47 Seminarians Walk into a Chapel…

47 Seminarians Walk into a Chapel…

I spent my sophomore year of college on the campus of the University of Nebraska, so I have a high degree of affection for the Huskers and the Diocese of Lincoln. Their seminary program captured my interest, partly because my pastor, Fr. Robert Matya, was the Diocesan Vocation Director and partly because I had just left seminary formation for the Archdiocese of Omaha. As you can see from the photo below, shared on Facebook by St. Gregory the Great Seminary, the Diocese of Lincoln is doing something right.

Photo shamelessly stolen from the Facebook page of St. Gregory the Great Seminary.

What are they doing right, you might ask?

I can only offer my own observations, but here they go:

  1. Orthodoxy - The Diocese of Lincoln is one of the deepest roots in America’s growing Catholic orthodoxy movement. Furthermore, for a relatively small diocese, its reputation for orthodoxy is clearly well-known, even as far as the Vatican. A lot of orthodoxy-loving folks were a bit worried when Bishop Bruskewitz retired, but clearly someone was aware that the diocese’s momentum was something that must continue, and so Bishop Conley was called to the helm.
  2. Ah, “International Style,” my archnemesis, we meet again…

    Traditional Liturgy - Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, didn’t really change a lot in the Diocese of Lincoln. Traditional-leaning liturgy was already the norm, and the Latin Mass was offered frequently and without special permissions for each occurrence. I know there are bishops and priests out there who doubt it, but a lot of young people out there are drawn to the Latin Mass and other traditional liturgy. Even dropping OCP would be a huge improvement in most quarters. I’ve known seminarians who left their own dioceses and switched to Lincoln just for the liturgy. The assurance of a lifetime of traditional liturgy is enough to attract vocations, even when those seminarians know they’ll be ordained in Lincoln’s tragically hideous Cathedral of the Risen Christ.

  3. Evangelical Catholicism - A faith that is alive and excited, that preaches without being preachy, and shares with the genuine diffusivity of love, such a faith attracts people. Lincoln’s priests are filled with such faith, and that witness plants seeds in the hearts of the men they meet. They look at these priests – at their joy and their peace – and say, “I want what he’s got.”
  4. Catholic Identity - The Diocese of Lincoln takes its identity seriously. It’s not a social justice organization. It’s not an educational conglomerate. It’s not a community management business. It’s the Church of God, the local chapter of the Communion of Saints, and the instrument of salvation in the lives of its people. The priests wear their clerics in public. There are processions in the streets. Then there’s stuff like this: right in the heart of Lincoln, on a campus that basically becomes Nebraska’s third largest city several Saturdays every football season, a Catholic fraternity. If you don’t think that will be churning out vocations, you’ve got another thing coming.
  5. Cassocks - When I was a seminarian, we weren’t allowed to wear our cassocks at the seminary I attended. It wasn’t our diocese’s policy, it was the policy of the monastery that ran the place. In spite of their Benedictine identity, many of them couldn’t shake a distaste for tradition. Those of us who had cassocks kept them in our closets. We’d look at them and think to ourselves, “one day.” We’d put them on in the privacy of our own rooms, just to feel close to our calling. Cassocks are, fashion-wise, basically awesome. In terms of Catholic identity, they’re a huge deal. Virtually all the seminarians I knew loved wearing them and were proud to wear them. When dioceses stifle the cassock, they stifle pride in the vocation.
  6. Proper pastoral placement - Bishop Bruskewitz wisely placed his Vocation Director on the campus of the University of Nebraska. With its enrollment of 24,000 and its very active Newman Center, the Diocese of Lincoln has there an enormous pool of potential vocations.
  7. Chivalry - Call it Midwestern manners if you like, but the men I met at the Newman Center in Lincoln were, almost without exception, very chivalrous. Any newcomer quickly picked up on it and found himself holding doors open for ladies, carrying things for ladies, allowing ladies to take the first seats at events and receive the first plates at meals. That might seem like a great way for men to get into dating and marriage, but it’s also a great way to promote vocations. Priesthood is ordination into Christ, the new Adam, the Bridegroom of the Church. Learning chivalry enhances and accentuates masculinity. It adds a sense of almost romantic attraction to the priesthood. When going to Mass, seminarians joke that they are out on a date with their girlfriend. They’re absolutely right. If they persist in formation, the Church will be their bride.

