The new seminarians gather for a photo in the main chapel of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Pictured are (front row, from left) Charles Wuebker/Order of St. Camillus, James Harding/Diocese of Lexington, Diego Osvaldo Acosta Chávez/Diocese of Lexington, Jonathan Kahle/Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Dcn. Mike Snyder/Diocese of Davenport, Adrian Dieleman/Diocese of Hamilton, (back row, from left) Rishi Persaud/Diocese of Hamilton, John Le/Diocese of Jackson and Jerry Przekora/Diocese of Gaylord. (Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology)

Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology welcomed nine new seminarians Monday, Aug.15, on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Returning residential seminarians arrived Aug. 19 in time for an all-seminarian retreat.

Combined with several international students who will be there for English and culture studies, the residential seminary will be full. Sacred Heart is an Apostolate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, who will have seven seminarians studying as well. Additional seminarians will commute from the religious formation houses of the Order of St. Camillus and the Society of the Divine Savior. Classes began Aug. 29, when Sacred Heart welcomed all seminarians from Saint Francis de Sales for their intellectual formation.

Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology’s mission is “Preparing evangelizing disciples through specialized formation to conform our world to the Heart of Christ.” With a strong emphasis on accompaniment, programs are tailored to each individual arriving for formation, taking into account what their future ministries might be: rural, urban, Hispanic, chaplaincy, education or other possible ministries. Sacred Heart is the largest U.S. Catholic seminary forming vocations in men older than 30 and has a robust English and culture studies program for seminarians needing English to bridge into philosophy.

The new seminarians come from the Dioceses of Jackson, Gaylord, Lexington, Pensacola-Tallahassee, Davenport and Hamilton (Ontario), and from the Order of St. Camillus. They range in age from 26 to 65, some from business and legal backgrounds, to a permanent deacon discerning priesthood. Some have years of philosophy and theology ahead of them as part of their formation, but all are open to where the Holy Spirit is guiding them.

Vice President of Formation Programs Fr. John Mack sees the diversity in life experiences as a positive. “The diverse backgrounds of our seminarians serves as a reminder that priestly formation happens within the context of the broader seminary community, including the priest-formation advisors, faculty and staff. Together, we create a space for seminarians gradually to discern their vocational call and enter more deeply into a relationship with Christ — priest, prophet and king.”

The residential seminarians have gone through vetting processes by their sponsors as well as Sacred Heart. Arriving at the seminary to begin living in community is a significant step in their discernment process. Dcn. Steve Kramer, D.Min., is director of recruiting and director of homiletics for Sacred Heart. He plays an integral part in the men’s discernment process.

Upon seeing the men arrive, he said, “This year with our in-house seminarians, the religious communities and the men from the provincial seminary at St. Francis, we will have more than 100 men studying for the priesthood.  This is a tremendous sign that I share with the parishes I serve in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  There is hope.”

President-Rector Fr. Raúl Goméz-Ruiz, S.D.S., welcomed the men and led a morning of faith sharing. He said, “These men are answering the call to serve as shepherds in a world that desperately needs healing and peace. We take our role in their formation very seriously. We have an excellent faculty and formation staff that work hard to form whole, healthy priests who can thrive in their future ministries.”