Called by Name

The Christmas decorations are going up in the rectory and in downtown Jackson and I know that the halls are being decked at our seminaries as well. As we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, we give thanks for the gift of the church, the Eucharist and the priesthood. Here are a couple of updates of note as we near the end of another year!
On May 20, 2023, Ryan Stoer and Tristan Stovall will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. This is the final step before priestly ordination, and it has been a long journey for both Ryan and Tristan to come to this point. The ordination will be at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral.

Father Nick Adam

Shortly after their ordination, Ryan and Tristan will be joining myself and two of our other seminarians for a two-month immersion trip to Mexico in June and July. I have written about this immersion in previous issues. It will be an opportunity for our seminarians, and myself, to gain incredibly important language skills so we are better able to walk with all of our parishioners.
Following that trip, they will embark on their diaconal ministry assignment. This is a big step in the journey of every seminarian. The diaconal assignment is always a little longer than a typical summer, and it gives the newly ordained deacon a great chance to celebrate liturgies and to preach at Mass. Ryan will be at St. Joseph Parish in Gluckstadt while Tristan will be a St. Mary Basilica in Natchez. I know that the people of these parishes will be very supportive and I thank Father Matthew Simmons and Father Aaron Williams for supporting our formation program by walking with these men.
On May 27, 2023, Deacon Carlisle Beggerly will be ordained to the priesthood. His initial priestly assignment will be decided at a later date. Deacon Carlisle completed his diaconal assignment at St. Francis in Madison and is now finishing up his Master of Divinity at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. It is always exciting to set these on the calendar, and please keep these men in your prayers as they near these milestones.
I am also happy to report that the proceeds from our 3rd Annual Homegrown Harvest Festival stands at $142,515.06. This is a really remarkable total and speaks to the support that is present for our seminarians and formation programs. A great thanks also to those who gave to the Department of Vocations as a part of #iGiveCatholic. Please keep all nine of our seminarians in your prayers that they have a restful and rejuvenating Christmas holiday and that their upcoming annual retreat is grace-filled and helpful to their discernment.
– Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

Called by Name

The Friday before Thanksgiving is a day of great rejoicing for many of our seminarians. For one thing, their Thanksgiving break has arrived and they’ll have a week to spend with family and friends and prepare for their final exams. That Friday is also the day of the annual bonfire at St. Joseph Seminary College. This tradition that goes back many decades and so many of our priests have taken part in it (including myself). The students at St. Joseph (which, because it is a Benedictine monastery, we know as St. Ben’s – confusing I know!) spend the early weeks of November gathering and stacking timber that has fallen around the

Father Nick Adam

property and then stuffing it with as much brush as they can. Thankfully there are 1200 acres of trees at St. Ben’s and usually a hurricane will have pushed through earlier in the fall and provided plenty of raw material. The night before the bonfire the students and faculty have a gathering to bless the fire and ask the Lord to make the next evening a time of fraternity and community that will build up the future priests of the church. Then on bonfire day the men from Notre Dame in New Orleans cross Lake Pontchartrain to join their younger brethren for a football game followed by a great dinner and the lighting of the fire.

My favorite bonfire memories were usually from the football game. It’s amazing how pumped up you can get to compete against another team when there is only one other team to compete against and you only play them once a year. I used to always play receiver, not because I was athletic, but because I was a good field spacer because I knew all the routes and I could open up the field for our more athletic teammates to get open. One time, our quarterback threw me a bone and tossed me a touchdown pass on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line. I was so honored that he trusted me in that moment, but when we talked about it on the sideline, he said — “that was 4th down? I thought it was 3rd or I would have never thrown that to you!”

Those moments are particularly fun for me to reflect on now that I am walking with our current seminarians. Their great memories will be different from mine, but I know that the Lord will give them the same encouragement from these events that I received. The fraternity experienced in seminary is special, and it has endured long after ordination. We have so much great support for our seminarians throughout the diocese, and that support doesn’t just help them learn about theology and liturgy, it gives them opportunities to build friendships that will help sustain their ministry for decades to come.

Father Nick Adam

Called By Name

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

As I was preparing my homily for daily Mass recently, I was reflecting on these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Our Lord’s statement reveals that a little faith doesn’t just go a long way, it also produces miracles. After all, it is impossible for a mulberry tree, or any other tree, to be planted in the sea!