I’m extremely proud of the Diocese of Lincoln on their accomplishment. I’m also proud of the diocese where I now live, the Diocese of Shreveport, on their current number of 8 seminarians. After years of scant vocations, the number is starting to grow under the leadership of a holy and personable director, with the assistance of priests who build strong relationships with the young men in their spiritual care.

I hope this trend continues in many dioceses. The Catholic Church in America may look weak right now, in the midst of our current political situations, but Catholicism is always the future, because Our Lord stands at the end of time, calling us forward.

16 Comments

  1. Something is definitely going right in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Thanks for the article.

  2. GREAT article. Close to home. One thing you left out: female religious vocations. What other diocese our size has THREE diocesan communities and TWO houses of cloistered nuns?

    • Sister Mary, an excellent observation! I visited the Carmelite convent once or twice and loved it. (Actually, it was there I made the mistake of sitting in the front pew at my first Latin Mass. I’m sure everyone behind me was quite amused with my asynchronous postures.) I’ve also spend a bit of time around the Pinks.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of stats on the sisters in Lincoln, nor an eye for what contributes to their growth. I feel certain, however, that a guest submission from a sister in Lincoln would be well-received by my editor…

  3. Check out the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas! We have 59 Seminiarians this year. Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, Stewardship, Tuition-free Catholic Elementary schools, Traditional Bishops, 4 Catholic High Schools…these are the answers to the crisis in other Diocese needing Seminarians. God Bless Lincoln, NE and Wichita, KS.

    • BB, thanks for letting me know! Wichita is an awesome diocese with great seminarians. Fr. Biltz was one of my best friends at seminary. Of course, you got your bishop from Lincoln…

      I didn’t write about Wichita because 1) I don’t have much experience of it directly, 2) I saw Lincoln’s vocation poster first.

      Awesome to hear it, though!

  4. Just want to ad to the great news on seminarians. St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, Colorado, has 11 seminarians right now, one of whom just recently made his final profession of vows. Of the 11 five are studying for the Archdiocese of Denver and six for various religious orders. Other vocations fostered in the parish are 18 priests, 10 deacons,2 in the diaconate formation,4 Sisters, and one 1 brother. Like Wichita, stewardship is a way of life at St. Thomas More which openly discusses and promotes vocation parishwide.We use the “Called by Name” program created by the Serra Club.

  5. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz in my opinion is the #1 Catholic bishop in this country. The reason his diocese is doing so well, both in terms of number and quality of vocations, and in so many other respects, is that he upholds the timeless Catholicl faith as it is come down to us from the apostolic age, and never went in for the modernist garbage which came in after Vatican II. Many of your readers may not know that he was virtually the only bishop in the country to excommunicate Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, etc., simply for belonging to organizations which promote the heinous crime of abortion. Some of these groups appealed all the way to the Vatican, which upheld their excommunications, since they espouse ideas (abortion) which directly contradict the Gospel and all Catholic teaching.
    Also, lest your readers conclude that Bishop Bruskewitz only enforces Church doctrine against leftist types, please note that that at one time there was a presence of the Society of St. Piux X (SSPX) in his diocese, without his permission of course, since they were likewise under church bans at the time. He excommunicated all members of that unfortunate organization. Rather than appeal, they quietly got out of town.
    I find it interesting that so few bloggers note the connection between the Traditional Latin Mass (offered under the auspices of the diocese, and not by SSPX and similar groups), the traditional liturgy and devotions, and strong faith life in the general population.
    Here in Chicago, things seem to be going the other way: we have several SSPX and other groups offering TLM without first obtaining approval from the archdiocese. Things are so out of control, that SSPX has recently purchased a priory at St. Priscilla’s parish in Chicago, has installed their Bishop Tisserais de Mallerais (sp?) who is using this as a launching pad for travels all over the USA to offer confirmations, etc., in the TLM. So, we have a sort of parallel magisterium here in Chicago, with a bishop acting as a biship within the territory of the legitimate Cardinal Archbishop.
    I attend an “approved” TLM on Sundays, and since SSPX purchased this priory, attendance has plummeted.
    In summation, I believe nothing promotes vigorous Catholic parish life than traditional Latin Mass, sacraments, and devotions when done in full communion with the local ordinary. The Novus Ordo mass and what devotions there are appear to have a lackluster following. And, the SSPX and others (who exercise no legitimate ministry in the Church, per Pope Benedict XVI) are actually drawing a lot of Catholics out of the Church.

