Over the last 3 years, the Calgary Catholic School District’s faith theme has centered on 1 Corinthians 13:13, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." This year, as we focus specifically on love – agape (sacrificial and selfless love), I have also been drawn to praying for and encouraging our priests.
This past spring, I attended an online meeting for the Serra Club Calgary, an organization whose mandate is to pray for and support vocations. One of the suggestions that was offered was to write cards or letters of encouragement to both priests and seminarians. I’ve never known a seminarian, so I wasn’t sure what I could say to encourage a seminarian, but since it was close to Valentine’s Day, I had my students sign a letter to each seminarian, and again at Easter.
This school year, I wondered how I could continue to offer support and encouragement in a more meaningful and ongoing way to seminarians in our diocese, and decided that each of my eight religion classes would adopt a seminarian (one of them adopted two, since there are nine seminarians). I hoped that there would be great spiritual fruit both for the seminarian, who would be receiving prayers from 25-27 students, and for my students, who would be selflessly offering prayers for someone they did not even know. Each of my classes prays for their adopted seminarian once a week and we send him a letter once a month.
We began praying for the seminarians at the beginning of the school year and sent an introduction letter toward the end of September. In October we prayed the rosary for our seminarians. I felt that it would be good for my students to get to know the person they were praying for, if the seminarian was willing and able to answer, so in our October letter we asked some personal questions, about the seminary and being a seminarian.
The students and I were excited to begin to receive cards, letters, and emails from the seminarians, and were especially happy to find out that they wanted to come to meet us while they were on their reading break.
Many students had no idea what to expect, and they were overjoyed to meet people to whom they could relate: the seminarians like to watch movies, read, play board games, sports, and video games! The students also learned a lot about seminary life. Many were surprised to learn that there are 9 years of study to become a priest, and about the amount of time spent in prayer. The seminarians were also happy to answer the hard questions that teenagers can have about our faith.
It has been wonderful for our students to discover that seminarians are real and interesting people. Many of them are in awe of these men who are normal people with fun hobbies and a great sense of humor, and who are discerning God’s call in their lives. They have learned that selfless acts, even when done without expecting anything in return, can lead to spiritual fruit for themselves as well. They know that their prayers are appreciated and joyfully received.
With simple prayers and letters, and now classroom visits, our Lord has multiplied love and brought joy and encouragement to so many people, not just the seminarians. Perhaps in the future we will find that our Lord has fostered a vocation (or vocations) in this small act of love and kindness to others.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers