Pastor’s Keyboard: Many of you might have noticed that there have been a lot of extra helpers around St. Cecilia recently. They are part of the Summer Helper Program. So, what is the Summer Helper Program you may ask? Many call it the future Seminarian Program, but that’s a misnomer. How and why does our parish host this program? How does this benefit our parish? And what does it all take?
The program started years ago when two young men, whom I was spiritual director for, said they needed a summer job to earn money before they entered seminary in the fall. They also needed help learning all the many prayers and ways to serve the Mass. They desired to experience and learn more about the life of a priest to see if it was truly where they felt called. One mom I know predicted (almost eight years ago) that I would be called by God to be a father more than I have ever been before. Boy was she right! I saw this as a one-time thing, but from then on God sent young men who desired to grow in holiness and some discerning the call to priesthood to come and ask if they could experience a summer learning and living like a Diocesan priest (to the extent they could.) Most of these men have chosen to enter the seminary to test their vocation (the seminary is where you go not when you’re sure you are called but when you experience God leading you to discern the priesthood more intensely). Some, at the end of the summer, feel that, though it’s a beautiful life, it is not where God is calling them right now. But some enter the seminary later in life. Yet, at the end of the day, it has helped them to grow to become stronger Men of God more committed to living their lives centered in Christ.
During this time, these young men spend long hours, usually four to six days a week, in prayer five to six times a day, manual labor for the parishes and parishioners in need, theological study, helping with our two youth group meetings, assisting with adult education programs, funerals, weddings, parish council meetings, visiting families, and much more. Their day starts at 6:30am with Holy Hour
and Mass and often ends around 9pm or later with night prayer and then they leave to go home to sleep.
So how do the two parishes afford all of this? First these generous young men give a lot in time and talent to our parishes and to its many ministries. This year, I have sought to raise all the funds needed to pay and to feed them. That way our small parish does not have to carry the heavy load of having three seminarians (two just entering this year), three college students and two rising high school seniors (who don’t get paid but volunteer all their time and talent). To do this, I estimated how much I need to raise. By God’s grace, most of the money has been raised through asking individuals and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus. My hope is that the anniversary dinner being held in my honor on June 9, along with gifts by individuals and organizations will raise the rest needed. Fortunately, someone has come forward to commit to covering the difference if it has not been raised. This is not a person of means, but they feel that the program is of much importance both for the vocations to the priesthood and for the growth in holiness for the young men involved.
This program has helped and inspired many more vocations through the years and has been noticed by the Archdiocesan Vocations Office as a great program, as well. My hope is that some of the young men (if God wills many of the young men you have and are seeing coming through this summer helper program) will one day serve at the altar of God as priests.
I hope all of you reading and contributing to this program will know that by your prayers and example you too have aided the ministry they now offer to the people of God.
Your Father and Brother in Christ,
Fr. Scott Woods