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A message from the bishop

Let us rejoice for those who answer God’s call 
(May 2015)
My dear friends,
The priesthood is a vital part of our Catholic faith and Catholic identity. A priest’s duties are to offer sacrifice, to bless, to govern, to preach and to baptize. His activities are ordered towards service. The priesthood is constitutive of the life of the Church.
I am very pleased to announce that Deacon Douglas Braun and Deacon William Vander Werff will be ordained to the order of priesthood on June 6th at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. At the same Mass, I will also ordain four seminarians to the transitional diaconate: Thomas Cavera, P. Jegar Fickel, Colin Mulhall, and Daniel Schumaker. These four men will be candidates for the
priesthood in 2016. Pictures and biographical information of all those to be ordained can be found on page 26.
The joy of celebrating six ordinations is something the entire Church of the Diocese of Grand Rapids can share. These ordinations are the culmination of many years of prayers, hard work and support by many
people on behalf of these chosen men. All of us have a role to play in assisting men to discern their call to the vocation of the priesthood. Collectively as a Church we are to foster what is often referred to as a
“culture” of vocations.
As awkward as it may feel sometimes, it’s important to plant the idea of a possible priestly vocation in a child or a teen or a man’s consciousness. A man or a young person take it very seriously when someone in the parish community takes notice of him and suggests that he think about becoming a priest. It makes
him consider it, whether he is initially open to that suggestion or not! Studies show that the most significant person to plant the seed of a vocation is the parish priest. Often, seminarians will report that it was a priest whom they admired or who took an interest in them that led them to consider a priestly vocation. Likewise, seminarians themselves can make a strong positive impact on boys and young men in
this regard.
A man’s journey to the priesthood is as unique as he is. For example, our two candidates for the priesthood this June are in their 40s. Today, a good number of priests have pursued other careers earlier in life. It remains important, then, to suggest the priesthood to those men who demonstrate qualities that would make them suitable candidates. The call by the community to the priesthood may just be “that something” that enables a man to enter the seminary. The Holy Spirit continually helps the individual to respond to God’s call when the time is right.
I was ordained a priest at 25. I went right into the seminary out of college at the age of 22 and never looked back—it was wonderful! I felt I was right where I should be. Fortunately, we continue to see young men who want to explore the path that leads to the priesthood entering the seminary as college students. Father Ron Hutchinson, our director of priestly vocations, has worked very effectively over the last nine years to increase the number of candidates discerning the call to priesthood. Currently we have eight men attending Saint John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I have confidence in the fine priestly formation our youngest seminarians are receiving there. I am also very pleased with the formation program at our major seminary, Mundelein Seminary, in Mundelein, Illinois. Father Robert Barron, the rector of Mundelein, has instituted a solid program of priestly formation that prepares seminarians to be deeply engaged as priests in what St. John Paul II called the “New Evangelization.”
The quality of our Grand Rapids seminarians makes me very hopeful for the future of our diocese and its many parishes. You may have noticed the seminarian posters displayed in church entranceways and school hallways that include the names and photos of each of our seminarians. I suggest that we “adopt” one or more seminarians and offer daily prayer for them. There’s no better gift or support than prayer! I am also grateful for the support that our seminarians receive from the Serra Club and the Knights of Columbus. Both of these organizations support seminarians and priestly vocations because they know the importance of the Eucharist for the ongoing life of the Church.
Let us rejoice with those who will answer God’s call to ordained ministry on June 6th. But let us do our part to increase their number. The priesthood is an exciting but challenging vocational adventure. If young men aren’t asked to consider the priestly life, they may never respond. The public is welcome to attend Mass on June 6. If you are unable to do so, you can watch it live streamed at St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, pray for us.
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak