Parishioners, seminarians united in response to God’s call

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

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Seminarian Nghia Nguyen speaks to other seminarians of the Fort Worth Diocese right before Bishop Michael Olson’s episcopal ordination Mass Jan. 29. The seminarians from the diocese served as the primary altar servers during the Mass. Nguyen was one of the assistant masters of ceremonies for the Mass. (Photo by Donna Ryckaert / North Texas Catholic Archives)

Now in his second year at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Stephen Hauck is on track to be ordained a Diocese of Fort Worth priest in 2017. A man dedicated to serving God and the Church, Hauck said he never really chose to be a priest. Instead, he explained, the “the priestly vocation chose me first.”

“God is always reaching out to each of us,” Hauck said. “The choice for us comes in how to respond.”

For the 33-year-old seminary student, the response came in the midst of a successful career as a computer programmer. “After much prayer, I began to be able to quiet the inner noise from my daily life and hear the call God had been placing within my heart,” Hauck said.

“I have no doubt that right now, pursuing the priestly vocation in seminary, I am doing what God created me to do. I am right where I am supposed to be. It is a great feeling to know that you are doing what God is calling you to do.”

Hauck, whose home parish is St. Maria Goretti in Arlington, is one of 31 men called by God to become seminarians in the Diocese of Fort Worth. That number is nearly triple the 12 seminarians in formation to become diocesan priests in 2001.

Count 21-year-old Fernando Peralta among the increasing number of young men in the diocese to receive the call. A student at St. Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, Louisiana, Peralta is progressing toward a 2021 ordination to the priesthood.

Like Hauck, Peralta views himself as a humble servant of God responding to a call.

“I see this priestly vocation as an invitation from God to love. This invitation calls us to love Him above all, but also his Church and his people.”

Peralta, whose home parish is St. Michael in Bedford, continued, “In my second year of seminary now, I have had some time to experience a little of this priestly vocation. In this time, I have been filled with a lot of happiness and joy. I really feel that I am where God wants me to be.”

The story of an inner calling, a joy for the priestly vocation, and a desire to serve in Christ’s Church is a common theme in the lives of those currently called to priestly formation for the Diocese of Fort Worth, said Vocations Director Father Jonathan Wallis.

The record-high number of dedicated seminarians, Fr. Wallis said, is particularly encouraging for a diocese that is one of the fastest-growing in the country. The Diocese of Fort Worth now includes 710,000 Catholics in 89 parishes and two missions throughout 28 North Texas counties.

“I attribute the number of seminarians to the work of the Holy Spirit,” said Fr. Wallis, adding that God is listening to those who pray for vocations.

And now that those prayers are being answered, Fr. Wallis said, the faithful are challenged to ensure that every man called to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth has the opportunity to follow God’s divine direction.

Following through on God’s call to seminarians will require prayer and financial support. The average annual cost of seminarian education — including tuition, books, room and board, and health insurance — is estimated by the diocese to be about $47,300.

Considering that the average education for a seminarian is nine years, including four years of undergraduate work, four years of masters level theological studies, and one year of internship, costs associated with the formation of a priest can total nearly $426,000.

The generosity of parishioners to meet those costs have come from several funding sources administered by the diocese including the Good Shepherd Sunday collection, The Bishop’s Guild, the Sharing in Ministry annual appeal, the All Things Possible capital campaign, and special endowments as part of the Seminary Burse Fund.

“I always tell our seminarians that they are making a big sacrifice, but so are our parishioners,” Fr. Wallis said. “This is a mutual sacrifice.”

To a man, each seminarian knows his journey to serve God and his Church is a partnership with parishioners in the diocese, Fr. Wallis said.

See Also

Faithful answer God’s call to support those discerning priestly vocation

Seminarians-Processing-out-BUTTON.jpgThe life of a man can change forever once he decides to follow Jesus Christ and devote his time on earth to serving the Church. In the Diocese of Fort Worth, on average it requires a nine-year commitment, including four years of undergraduate work, four years of masters-level theological studies, and a one-year internship at a parish. In addition, seminarians are expected to be fluent in at least two languages — English and Spanish.

Seminarians-Ngia-pep-talk-BUTTON.jpgNow in his second year at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Stephen Hauck is on track to be ordained a Diocese of Fort Worth priest in 2017. A man dedicated to serving God and the Church, Hauck said he never really chose to be a priest. Instead, he explained, the “the priestly vocation chose me first.”

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