But our faith can be shaken. A mustard seed is tiny and is easily lost if we don’t protect it. This is one of the reasons I continue to write this column. We need to be reminded that our faith is shared and we need to build one another up to keep up the fight. It is hard to be a Catholic in a land that has so few. It is hard to promote priestly vocations from our parishes when there are so many other forces in our culture that might distract young people from their calls. But it is a fight worth fighting, and with a little faith, God can work miracles through us!

Father Nick Adam

As Joanna King reported elsewhere in this edition of the Mississippi Catholic, our 3rd annual Homegrown Harvest Festival was a great success, and I have come away from that experience more confident than ever that the Lord is going to do great things in our vocation department. Our POPS group (Parents of Priests/Seminarians/Sisters) continues to solidify with many of our parents supporting one another and coming up with great ideas for the coming year. I am also working with our diocesan chancery on new ways to engage Catholics throughout the diocese to help more people get involved in our vocation initiatives and in supporting our seminarians.

But the most important thing we can all do is pray. Please continue or begin to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in our diocese. If everyone who reads this would pray regularly for this intention, I know that it would make all the difference. We ask for the intercession of Mary, Mother of Priests to nurture and protect the vocations of those who are discerning or who will discern the priesthood in the coming year.

The next time you attend Mass, I invite you to offer your Mass intention for an increase in vocations, or better yet, offer your Mass for a young man or woman you know in your parish who you think would make a great priest or religious. Some people ask me: how do I offer an intention at Mass? Well, when the gifts are coming up to the altar, in your mind’s eye ‘place’ your intention on the altar with the bread and the wine. God can work miracles with all that his people present offer to him in the Mass!

Thank you for your continued support of our mission for a Homegrown Harvest, let’s continue to build one another up so we can keep the faith because God is working and he will work miracles as long as we are open to his will for us!

– Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

Called by Name

Our Homegrown Harvest effort is working. Not only have we netted four new seminarians in the past year, but we have two men currently in the application process and one more who is in a pre-seminary online program that we offer to guys who are seriously considering a priestly vocation.

The health of a vocation department is not just quality and quantity of candidates; it’s also dependent on building up a good support system for all those who have a hand in promoting and supporting vocations. Here are some other initiatives that we recently ramped up with that in mind:

– We had our first ever POPS event on Sept. 24. The Parents of Priests/Seminarians/Sisters is an effort to support our parents who are supporting their children in discernment. The Knights of Columbus of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle provided dinner. It was a great event. We are looking at doing a Christmas party in December.

Father Nick Adam

– I attended Southeastern Pastoral Institute’s Encuentro Regional (Regional Encounter Workshop) Oct. 12-14 to learn more about working with young Hispanic Catholics in our parishes and helping them discover their vocation. It was a great experience, and I enjoyed the networking and got some good ideas both for vocation promotion and parish best practices for Hispanic ministry. Bishop Kopacz and Faith Formation director, Fran Lavelle also attended this workshop which was held in St. Augustine, Florida.

– We hosted our first ever Bethany Night in mid-October. This was a dinner, talk, and time of adoration for young women open to the call to religious life. Sister Karolyn Nunes, FSGM, was in town and so I asked her to give a presentation to those who attended. Sister Karolyn is the vocation director for the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St. George, the same order that Kathleen McMullin, now Sister Mary Kolbe McMullin, entered last year. A great thanks goes to the Knights of Columbus from Holy Savior in Clinton for providing dinner and to this parish for hosting us. I also took Sister Karolyn to St. Joe High School in Madison to speak with two sections of Senior Theology, and that was a great time, the kids were full of great questions.

And our Homegrown Harvest Festival has brought in a record amount to go toward the tuition/books/fees for our nine seminarians. Thank you all for the trust that you have placed in the Lord as we have made a call for support of our men in formation and thank you for you the encouragement you continue to give to young men to consider the call to the priesthood and young women to consider the call to religious life.

CLINTON – Sister Karolyn Nunes, FSGM, speaks with members of the youth group at Holy Savior Clinton as a part of the Vocations office’s first-ever “Bethany Night.” (Photo by Father Nick Adam)

Called by Name

Don’t assume. Just ask.

