At a picnic following the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl speaks with seminarian Alec Scott, a pre-theology student at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, and his mother, Mary.
At a picnic following the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl speaks with seminarian Alec Scott, a pre-theology student at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, and his mother, Mary.
In an age of secularism, materialism and individualism, first-year seminarians of the Archdiocese of Washington have a task that is every bit as exciting as the first band of disciples, Archbishop Donald Wuerl said July 24 during Seminarian Family Day at St. Patrick Parish in Rockville.

Pope Benedict XVI is calling for a "new evangelization," and seminarians must learn how to lead people back to the Church in this modern age, the archbishop said during the Mass. The archbishop, the principal celebrant and homilist, joined families of seminarians for the annual day of prayer, fellowship and food. Parents and siblings filled the church to pray and show support for vocations to the priesthood.

Archbishop Wuerl said it was appropriate to get to know each other around the altar where "Jesus joins us."

Msgr. Robert Panke, director of priest vocations for the archdiocese, Msgr. Kevin Hart, the pastor of St. Patrick's, and several new priests who were ordained about a month ago at the National Shrine also joined the celebration.

During the homily, the archbishop reflected on the parable of the weeds in which a man sows good seed, but his enemy comes and sows weeds among the good seed. This is similar to the world today, and why the pope has asked people to serve as agents in the new evangelization, said the archbishop.

There are people who have heard the Gospel, but somewhere along the way they lost interest, Archbishop Wuerl said. Others have heard the Gospel, but have never been fully introduced to it.

"We are dealing with people who already think they know who Jesus is," he said.

In addition to evangelizing, the archbishop asked the seminarians to say to themselves when they are questioning their vocation, "Why not me?" Jesus calls all types of people, and He gives them the grace they need to answer that call, the archbishop said.
Doug Powell, the father of seminarian Jonathan Powell, said he is proud of his son's decision to explore a vocation to the priesthood.

"He has not said, 'Yes, I'm going to be a priest.' He has said,'Yes, I'm willing to be open to whatever the Lord has called me to do," Powell said.

He and his wife, Tam, the parents of 12 children, have tried to foster vocations in their home by being open about faith, committing to family prayer and homeschooling their children, he said.

"They (the children) spend time in the school day studying Scripture, and praying, but nothing intense. We are always trying to acknowledge the Church in our home," he said.

Jonathan Powell, who is studying at St. John Neumann Seminary in Queens, NY., said he first heard the call to the priesthood during a vocations retreat, and although he is not sure he will be a priest, attending seminary will help him discern his vocation.

"Through my experience, doing God's will has made most people happy, and I want to be happy," he said.

Tam Powell said it's a privilege to witness God's work in her son, and "see Him (God) follow through with His promises." The Powells are parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Lexington Park.

Kimberly Schnitker, the mother of seminarian Max Schnitker and a parishioner of St. John Vianney Parish in Prince Frederick, said her family fosters vocations by attending daily Mass, praying the rosary, homeschooling their children and maintaining friendships with priests who are an "inspiration to them."

Michael Berard, a parishioner of St. Hugh Parish in Greenbelt whose son, Jack Berard, is a seminarian at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, said he and his wife, Pat, fostered vocations in their home by striving to be living examples for their 10 children.

He said when it comes to encouraging children to discern their vocation, " I don't think there should be any pressure. Be kind and bring religion into all the day to day activities of the family."

Pat Berard said her family always prayed for vocations, but she didn't expect one of her own children to become a priest.

"It's that crazy Holy Spirit," she said, jokingly.