By Katie LeFebvre
The Catholic Globe
CARROLL — Seminarians from across the state of Iowa gathered Aug. 9-11 in the Diocese of Sioux City for a weekend of fellowship and fraternity.
“Anymore, there is a wide range in the ages and experiences of our seminarians,” said Father Brad Pelzel, vocations director for the Sioux City Diocese. “There is a strengthening of the brotherhood of the priesthood across diocesan lines with similar situations. This is another way of helping the guys relate to other priests.”
Events for the annual convocation were held at Holy Spirit Church, the Bishop Greteman Center and Santa Maria Winery. The four dioceses in the state take turns hosting the weekend. Throughout the weekend, the seminarians prayed together and participated in the Mass on Saturday and Sunday. There was also social time in which the seminarians played games and sat around and talked. “There was both an establishing of bonds of friendship and a reestablishing of past bonds of friendship amongst the guys,” Fr. Pelzel said.
Father Michael Keating, head of the Catholic Studies Program at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., was the convocation speaker. His presentations focused on the implications of the New Evangelization in preparation to minister to a changing world. Fr. Keating was a classmate of Fr. Pelzel’s and they studied in Rome together.
“He is an outstanding speaker with a message that I felt would be very appropriate for our guys for this day and time,” said Fr. Pelzel. “He started with a quote from Pope Francis, ‘You always hear that we are in an age of change, but in actuality, we are in a change of age.’”
“I learned a great deal from Fr. Keating’s talks,” said Nick Marie, a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport who comes from St. James Parish in Washington. Fr. Keating “gave a great definition of what the ‘New Evangelization’ is. Basically, it means to evangelize in a post-Christian world. He also talked about the possible errors priests can fall into and he used St. Paul as a model for how a priest can be at his best,” added Marie, who is a senior at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo.
Mark Murphy, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, appreciated Fr. Keating’s description of “how we, as a culture, arrived at where we are today.”
Marie noted that it was great to see so many seminarians from around the state because “it helps to build brotherhood and to see that we’re not alone when it comes to saving souls. This convocation was amazing, and I’m thankful to all those who organized it.”
James Chester, a seminarian from the Diocese of Des Moines, will attend St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity this year, which will be his first year in theology. This is his third convocation. “It always re-energizes you to see everyone, because you realize that you are not going through this alone, but have a lot of people going through the same struggles right here along with you,” he said.
Murphy, who will enter fourth theology this fall at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, commented that some of the priests in his diocese have told him they went to the now-closed Mt. St. Bernard seminary, which was the seminary for the entire state of Iowa.
“Thus, they knew priests from all over the state,” he said. “Today our state does not have its own seminary, so the annual convocation weekend is a great opportunity to meet seminarians outside our diocese but from the great state of Iowa. We come from the same area and will minister to the same people, so it is a benefit for us to pray with and spend time with each other.”
The Knights of Columbus put forth the money to pay for this weekend and have done so for more than 20 years, Fr. Pelzel pointed out.
“Between the cost of the seminarian convocation and other vocational events they fund, direct payments they make to the diocese and to the seminarians in the form of gifts, there is over $100,000 that the Iowa Knights put towards vocations every year,” he said.
The Carroll Serra Club also contributed to the weekend by setting up for breakfast, serving the seminarians and cleaning up each morning. They also joined the seminarians for brunch on Sunday and paid for the meal.
By Katie LeFebvre