By Aaron Williams
On Tuesday, Jan. 20, I was blessed to gather in the evening with Bishop Joseph Kopacz and around 50 young people from our diocese at Jackson St. Richard Parish for a Mass in preparation for the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. I had been to the March twice before in the first two years of my seminary formation, but this was the first year I was able to travel as a pilgrim with the youth of our own diocese.
From St. Richard we set out on a 20-hour bus ride to our nation’s capital where we joined thousands of other young people who have come from every corner of the country. This is perhaps one of the more significant aspects of attending a pilgrimage such as this. In Mississippi, Catholic young people only see other young Catholics in their Sunday school classes, or maybe at their Catholic school.
For a period of four days, our students were able to see people their age living their faith in the public square. They learned that the Catholic Church is not simply alive, it is thriving with young Catholics who are intoxicated with their faith and are not ashamed that others know. Young Mississippians met and spoke with joyful nuns, zealous seminarians and faithful priests who were not much older than they were. One student said to me, “I didn’t know there were nuns that young, or that they were that happy.”
However, perhaps the most important part of this trip was that they learned not only that there were young people and young vocations in the church, but that there are young people and young vocations in our own backyard and that they are capable of being faithful Catholics and defending life in their own state.
Being present as a seminarian on this trip afforded me the opportunity to show the youth of our diocese that there is someone, indeed a handful of young men, who were once in their shoes and are engaged in something that is counter-cultural and are somehow still happy, perhaps even happier for it. It is my fervent prayer that experiences like this week-long pilgrimage will afford our youth an opportunity to consider how they can live their faith at home and what calling God has placed in their hearts.
None of this would be possible without the generosity of faithful Catholics in our diocese who give annually to the Catholic Service Appeal. Each year, a portion of the appeal is afforded to seminarian education which, while covering the massive expense of seminary tuition, also grants us opportunities to take part in events such as the March for Life and other ventures which are worth far more in the fruit they bear than the price they require.
When I was raised, my parents taught me to always send a thank-you card to those who sent me gifts. This is a practice I have kept during my seminarian formation in response to the exceptionally charitable gifts of those individuals, groups and parishes which send gifts during the year.
However, the somewhat anonymous benefactors of the Catholic Service Appeal often go unthanked, at least by those who directly benefit from their generosity. I hope this can in some way suffice to express my gratitude for those who so freely support my brother seminarians and me by their monetary donations and most especially by their prayers. Please know that I pray often for my benefactors and you are most certainly included in my prayers.
(Aaron Williams is a zealous seminarian for the Diocese of Jackson. He is attending Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.)
By Aaron Williams