Homegrown Harvest event celebrates, supports
diocesan seminarians

A ticket admitting two to the Homegrown Harvest Festival is $100. The event includes a silent auction and a sit-down meal served by the Knights of Columbus 9543 at St. Francis of Assisi in Madison. To purchase tickets, to view sponsorship levels for this year’s event, or to make a donation to seminarian education, visit: https://bit.ly/HGHarvest2022.

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Once he was named vocation director for the Diocese of Jackson, Father Nick Adam went right to work on developing a grand plan to get seminarians acquainted with parishioners from all over the diocese.

That dream became the Jackson Seminarian Homegrown Harvest Festival, now in its third year and set for Saturday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison. The event includes a sit-down meal, a silent auction and a seminarian presentation.

“I knew we needed to raise money to support the education of future priests,” said Father Adam. “But I wanted there to be an event where we came together to ‘see’ what was happening with our vocation program.

“Homegrown Harvest began with a vision of an event to celebrate our faith and the future priests of our church, and this year we are going to ‘see’ that we have nine seminarians. That’s four more than we had just this past May.”

Seminarian education is hardly inexpensive. Bishop Joseph Kopacz estimates that education plus room and board for each year of college seminary and theology is in the $40,000 range per student. Then there’s travel, summer assignments and summer formation programs for the seminarian, bringing to cost per student much closer to $50,000 annually.

“The Homegrown Harvest is becoming the featured event to celebrate the gift of priesthood, to encourage vocations, and to personally invite candidates for seminary discernment and formation,” Bishop Kopacz said. “It is also an opportunity to build up the community of parents, family members, friends and supporters of priestly vocations.”

It might make sense to guess that most seminarians are in their early twenties, though this season’s group of nine ranges from early twenties to early fifties. For older seminarians, the discernment process is different because of their station in life, as well as the role parents play in the life of a fifty-something seminarian compared to that of a teen who may hear the call and look to his parents for guidance and encouragement.

The third annual Jackson Seminarian Homegrown Harvest event will take place on Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison.

“I always tell young men that my job is to discern with them,” Father Adam said. “Seminary is not the end; it is a resource for young men to discover whether the Lord is calling them to priesthood. If a young man has the desire and the maturity to enter into the seminary and use the resources there for a couple of years to discover whether priesthood is for him, then he should go.”

Father Adam and the diocese have started a new initiative called POPS (Parents of Priests/Seminarians/Sisters) which works alongside the Homegrown Harvest Festival.

“Just like we are using the festival to build community and prayerful support for our seminarians,” Father Adam said of POPS, “we want to make sure we are directing resources toward parents who have made a great gift to the church by supporting their sons and daughters who are pursuing a religious vocation.”

Bishop Kopacz, though, is quick to point out that Father Adam and other vocation directors are not recruiters.

“At times (the vocation director) is directing a young person to consider the beauty of marriage, religious life, or single way of life for a time — or for a lifetime — in service to the Lord,” he said. “Ultimately it is a matter of recognizing one’s gifts and talents for one’s own good, the good of others and the glory of God. This is the gift of our Baptism that, properly nurtured, is the foundation for all vocations.”
Father Andrew Bowden, associate pastor at St. Richard in Jackson since June, said he began thinking of the priesthood at a young age.

“For most of the time I was in middle school and high school I was about 90 percent sure that it was what God was calling me to,” he said. “But I would not say that this is the norm. I locked in mentally, becoming sure that this was what God was calling me to, during my first year in the seminary.

“People today tend to try to distract themselves from what God asks of them. Ultimately this only causes greater dissatisfaction. It is never too early nor too late to start asking God what He wants you to do and to encourage the people around you to do the same. God is the source of our joy, so the greatest joy will be experienced in doing what He asks us to do.”

As Bishop Kopacz points out, presentations, prayer services and conversations are ways of planting seeds that God can bring to fruition in the years ahead. In addition to donating generously, plan to have a nice meal at the Homegrown Harvest Festival and get to know the current crop of seminarians. You may never know what impact you could have on their journey.