saw at Ascension was that the youth were evangelizing the adults. The high schoolers were bringing their parents back to church. It doesn’t get any better than that.”