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Seminarians take time to reconnect before start of new school year

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

MILFORD – Before going back to seminary for the year, the 15 seminarians of the Diocese of Sioux City gathered at the Vianney House for a week of prayer, fun and reconnecting with one another.

Throughout the week of Aug. 4, the seminarians prayed Liturgy of the Hours and celebrated Mass together along with playing volleyball, mini-golf, board games and bicycling.

In the evening, the seminarians met and ate with various people who support them through prayers and gifts during the year, such as attending the Northeast Deanery meeting of priests, dinner with the Carroll Serra Club, the Siouxland Serra Club and the Catholic Women of the Diocese of Sioux City.

“Serrans do so much for our seminarians, so this is a chance for them to get to know the seminarians,” said Father Brad Pelzel, vocations. “I tell guys all the time, ‘People back home are praying for you.’ This is a manifestation for them – meeting the people who are praying for them.”

Three special ceremonies took place during the week – Bill Beldt-Kalin received the Rite of Candidacy, Andrew Galles received the Rite of Lector and Mauro Sanchez received the Rite of Acolyte.

Tuesday night was parents’ night and all of the parents of the seminarians traveled to attend Mass, a meeting with Father Pelzel and a dinner with the seminarians.

Time with the bishop

Bishop Walker Nickless was able to join the seminarians Aug. 4-6. He spent one-on-one time with each of the seminarians to talk about how their seminary studies are going.

“One of the main roles of a bishop is to be a father, a brother and a friend to both his priests and seminarians,” said the bishop. “This gives me a chance to do all of those things to get to know each other better because we are going to spend the rest of our lives together in ministry in the church in the Diocese of Sioux City. It is a great opportunity to be with them, get to know them and hear their concerns, joys and struggles as they prepare for priesthood.”

Walter Pugh, a seminarian from St. Mary’s in Sac City, said probably the best part for him was getting to hang out with Bishop Nickless for a few days “and just being able to sit down and chat. He is a great man and a wonderful shepherd for our diocese.”

Another part of the week is having young men visit who are looking at the priesthood. This year five young men considering the priesthood spent time with the seminarians.

“Part of our week together is dedicated to entertaining prospective seminarians, so they get a chance to hang out with all of us and find out what it’s like to be a seminarian,” said Pugh. “It would be great to see a lot more guys discerning for the diocese.”

Future priests

Pugh, who will be in second philosophy at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., enjoys talking to the other seminarians about their year at seminary, “all our experiences, our joys and sorrows - the whole works.”

“The guys from different seminaries do not get to see each other very often, so the gathering becomes a great opportunity to catch up and have a good time.” he said. “It’s great to see everyone before school starts again not only to catch up, but for myself to get motivated to tackle another academic year. Sometimes it is hard to get into another year, but seeing the rest of our seminarians and especially the priests of the diocese once again reminds me of what I am doing - answering God’s call for me right now.”

Alejandro Guerrero, who is in his third year of philosophy at Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., said the best part of being around the seminarians is, “we can actually come together and hang out and tell stories about the academic year and about our vocation and discernment.”

“It is an awesome experience, where I can find time to become closer to each one of them at a very personal level, plus we enjoy a lot of the activities planned for us,” he said. “I think it’s very important for us to be together before we go back to our schools because that strengthens the brotherhood among us and we can tell each other how much we appreciate the fact that we are brothers.”

Matthew Solyntjes, a parishioner at St. Andrew’s in Sibley, said the gathering is something he gets excited for each year. He enjoys seeing “old” friends and meeting the “new guys.”

“It's the one time during the year when all of us can be together,” said the seminarian who will start his pastoral year this fall at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, St. Meinrad, Ind. “Our time praying, eating and playing together strengthens our friendships and makes me think, ‘These are men that I want to serve with as a priest.’”

Not only will this group become future priests of the diocese, they will become the future pastors of the Diocese of Sioux City for years to come.

“Our convocation is an important part of building our fraternity now while we're in seminary, which prepares us to continue doing that as priests,” said Solyntjes. “The effort Bishop Nickless makes to be with us every year highlights the point. If we're going to be happy, effective and unified in our priestly ministry in the diocese, knowing each other is key.”

The week concluded with a trip to the Seminarian Convocation in Iowa City hosted by the Diocese of Davenport.

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