  6. The sisters at Mt. Carmel get some credit for both the full diocesine semenary and the FSSP semenary just outside the city in Denton. They pray almost exclusively for vocations, and since their arrival (from California I believe) the diocese and the fraternity have had full vocations. It is indeed a joy every time I have gone out to there. Good article.

  7. You left out Perpetual Adoration. Parishes that have had it for a long time have a terrific record. Our parish has had it for about five years, and our first priest in many years will be ordained next year. Many young men are seriously looking at it.

  8. I attended UNL and was a regular at the Newman Center in the late seventies. Even back then, it was a place of strong Catholic identity, where faithful Catholic gathered and practiced their faith. And of course there was Fr. Kalin, who can forget him. He was responsible for many, many vocations. It was truly a special place and it certainly sounds like it has only gotten better over the years.

  9. I drove through Nebraska three times in a couple of years.

    I stopped off in Omaha and went to Mass at a parish called Immaculate Conception, I think. It was amazing! There was a priest hearing confessions; actually hearing confessions! I saw another priest suddenly vest as a deacon. I couldn’t help think of how much consideration it takes for a priest to vest as a deacon and let his brother priest celebrate Mass.

    Not only did the young priests go out of their way to recognise a fella driving through, but they went on to give him a breakfast of coffee, eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns. “Let’s get you something to eat before you get back on the road.” Nice guys. Considerate folks.

    Maybe someday I will live across the street from this parish. Alas, I live 2500 miles away.

    • Jim, I’m aware of two Immaculate Conceptions in Omaha. One is the church on the site of Boys Town (the same Boys Town that was the subject of an Oscar winner, and whose founder has a cause for canonization), more commonly called Dowd Chapel, the other is the Latin Mass parish. I grew up going to Mass mostly at Boys Town. They hear Confessions through most of Mass. Wonderful place. I hear good things about the other one, too.

  10. Please pray because our diocese is so far from this seminaries and the result we have very few vocations. we need priests We hasvea new bishop we hyope he will be inspire4d by the Holy Spirit to start a seminary like he one on Nebraska

  11. We laypersons need to pray more, both for MORE religious & priestly vocations, and for God’s grace to strengthen those called to these vocations. Time before the Blessed Sacrament when it is on our altar at Adoration each month helps.
    TeaPot562

  12. I think one thing you left out, and arguably the biggest reason for the diocese of Lincoln success with young people answering the call to the priesthood or religious life, is because of holy families. The family is the basic building block of society and the domestic church. As long as the diocese of Lincoln(or any diocese for that matter) continues to foster and help good, holy, humble, Catholic families to grow, then you will continue to see many young people striving to live out a holy life and answering God’s call for them to either the priesthood, religious life or holy marriage. Holy families are the key…certainly much more so than cassocks(sorry for the dig, but you show me a man who goes to the seminary just for the cassock and I’ll show you a man who isn’t called to the priesthood.)

    • I never said, “just for the cassock.” Family is very important, but as I said, my observations were from the perspective of a college student, surrounded by peers away from their families.

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