Jack and Audrey Moore believe so strongly future priests and sisters need to be introduced to religious vocations that for more than a decade the Racine couple has organized an annual field trip to a seminary and convent for students at their parish school, St. Rita.
The Moores, longtime members of St. Rita and part of the parish vocations team, are grandparents of St. Rita graduates.
“This faith-filled couple has meant so much to me and our staff for their efforts to bring sisters, priests and brothers here to speak with the children, and for many years to take the oldest students to the seminary and to (the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Motherhouse) up in Milwaukee,” said Diana Lesnjak, St. Rita principal.
On Oct. 13, the Moores led 53 students and two teacher chaperones to Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Convent on South Lake Drive in St. Francis.
Fr. John Hemsing, rector of the seminary, met the group of seventh and eighth grade students and gave them a tour of the seminary grounds.
Inside Henni Hall, he showed them the large spiral staircase that leads to the highest point in the building. Students were eager to see what was at the top.
“I can run up those stairs,” 89-year-old Jack Moore said.
“No, you can’t,” Audrey said. “You’ve got two bad knees.”
Jack was steadfast in his belief he could best the kids in a footrace up the staircase but he stayed with his wife.
Twelve years ago the couple started bringing seventh and eighth graders to the seminary and the convent to expose them to religious life.
“They will be our future sisters and priests if that’s their calling,” Audrey said. “But if they never have exposure to what it’s all about, they probably think that’s not for me.”
The couple believe today’s generation doesn’t see priests or nuns as much as they did.
“When we went to school, we went to church every morning,” Jack said.
The constant presence of priests and nuns may have piqued students’ interest in priesthood and religious life.
“We’re just hoping it would plant the seed in some of the youngsters who come here,” Audrey said. “That made people like us think about being a sister.”
She is confident this group of students isn’t using this experience as a day off of school.
“I don’t worry about them not paying attention, because when they get here it’s really quite interesting,” Audrey said.
Seventh grader Sebastian Woyach agreed that the tour of the seminary was fascinating.
“I really like the chapel,” he said. “It’s really cool with the painting of Jesus and the stained glass windows are really detailed.”
Laura Bisher, homeroom and middle school religion teacher, said this was her first time at the seminary.
“I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Bisher said. “I’ve always known this complex was here, but I’ve never been here so the history of it is pretty interesting.”
She said when they get back to the classroom, they’ll talk more about what they learned.
“I would really like them … to get out of this, a sense of holiness,” Bisher said. “There’s a lot more out there than just our little school.”
After spending time at the seminary, the students walked over to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Motherhouse where Sr. Rose Sevenich guided them through the halls and its history.
“I was impressed with this group because they were very attentive,” she said, clarifying that most groups she gives tours to are attentive but these grade schoolers surprised her.
Sr. Rose said they were interested in the “heritage room,” the different prayer books and the chapel.
“It was a good rapport,” she said. “They were very respectful of each other.”