Bishop Frank J. Dewane is seen with Diocesan Seminarians on Aug. 1, at the conclusion of the annual convocation at Our Lady of Pepertual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

Gathering prepares them for next stage in journey

Venice | One of the key elements for men who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood is prayer. Prayer serves as a conduit to building a stronger relationship with God as they answer the call for which they have been chosen.

For three days each summer there is a gathering of men of different ages and backgrounds, each dedicated to a common goal. That goal is to complete the long process of becoming a priest. Some are just entering the seminary in a college formation program, while others are nearing the end of their journey.

The Seminarian Convocation took place July 30-Aug. 2 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The time spent is crucial in the participants’ continuing formation, providing the opportunity to reflect on the past year, summer assignments, their progress, and also to mentally prepare for the rigors of a new year of study.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass with the seminarians in the chapel Aug. 1, the Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist Order, which was instrumental in creating the Retreat Center.

Bishop Dewane said it took courage to listen and answer the call from the Lord for a vocation to the priesthood, but reminded the men to be attentive on their journey for spiritual signs that serve as opportunities to grow closer to the Lord.

“Pray for these signs with wisdom, and for wisdom,” the Bishop said. “Take the time to believe in your spiritual choice. As you have already answered the call for a vocation to the priesthood, you must continue to listen, not just with your ears, not just with your mind, but to listen with your heart. It is from within your heart that will help you to come to know and love Jesus Christ.”

This relationship with Christ must now become each seminarian’s whole existence, the Bishop added. “You must identify yourself as a loved child of God and become more because of that,” Bishop Dewane said. “That should be your primal identity of who you are — a loved child of God. Don’t forget that!”

Father Timothy Holeda, Parochial Vicar of the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Tallahassee, led the convocation. Much of the time focused on the sharing of personal vocations stories with a focus on how they reached this point in their life.

Father Eric Scanlan, Diocese of Venice Vocation Director, said this convocation serves as a critical time for the seminarians as it gives them the opportunity to gain perspective in the formation process. He explained that the convocation is one of the few times they are together as a large group during the year and it creates a sense of brotherhood.

The seminarians presently range in age from 21 to 51, and each is at different stages in their spiritual formation as they move toward becoming priests. They attend four different seminaries: two in Florida, one in Rome and one in Massachusetts. Two are currently transitional deacons with the expectation of being ordained to the priesthood in 2019.

The faces at the convocation change each year. Some were unable to attend as they were off on pastoral assignments or studying outside of the Diocese; others have decided to take time off to reflect on their vocation, while some are new seminarians just beginning their journey. The group was encouraged as one of their own was ordained to the priesthood in mid-July.

As they head to their respective seminaries within the next month to continue in their journey toward the priesthood, the faithful of the Diocese of Venice are asked to pray for them and for a continued call to vocations to priesthood.

Diocese of Venice seminarians are supported through the Diocese Catholic Faith Appeal, the Knights of Columbus and the generosity of the faithful. Parishioners from around the Diocese are encouraged to help support the seminarians in their studies and choice of vocations. To support a seminarian, donations may be sent to the Diocese of Venice, Office of Vocations, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

For more information about the seminarians or vocations, contact Father Eric Scanlan at scanlan@dioceseofvenice.org, 941-486-4720, or visit www.venicevocations.com.

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