I met Kai Lee I during my final year of seminary studies in New Orleans. One of the priests on faculty, Father Joe Krafft, told me that he had met this man at a parish in the area who was looking for an RCIA program that fit his circumstances. Kai had been married to a Catholic for about 30 years and had raised his son Austin in the faith. He was so active in his parish that most parishioners at Christ the King on the Westbank assumed he was already Catholic, but he hadn’t even been baptized! As Father Krafft listened to Kai’s story and realized he wasn’t baptized, he didn’t assume that Kai had already discerned whether or not to join the church, he asked him!

Father Nick Adam

            Kai began to attend RCIA sessions at the seminary with myself and one of the other seminarians. He was an incredible student who left no stone unturned. He ended up reading through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church (and he poured through much of it while he was taking instruction from us), and I always had to make sure I stayed up on my own studies so I’d be able to help answer the questions he would come up with during the week. Kai remembers how we would often go over our class time by 30 minutes to an hour just talking about the faith. Kai was baptized and received first communion and confirmation in May 2018. It was a joy filled day, and it was a great joy to see Kai, his wife Vicky, and their son Austin earlier this month as they paid a visit to Jackson.

            The lesson I learned from Kai is one that I use in vocation ministry today: don’t assume, just ask. You may see a young man who is active in his faith and in the church and assume that he has already been encouraged to think about priesthood, or that he’s already discerned and decided against going to the seminary — but don’t assume, just ask! It is so helpful to all of us when we are encouraged by someone to share our gifts. We need that encouragement as human beings, and so never be shy to ask someone if they have considered priesthood and to tell them that they should.

            There is one more step that is important to remember. If you can, make sure you help that person make the next step in their journey. Father Krafft helped Kai get connected to an RCIA program that fit his specific circumstance. You can help a young man that you encourage about the priesthood by putting him in touch with me! Remember that anyone who is interested in priesthood or religious life can call my office to get more information — my direct line here at the office is (601) 969-4020, or send me an email at nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

            Don’t assume, just ask. And then help a young man make the next step in his discernment by encouraging him to talk to me!

Called by Name

The church is universal, and nowhere has that been more apparent to me than at our Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. In my first three months as rector, I have been blessed and pastorally challenged by the diverse backgrounds and needs of our parishioners. After three Masses in English each weekend, our 1 p.m. Spanish Mass welcomes the largest single crowd of the bunch. The pews are truly full at that Mass, it’s pretty cool to see. We seek to serve this diverse community by offering catechesis in both English and Spanish, and I am consistently depending on our bilingual parishioners to help me with homily translations.

Father Nick Adam
Father Nick Adam

In order to serve this community well, facility with the Spanish language is vital. I have some Spanish skills, but not enough, and it is so difficult to find time as a pastor, or as an associate pastor for that matter, to go for an immersion experience in Mexico or Central America. With this in mind, we are going to send several of our seminarians to Cuernavaca, Mexico this coming summer for a two-month immersive experience. This experience is organized by St. Meinrad Seminary, and it is hosted by the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels outside Cuernavaca, which is about an hour and a half from Mexico City (if the traffic is good).

I visited the monastery to observe this program back in July and I was very impressed. Not only do the seminarians get one-on-one instruction from teachers four hours a day, but they also take part in the liturgical life of the monastery, and so the needs of their spiritual life are nurtured while this very practical program plays out. In the future all of our seminarians will be required to take part in this immersion as a part of their second summer in our program, but since the need is urgent and this program is helpful, we are going to send four of our guys (Ryan Stoer, Tristan Stovall, Will Foggo and Grayson Foley) down there this summer to get things kicked off, and I will be going to Mexico with them. I certainly could use the practice, and I hope that this will be a blessed time of camaraderie and fraternity as we take this adventure together.

My first thoughts about a required immersion experience began to take shape a few years ago when I visited the Diocese of Little Rock. Spanish immersion seemed to be a real point of cohesion for their seminarians, and it certainly is a great gift to the Hispanic Catholics in that diocese. Little Rock has consistently had over 20 seminarians, and their demographics are pretty close to ours, so I think they must be doing something right! I am pleased that we are getting this off the ground, and I pray that this will be a great opportunity for our seminarians to grow in love of the church, and the people they will serve, as future priests of the diocese.

Called by Name

This month we will be welcoming parents of priests and seminarians and religious sisters to the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle for our first ever meeting of POPS, which stands for (you guessed it), Parents of Priests and Seminarians/Sisters.

