Providing parents of seminarians support on the journey

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Cardinal Cupich lays hands of Father Michael Mehringer during ordination on May 20, 2023, at Holy Name Cathedral. Mehringer’s parents, Martha and Joe, founded Chicago Area Parents of Priests and Seminarians in 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When Martha Mehringer’s son Michael told her and her husband that he wanted to enter the seminary and discern priesthood, she was worried. She also felt alone because she and her husband didn’t know anyone who had become a priest and didn’t know about the process or what her son’s life would be like as a priest.

As God would have it, before her son entered seminary, she took a job at the bookstore at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. There she met many seminarians and priests and asked them lots of questions.

Some of the seminarians shared that their parents didn’t want them to become priests and how they struggled with that.

While working at the bookstore, Mehringer met a parent of a seminarian for the Diocese of Joliet who told her that their diocese had a group for parents of seminarians where they could come together and share their fears and joys.

After attending a meeting of the Joliet group, Mehringer and her husband Joe decided to start a similar one in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2018. That’s how Chicago Area Parents of Priests and Seminarians was born; the word “priests” was added later, after parents saw their sons ordained and wanted to stay involved.

CAPPS meets a couple times a year in someone’s home for Mass, a meal and a time for sharing. The archdiocese’s director of vocations and the seminary’s director of formation also attend. The parents also attend events at the seminary, such as family day or the May crowning, and they attend ordinations.

“We had no idea if anyone was going to come to that first meeting, but we worked hard to contact all of the other parents of anybody from the Archdiocese of Chicago,” Mehringer said. “We had a lot of people show up and it really made me feel great that other people wanted to come.”

There was an immediate sense of connection with one another, she said.

“It’s been amazing to see how people, from the beginning to the end of the journey, watching the parents go through the process, including ourselves, of understanding the whole thing,” Mehringer said.

Even though her son was ordained in 2023, Mehringer and her husband — along with other parents of new priests — stay involved with the group.

Around the time Martha Mehringer was making plans to start the group, Father Timothy Monahan, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, was also planning to start a group for parents.

CAPPS offers important support for his ministry, he said.

“They are able to speak to the dynamics of what parents are going through in a way that I can’t,” Monahan said. “Over the years, we’ve found ways not only to connect with CAPPS as a group but invite CAPPS into the ministry of vocation direction by connecting with parents at certain events.”

When a man is discerning a vocation to the priesthood and shares that his parents may not fully support his vocation, Monahan will offer to connect them with CAPPS, whose members can share their own experiences.

“Everyone is in different places, but as parents they can speak to other parents in a more accessible way than I can,” he said.

Monahan said he appreciates that parents have a place where they can talk about whatever is going on in their lives and how they are feeling about it in a judgment-free space.

Theresa Frankiewicz knows how important that is. When her son Michael told her he wanted to enter the seminary, she and her husband were “a bit surprised,” she said. CAPPS provided an opportunity to be with parents in the same situation.

“Ever since the first dinner, it’s just been this wonderful, loving, giving, fun group of parents to be able to come together,” she said. “It’s a real wonderful way for folks like me and Chuck, who were somewhat surprised, to be able to have an outlet for questions, issues and just listen to others about their kids’ faith and their process as they move through the priesthood discernment — and sometimes when they discern out for another vocation and to understand that journey, too.” 

She called CAPPS “just a great group of people.”

“It’s a very small, intimate group of people, and it’s just a very trusted circle for people to come together and be able to share their thoughts and feelings as they go through the journey,” Frankiewicz said.


  • priests
  • seminary

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