Editor’s note: National Vocation Awareness Week, celebrated Nov. 1-7, 2020 is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations. This edition is dedicated to those “hearing the call.” Please read about all of our seminarians on pages 8 and 9; and keep them in your prayers.
By Joe Lee
MADISON – Father Nick Adam, who moved into the role of Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Jackson in early 2020, offers an interesting take on how he viewed studying for the priesthood before beginning his seminarian journey over a decade ago.
“I always thought seminary training looked like something from a movie: a bunch of sad-looking men marching in formation or falling to their knees constantly,” Father Adam said. “Really, it is a vibrant community of believers who are seeking to live their faith in a way that is joyful and life-giving.”
Recently a parish priest at St. Richard of Jackson, Father Adam’s sole focus is now on cultivating more vocations among Catholics in Mississippi. The Homegrown Harvest Gala and Fundraiser took place for the first time in October and, with the help of a $25,000 matching grant from the Catholic Extension Society, brought in $100,000 to support seminarian tuition costs.
“The live-streamed event featured videos I produced while visiting our seminarians and included a keynote presentation from Rev. James Wehner, rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans,” Father Adam said. “Priests from India, Ireland (and many other countries) have served us so well, and I believe the best way to thank them is to produce an abundance of ‘homegrown’ vocations.”
At present, six seminarians are studying to be priests for the Diocese of Jackson. Their hometowns include the Mississippi cities of West Point, Brandon, and Philadelphia, and Father Adam says he’s ‘in the thick’ of the recruiting season – though he’s hardly knocking on doors asking for donations.
“With this large fundraiser in the books, I am moving toward more personal interaction with men who are wrestling with the Lord’s plan for them,” Father Adam said. “I am taking small groups of these ‘discerners’ to the seminary so they can see what studying for the priesthood really looks like. These personal tours are my best way to encourage men to ‘be not afraid’ and to courageously discern the priesthood.”
“Father Nick had a great seminarian experience and has a great love for formation,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz. “He wants to stir the flame in those who aspire to the priesthood. His is an integrated position: vocations director, and director of seminarians. He is unleashed in vocation ministry, a ministry that needs someone like him, and I saw the love he had for it.”
“He talks with the seminarians regularly – right now they’re Zooming – and will accompany them on their journey. I’m excited about him serving full-time in this ministry. When folks are interested in marriage, he won’t take it personally and will go on planting seeds. Ninety percent of his energy is in relationships and those he encounters in vocation.”
Rhonda Bowden, director of liturgy and pastoral care at St. Jude parish in Pearl, worked alongside Father Adam on the Homegrown Harvest campaign and has watched him mentor her son, Andrew, a student at Notre Dame Seminary of New Orleans who will be ordained a priest in spring 2022 (see accompanying story).
She feels strongly about the need to grow priests within the Diocese of Jackson as well as parents being open to their children entering religious life. That sentiment is shared by Msgr. Michael Flannery, who believes the secret to vocations lies not in creative fundraising but in the home.
“That is where the seeds are sown and fostered by family prayer. It is not a question of money – if we had vocations we would find the money to sponsor them,” Flannery said. “I believe Father Nick is a tremendous choice as a vocation director. He is charismatic and relates very well to the youth ministry. He is doing everything he can (to bring in new seminarians).”
Adam, now in a wonderful position to mentor those who will follow in his footsteps, remains grateful to Father Frank Cosgrove, his priest at St. Patrick of Meridian when Adam worked full-time in television.
“I had stopped attending Mass while in college (at the University of Alabama) because I thought I knew everything, as college kids tend to think,” Adam said. “I went to Mass at St. Patrick about a year and a half after moving to Meridian. The feeling I had while sitting in the pew was like returning home after a long trip.”
“I just felt peace and contentment, and from that point forward I think the seed was planted for the priesthood. That really became solidified in me once I started speaking with Father Frank, who gave me a wonderful example of priesthood and always encouraged me to be open to the call.”
“Father Nick is a servant priest and exudes being a regular guy,” Father Cosgrove said. “He runs. He plays basketball. He puts on jeans and helps builds Habitat houses. He’s living a prayerful life – God works through that. He will make a great vocations director because of the joy of his own priesthood.”