Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Our college seminarians

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

To read this column in Spanish, click here.

Last week I traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to visit our college seminarians at St. John Vianney Seminary, located at the University of St. Thomas. Given the low enrollment at our St. Joseph College Seminary on the campus of Loyola, we decided to move our seminarians to St. Paul. Not only was this move more cost effective, but the seminary in St. Paul, which hosts about 100 seminarians, provided us with an opportunity to place our seminarians in a much larger community that would benefit their formation.

I assigned Father Matthew Alexander to join the staff of the seminary in Minnesota. I should also add, in full disclosure, that I am a graduate of St. Thomas. I am deeply grateful for the education I received there, and am confident our seminarians will also benefit from that tradition of excellence.

We have nine seminarians in St. Paul. There is one senior, Conrad Espino, from Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Chicago. We are blessed with five juniors, Salvador Castaneda of St. Francis de Sales in Chicago, Anthony Davies of Our Lady of Ransom in Niles, Peter Famera of St. Terrence in Alsip, Luke Lato of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview and Victor Martinez of St. Barnabas in Chicago. Our group is rounded out by one sophomore, Will Estella of St. Odilo in Berwyn, and two freshmen: Derek Damasco of St. Lambert in Skokie and Alexander Thiel of St. Paul the Apostle in Gurnee.

Our seminarians range in age from 18 to 31, and come from diverse backgrounds, including some who speak both English and Spanish. In addition to participating in a rigorous academic program, they maintain a well-defined schedule at the seminary that involves commitments to their human, spiritual and pastoral formation.

They come from families that, like all of our families in this past year, have experienced many challenges —  financial, emotional and spiritual. Yet they press on, confident that God is calling them to serve you and your families. They know that the times are uncertain in the church, and that the church they will serve in the future will in all likelihood be much different.

I have shared with them how much the church has changed over my 46 years as a priest and the 23 years I have been a bishop. What we have to keep in mind is that the Risen Christ continues to walk with us. They see that the church is facing daunting challenges in our day, with lower Mass attendance, financial challenges and fewer vocations. It is a testament to their love of the church and their courage that they are stepping forward in these uncertain times to consider serving the church for the rest of their lives.

During a homily last Sunday, I reminded them of something G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “Over the course of her long history, the church has gone to the dogs at least five times. Yet, each time the dog died.” We should not be afraid of the future or the present, as it is Christ’s church and he has promised to be with us until the end of the ages.

They know that they are supported by you, the faithful of the archdiocese. On behalf of our seminarians, I thank you for your prayers and your generous contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal, which also supports their formation. Please continue to pray for these fine young men, and also pray that God will send more servants into the vineyard, so that future generations will know the love and pastoral care that is familiar to you through your pastors.


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