Back in Spring 2021, I visited the Diocese of Little Rock to discover why they had so many seminarians. For the past several years the diocese had consistently large numbers of seminarians and most of those seminarians came from parishes in the diocese. This was interesting to me since the Diocese of Little Rock has a similar demographic layout to the Diocese of Jackson. The diocese spans the entire state of Arkansas, and other than the parishes in the metro area of the capital, and a couple of university towns, most of the parishes are in rural areas.
When I spoke to Msgr. Scott Friend, then the longtime vocation director of the diocese, he told me that one of the biggest unifying forces for his men was their dedication to learning Spanish and being ready to serve whatever community they needed to upon ordination. Speaking with some of the young priests of the diocese on that trip, they told me how their dedication to learning a second language had galvanized them to see their priesthood through the lens of mission, and this was helpful since they were studying for a mission diocese. They shared with me that learning Spanish created a ‘buy-in’ among the seminarians and helped them to grow in humility and trust of the Lord as they struggled to encounter the People of God in a new way.
As I processed through my visit to Little Rock and I spoke to Bishop Kopacz about the experience, I was sure that language immersion and a dedication to being ready to minister to the growing number of Hispanic Catholics in our diocese needed to be a focus in our formation program.
In Summer 2022, I visited the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of the Angels outside of Cuernavaca, Mexico in hopes of finding an immersion program that fit our needs. I visited on Fourth of July weekend as the seminarians in that year’s program in the middle of their studies led by lay teachers and monks from the Abbey. I came away very impressed by the program, and we began to make plans to implement this summer program as a part of our formation plan.
This summer, four of our seminarians and I will depart for Cuernavaca to take part in this program. We will spend two hours each day individually practicing with a teacher, then two hours in small group discussion. We will also be spending regular prayer time and attending Mass with the monastic community in the Abbey. We will also be visiting historical sites around the area, including the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the patroness of North America. I am very hopeful that this program will not only equip our seminarians with a much-needed skill in today’s church, but that it will be a great source of fraternal bonding. The Lord meets us whenever we take a risk and trust in Him, and I know that He will be with us in Mexico. Please keep myself, Ryan Stoer, Tristan Stovall, Grayson Foley and Will Foggo in your prayers this summer, and pray to the efforts of these great seminarians will bless them, and our diocese, for many years to come.
Father Nick Adam
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