Seminarians gather for convocation

Seminarians for the Diocese of Davenport are, front, Matt Grillot, second year pre-theology; middle row, Bill Roush, first year pre-theology; Bob Heisdorffer, first year pre-theology; Joseph Nguyen, fourth year theology; Jacob Greiner, first year theology; back, Ryan Tone, college freshman; Guillermo Trevino, college senior; Joseph Groepper, first year theology; Bob Cloos, first year pre-theology; Kevin Anstey, college senior; Anastacio Ponce, second year theology. Missing is Corey Close, second year theology.

By Katie Lefebevre of The Catholic Globe, Sioux City Diocese

Seminarians from Iowa’s four dioceses gathered this month in Sioux City for the State of Iowa Annual Seminarians Convocation. Eight of the Davenport Diocese’s 12 seminarians attended the convocation held Aug. 14-16 at the Ramada City Centre in Sioux City.

Talks focused on Catholic evangelization and public moral issues.  The speakers were Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers of the Sioux City Diocese.

“For our seminarians, as future leaders of our church, it is very important that they learn not just why the church holds and teaches what it does, but how to effectively express those teachings,” said Father Brad Pelzel, the Sioux City Diocese’s vocations director.

As part of the convocation, Archbishop Hanus celebrated Mass on Aug. 15 at Cathedral of the Epiphany and Bishop R. Walker Nickless celebrated Mass on Aug. 16 at the Carmelite Monastery in Sioux City.

“We have among us today the seminarians who have accepted the invitation to come to Sioux City for their annual gathering to partake in the wisdom of Deacon Harold, Archbishop Hanus and the priests who are with us today,” Bishop Nickless said during his homily. “Also, the seminarians are invited to partake in the wisdom that you share with one another in the fellowship, support and encouragement you give to one another.”

Bishop Nickless encouraged the seminarians to make room in their hearts to receive the Word and to hear the “voice that is truly worth listening to. It is the voice inviting us to wisdom and to the feast — to everlasting life.”

He also reflected on the Year for Priests designated by the Holy Father in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the patron for priests. And he thanked the seminarians for participating in the convocation. “In your presence, I feel the strength and vigor of the church.”

The four dioceses take turns hosting the convocation, which gives each diocese an opportunity to highlight things that it is most proud of, Fr. Pelzel said.  

Joseph Nguyen, a fourth-year seminarian with the Diocese of Davenport, was participating in his fifth convocation as a seminarian. On Oct. 24, he will be ordained a deacon at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport and he is looking forward to being ordained a priest next spring.

He said he felt more mature at this convocation and paid more attention to the talks “because I believe this is good for me to prepare for my priesthood.”

Especially helpful were Deacon Burke-Sivers’ talks on how society deals with sexuality and family life issues. Nguyen expects he will address those issues, among others, in his ministry to people in the diocese.

Nguyen appreciates the annual convocation because “it’s a chance to encourage one another as a seminarian in our journey to the priesthood.” And he was heartened to see so many seminarians. They are a hopeful sign for the future of the priesthood in Iowa and in the Davenport Diocese.

One of the highlights of the convocation for Father Marty Goetz, the Davenport Diocese’s vocations director, was Archbishop Hanus’ talk on “how to welcome the stranger among us. It’s important for seminarians to know that as they prepare to do ministry in the diocese for the future.”

The convocation, Fr. Goetz said, “is a great time for us to come together, to pray, eat together, socialize and learn.”

(Barb Arland-Fye contributed to this article.)

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