Father Nick Adam
Father Nick Adam

Rhonda Bowden was the driving force behind this initiative which we hope will help our parents build community as they support their sons and daughters who are on a unique path in life. Rhonda certainly has lots of experience after walking with her son Andrew for eight years in the seminary while also supporting her husband Mark in deacon formation and her daughter Laura as she graduated from Millsaps and is now a full-time teacher. I hope that this group provides some good community and fraternity for our parents.

I know that it is both a joy and a challenge to support a child who is discerning priesthood and religious life, and as we try to normalize that experience for our young people we want to make sure that parents are not excluded. As we get more seminarians, we want to build up our network of support for parents as well. I hope that this dinner is the first of many opportunities for parents to network. One of the greatest sources of vocations is family support and consistent encouragement of children to consider priesthood and religious life, and we want our parents to know how much we appreciate their encouragement and support.

       Please promote the possibility of priestly and religious life consistently to your children. This truly is the only way we will have a thriving church in the future. When we normalize vocations in the home, we provide our children with an opportunity to imagine the possibility of being a priest or nun just like they imagine the possibility of being a doctor or lawyer. This is so vital, and I ask for each parent to be intentional and courageous in presenting this possibility to your children. I know that it’s a little scary, but the church is here to support our young men and women, and I encourage you to speak with parents of seminarians/priests/sisters that you know and ask them how their children are doing. They certainly have challenges in their state in life, but they also have great joy and experience great triumphs, and most importantly, all of them believe that the Lord has called them to this task.

       It is probably more difficult in our current culture than ever before to encourage a child to enter ministry. We have been discouraged in many ways, both within the culture and within the church, but still, there are great men and women who are stepping forward and families that are supporting them. Please follow their example. The devil would love for us to believe that our situation cannot be helped, and that vocations have simply “dried up” here in the states, but this is not true. We can always trust that God will provide, but we must be co-workers with the Lord. I am grateful for the parents of our priests, seminarians and sisters, and I ask that you offer prayers specifically for these families after reading this article.  

Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

Called by Name

The first week of August there was a flurry of activity for the seminarians of our diocese. Some were wrapping up their summer assignments while our four new men were busy getting the last requirements met for seminary studies this fall. We all took a few days of rest of relaxation in Ridgeland for our annual Seminarian Convocation. This gathering started as a seminarian-led initiative back in 2016. Back then Father Aaron Williams and I were still in seminary and we wanted to schedule a few days away to build community with the other seminarians. It had been a few years since we’d had such a gathering, and we knew we wanted to make it a little more formalized.

Father Nick Adam

Each year since we’ve gathered in some way, shape or form, and I think each year it’s done what it’s supposed to do: build camaraderie and facilitate good communication. Since I’ve been vocation director, I’ve used the Convocation to talk to the guys about what to expect for the coming year. This was especially helpful this year since we have four new seminarians. It was fun to see how to the dynamic of the group was bolstered and changed by the addition of new blood, and to see our returning guys step up and be good leaders for the new men.

I realized this year how important it is not to over-schedule. Our seminarians get a lot asked of them throughout the year. They have academic duties of course, but they are also very involved in the community life of their respective seminarians. This is all on top of what they are responsible for here in the diocese. So, these few days provided some good rest and relaxation, and the guys could just sit and visit with one another. I enjoyed racing Grayson Foley across a pond on a paddle board — sadly I lost twice, but I didn’t fall in!

One more tradition that has grown is a day where Bishop Kopacz comes and has a conversation with the seminarians. The topics have varied over the years, but it is a great gift to have a Bishop who wants to build up relationships with the seminarians. This year we also celebrated with Will Foggo as he was instituted as a “candidate” for Holy Orders. This is a canonical process that allows Will to wear the roman collar as a public representative of the church. It is a great opportunity for a seminarian to realize that he is a public representative of the church, even if he is not yet ordained.

I’d like to thank Bobby Arnold, who donated his property for the week to us. Please say a prayer for him and his intentions if you would in thanksgiving for his generosity!

– Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

Called by Name

I spent Fourth of July weekend in Mexico. It was not the most stereotypical setting for celebrating our country’s Independence, but our party rivaled that of the best backyard barbecues. I was in Cuernavaca, a city that rests about an hour and a half’s drive southwest of Mexico City, at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels. At this monastery the monks along with lay professors have put together an immersion program for seminarians from the U.S. The program includes four hours of one-on-one intensive language study on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then group discussion on Thursday for four hours, and cultural immersion discussion and activities on Friday.

Father Nick Adam
Father Nick Adam

I first heard of the program thanks to Father Victor Ingalls, who is the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Mobile. Father Vic has been sending seminarians to this program for the last two summers, and he was going to check in on his guys and invited me to tag along. I was blown away by the program. It was wonderful to see the seminarians, one month into the challenge of being immersed in a new language and culture, stepping up to the plate and relying upon the Lord to help them persevere and grow. Since we were visiting on Fourth of July Weekend (or Cuatro de Julio en Español), the seminarians had planned a big barbecue for the staff of the program and their families. They cooked hamburguesas on the grill, and while we couldn’t find french fries and potato salad, we made some macaroni and cheese and had lots of chips and dip!

It was a wonderful evening, and I came away very excited to have some of our seminarians enroll in this program in future years. Father Vic’s homily on the Fourth of July really hit home to me. He told the seminarians: “I’m sure there have been points this summer when you have felt like you were dying, when you felt like you couldn’t keep going, and yet this is where Jesus meets us. Whenever we offer ourselves freely to the Lord, he can do incredible things and help us to accomplish tasks that we did not think were possible.” I’m paraphrasing, but I could see that the homily hit home with the men who were studying in Cuernavaca, and it certainly hit home to me.

My first weekend as rector of the Cathedral was July 8-9, and I was struck by the great diversity of the parish. There are generational Jacksonians who have been members at the Cathedral for decades, and there are young professionals just moving in. There is also a thriving Hispanic community at St. Peter, and it’s a community I know I need to encounter in a real way. Learning Spanish and learning how to listen in their language is one way to hasten and broaden this encounter. I am happy that we have found a space for our seminarians to learn a new language, but I’m even happier that it is a space where they can truly encounter and minister to the people that they find there.
– Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

Called by Name

It may be the middle of the calendar year, but the vocations calendar is about to turn. We got to celebrate the priestly ordination of Father Andrew Bowden in May and the ordination to the diaconate of Carlisle Beggerly in June. Now, vocation directors in turn are getting ready for the ‘next school year,’ and the work of finding the next Bowdens and Beggerlys.

Father Nick Adam
Father Nick Adam

In July, we will hold our third Quo Vadis discernment retreat at Our Lady of the Pines in Chatawa. This is a retreat open to young men ages 15-25 who are open to a call to priesthood. The retreat will run from July 25-28. Our first two retreats of this kind were held last year, and they were a lot of fun. If you know of someone who would benefit from this retreat, or if you are interested in helping out with this event or ones of this kind – i.e. chaperoning, providing food/snacks, please let me know via email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.

In early August the seminarians will come together for our annual convocation. This event has grown over the last several years and we enjoy getting together and checking in prior to the new school year. One of the highlights of the convocation this year will be seminarian Will Foggo receiving his call to candidacy. Being a candidate for Holy Orders means a couple of things: 1) you are committed to priestly discernment, and while you have not officially committed to going all the way to ordination, you believe that the Lord is calling you in this direction. Think of it like a high school football player making a verbal commitment to a college. One of the joys of candidacy is that a seminarian is then authorized to start wearing a roman collar in public. This is a neat stage of discernment because it starts ‘getting real’ for the seminarian. He is a public man of the church, not just as a seminarian, but visibly through his dress. Typically, a man receives candidacy when he begins his theology studies – 2-4 years into his priestly formation.

The convocation is also a good opportunity to build fraternity with our current priests. We’ve had our convocation in Natchez the last two years, which has been amazing, and distinctly ‘Mississippi,’ but this year we are going to have our gathering in the Jackson Metro Area, and I’m planning on inviting priests from around the area to drop by to say hello and give talks to the seminarians. There is no better way to build relationships that quality time in front of another person, and in a world that is increasingly digital, it is vital that our seminarians get in front of our current priests so they can encourage one another. I find it very energizing to witness the zeal and excitement of our seminarians, and I’m excited to get together with them all at the end of what will be a busy summer for each of them.
– Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, please email nick.adam@jacksondiocese.org.