13 new diocesan seminarians on fire with faith in Jesus

-A A +A

They are a diverse group of typical young men 

Chuck Moody
Associate Editor

The members of the new class of seminarians of the Diocese of Pittsburgh “have a thirst to bring Jesus and his teachings to his people and to the world,” said Father Joseph Mele, rector of St. Paul Seminary in Crafton and diocesan secretary for leadership development.

There are 13 new seminarians, including three who entered the seminary in January 2012, Father Mele said.

“In terms of diversity, most of them are typical young men,” he said. “They come from each of the six counties of our diocese. They are energetic, fun to be around, self-giving and men of integrity. Some of them are excellent athletes. Currently, they are one of the best teams in Duquesne’s inter-mural flag football league. But others excel in music, drama, writing and most other interests that other young men find attractive. Our seminarians are also typically good students and well-rounded men. Almost every one of them is joyful, and they all have a good sense of humor. 

“What they bring to the program is that they are on fire because they know and love Jesus Christ. They have a thirst to bring Jesus and his teachings to his people and to the world, at the cost of sacrifice and even maybe life itself. They really have a passion to serve the church and the poor.

“We are making concentrated efforts to welcome and support young African-American men. The Catholic population among the African-American community in Pittsburgh is vibrant, but it is small. It is difficult for the young African-American man to step forward for many reasons, but principally because he might feel alone or unsupported. I am trying very hard to help any young man from the black Catholic community to know they have a home at St. Paul’s and in this diocese. We need them as leaders in our church. I am sure the Lord will help us know how to assist a young African-American man to respond to his calling to the priesthood if that is what Christ is asking of him.”  

There have been a number of large classes of new seminarians during the last few years in the diocese.

“A lot of our seminarians come on their own,” Father Mele said. “They have a desire to be a priest. They are attracted to what a priest does and who a priest is. Most of our men come into the seminary because they want to live the virtuous life. They see the need in our society for deeper faith, and they rally to help.

“I cannot stress enough how on fire they are for Christ and the salvation of his people. They are excited about serving. Most of them could have a very successful career in many other fields. They prefer to become a priest and helping people reach heaven. They are eager to get started. They are literally raring to go. They have the nerve, energy, drive and the same zest of the apostles on that first Pentecost morning.”

As the leader of the diocese, Bishop David Zubik models what the seminarians are looking for, Father Mele said, and that is helping to attract men to the seminary.

“He witnesses what they want in life,” he said. “Bishop Zubik itches to get out and help people by delivering Jesus’ kingdom to the Father in heaven. The reason why parishes are coming to life again in Pittsburgh is because Bishop Zubik wants a ‘Church Alive!’ We are alive in the faith because our bishop is alive in the faith. He takes seriously Jesus’ radical command to live a life embraced with zeal.

As director of the diocesan Office for Priestly Vocations, Father Joe Freedy also is helping men to consider a call to the priesthood, Father Mele said.

“In addition to his gifts as a holy priest and as a courageous young man that naturally attracts other young men to follow Christ and enter the seminary, Father Freedy has a gift to inspire all young people to see the hidden potential in themselves and others, sensing possibilities and envisioning alternatives in what otherwise looks like a hopeless situation on earth today,” Father Mele said. “Many young people in our society drop out of life because they do not see any purpose to this life. Father Joe, as I have come to know him in our working together, is a man that has harmoniously integrated his personal spiritual life with service to the church, his personal vocation to the priesthood with social conscience for the poor and outcasts in our world.

Young men should pay attention to what is in their hearts and even in their dreams if they have been thinking about entering the seminary and discerning whether God is calling them to the priesthood, Father Mele said.

“Modern psychology is not the only discipline where this advice is found,” he said. “I read where there is an ancient saying in the Jewish Talmud, ‘The heart’s desires and dream not understood by the young, is like a letter not opened.’ I have found that if we pay attention to the aspirations of our heart and what we dream, we eventually begin to trust in our capacity for envisioning or imagining a meaningful future, a kind of image of our fondest personal hopes for a better world.

“I would encourage a young Catholic man to model his heart after the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, full of compassion and kindness. Then take his heart’s aspirations to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and there talk over what is in his heart with our Lord. You begin to pray in an entirely new way when you do this. You find yourself talking to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament about everything. This leads to a joy that you can only describe after you have sincerely allowed this to happen. You begin to ask if you really love God’s people. Do you feel genuine compassion for God’s people in their suffering and in their sins? Are you willing to spend yourself, to empty yourself in order to forgive God’s people, to heal them, and to bless them and rejoice with them? If a young man answers these questions from his heart, he will know exactly what God is saying to him.”   The diocese is blessed with 42 seminarians, Father Mele said.

“We have 20 seminarians at St. Paul’s,” he said. “We have another 22 seminarians studying on the theology level: five at the North American College in Rome; four at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore; two at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe; and eight at Theological College as Catholic University in Washington, D.C.,; and three others on extended pastoral experience in a parish in our diocese. We also have at least 20 affiliates preparing at different phases of discernment to enter the seminary at some time in the future.”

What would Father Mele tell a man thinking about entering the seminary what the seminary is like?

“Seminarians study hard, they pray often, they serve other people in nursing homes, CCD centers, jails and youth ministry programs,” he said. “And they have fun. Laughter rings in the halls of St. Paul’s because our students are joyful. They are excited to be following Jesus and excited that they might be called to be a priest. I find it a joy to live with 20 young men who are seriously trying to become like Christ.”

The new seminarians this year are: Jeffrey Craig of St. Alphonsus Parish in Wexford, who is in his first year of college; Brendan Dawson of St. Victor Parish in Bairdford, first year of pre-theology; Ryan Dunning of St. Pius X Parish in the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., second year of college; David Egan of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Glenshaw, first year of pre-theology; Thomas Gramc of St. Ferdinand Parish in Cranberry Township, second year of pre-theology; David Green of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pleasant Hills, first year of theology;

Also, Gregory Lamatrice of St. Philip Parish in Crafton, first year of pre-theology; Mingwei Li of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Pleasant Hills, first year of pre-theology; Kevin O’Connor of St. Richard Parish in Richland Township, first year of pre-theology; Isaac Summers of St. James the Apostle Parish in New Bedford, third year of college; Jonathan Teeney of St. Sylvester Parish in Brentwood, first year of college; Joseph Uzar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carnegie, first year of college; and Daniel Waruszewski of the Latin Mass Community at Holy Wisdom Parish on Pittsburgh’s North Side, second year of pre-theology.