By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
From Nov. 11-13, four young men from the Diocese of Crookston were able to experience life at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minn.
Father Matt Schmitz, Promoter of Vocations, arranged for the group to attend a Come and See weekend at the seminary.
“For men who feel that they could be called to the priesthood, visiting a seminary can be an important step in discernment,” he said. “It’s a small but significant step in the direction of the priesthood. It makes it a little more real. It gives a man a concrete idea of what seminary would be like and dispels some misconceptions that he may have.”
According to John Wilebski, a diocesan seminarian at IHM, 30 men from across the Midwest came for the weekend. Wilebski was one of six seminarians asked to be part of the welcoming team.
“It was a normal weekend here for all of us, so none of our schedule really changed,” he said. “Seeing what actually happens at the seminary is a huge thing for the guys who come down.”
Attendees joined the seminarians for Morning and Evening prayer, daily Mass, a daily holy hour, meals and recreation time. They also toured the college and seminary campuses and attended classes with the seminarians.
During the weekend, a few of the seminarians spoke about what brought them to the seminary.
“All of the stories were vastly different and yet they all shared some of the same elements,” Father Schmitz said. “Every man who shared his story experienced fear and tried to avoid the call to consider priesthood at first. All of them eventually got tired of running and finally decided to give it a chance.”
Father Schmitz said the seminary’s rector, Father Robert Horihan, also addressed the men, emphasizing that the goal of the seminary is to help men discern their vocations and grow in virtue.
“The rector stressed that few, if any, men come to seminary 100 percent convinced that they are called to the priesthood. Rather, they come to seminary to explore the possibility of priesthood and many come to realize they are, in fact, not called to the priesthood,” Father Schmitz said. “This is normal and it is the seminary’s job to help men discern that call. The worst thing that happens to a man that leaves the seminary is that he leaves a better man.”
Joshua Johnson of St. Joseph, Moorhead, attended the Come and See weekend. He is a senior in high school and has been discerning entering seminary for his freshman year of college.
“Getting immersed in the life of a seminarian, I was able to see the amount of work, but also the amount of joy, that goes in to seminary. I enjoyed the day being centered around prayer and community,” he said.
Johnson said he would encourage others to consider visiting the seminary because it is fun and allows men at any stage of discernment to get a clearer picture of the life of a seminarian.
Isaac Noel of St. Joseph, Moorhead, also attended the weekend. He is currently studying at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
“I chose to go to the Come and See weekend in order to get a fuller sense of what the daily life of a seminarian looks like. I wanted to see if the seminary is a good fit for me and if it’s a place I could envision myself being in the future,” he said.
Noel enjoyed the sense of community and the joy of the seminarians throughout the weekend. His favorite part was having supper at a local restaurant with Father Schmitz and the four Diocese of Crookston seminarians currently studying in Winona: Wilebski, Samuel Hurst, Solomon Liebl and Mark Miller.
“It was great to be able to ask them questions and to increase the sense of community with the men of our diocese,” said Noel.