Building brotherhood

| November 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

St. John Vianney College Seminary draws men from dioceses across the country into bonds of fraternity as they share life and faith


From left, Connor Orabutt (Diocese of Rockford, Illinois) and Josh Salonek (Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis) of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul enjoy a game of Ultimate Frisbee during a free period in their schedule. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

As the St. Paul Seminary continues to turn out vibrant, faith-filled priests, staff across campus at St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas feel a quiet satisfaction.

Father Michael Becker, rector of SJV, proudly pointed out that five of his 27 seminarians who graduated last spring with the required philosophy degrees went on to the St. Paul Seminary. Some of the others enrolled at major seminaries elsewhere.

He also noted that SJV, established in 1968, serves other seminaries throughout the country as well, with 22 recent grads going on to major seminary. This year, men from 19 U.S. dioceses are enrolled in the undergraduate seminary.

Despite the clergy sex abuse crisis that has rocked the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, SJV continues to draw solid numbers. In fact, Father Becker is scrambling to find accommodations for the 134 seminarians he has this year (almost identical to last year’s 135).

“I actually have every bed in the building full, plus guys on the first floor in guest rooms, plus 12 extra [seminarians studying] in Rome,” Father Becker said. “We are considering the possibility of a small addition to the building, which would allow us to have everyone in the building when we’re all together.”

SJV at a glance

  • SJV is the largest college seminary in the U.S., enrolling more than 100 men every year since 2005
  • 15 alumni were ordained to the priesthood this year
  • 436 alumni have been ordained priests
  • 39 men are in this year’s freshman class
  • This year, the total cost per seminarian is $52,000
  • Average grade point average is 3.45

The life of an SJV seminarian is intentionally spiritual, with a typical day beginning at 6:30 a.m. for eucharistic adoration. From there, the men spend a good portion of their day in class, with more time spent studying philosophy.

Father Becker counts St. Thomas’ philosophy program among the best in the country, but SJV’s key to thriving  — and the continued high enrollment — lies in the bonds of brotherhood formed by the men, starting the day they arrive at their college home.

“One of the great strengths of SJV, which differentiates us from a lot of seminaries, is the strength of fraternity,” Father Becker explained. “Every man who comes into St. John Vianney is put in a fraternal sharing group of four or five other brother seminarians — their age, their class — who will travel with them through the four years. They discuss all topics related to their life, including how they’re discerning their vocation, how they’re growing in prayer, how they’re overcoming sinful patterns, how they’re doing in their studies.”

Though the men may go in different ways during the course of a day on campus, they always return to a core group for fellowship.

“I just thank the people of God for their support of St. John Vianney Seminary,” Father Becker said. “They should be proud that we have the largest college seminary in the United States, that we’re doing really good work with young men, and we would ask their prayers and support in any way that they can offer it.”


St. John Vianney College Seminary

A day in the life

The Catholic Spirit photographer Dave Hrbacek spent a day documenting the life of men at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul. The day began at 6:30 a.m. with eucharistic adoration and ended with Nerf Wars on the dorm floors.

7027:02 a.m.

Father Jonathan Kelly, right, prays in front of the Eucharist during an adoration hour along with SJV seminarians Will Marcinkus (Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan), left, Joshua Billing (Joliet, Illinois) and Tyler Riese (La Crosse, Wisconsin).

100210:02 a.m.

Father Michael Becker, SJV rector, teaches the Catechism of the Catholic Church to seminarians.

100910:09 a.m.

From left, Zachary Schaefbauer (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Dominic Shovelain and Jacob Hornecker (both Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis) enjoy a light moment during Father Becker’s catechism class.

114311:43 a.m.

From left, Connor McGinnis (St. Paul and Minneapolis) and Jacob Toma (Duluth) head to lunch after morning class.

3563:56 p.m.

David Maslow (St. Paul and Minneapolis ) and Jared Clements (La Crosse) battle for a catch during a game of Ultimate Frisbee.

4:05 p.m.405

Chris Tibbetts (Sioux Falls) lays down on the turf after a game of Ultimate Frisbee as other seminarians form a prayer circle: Connor Orabutt (Rockford, Illinois), left, Clayton Forner (St. Paul and Minneapolis), Jacob Bennett (Bismark, North Dakota), Ben Hall (St. Paul and Minneapolis), Adam Pinkelman (Omaha, Nebraska), Kenny Urlakis (Carmelites), Alex Lorang (Joliet), Josh Salonek (St. Paul and Minneapolis), Jared Clements, Tyler Riese and Connor McGinnis.

4304:30 p.m.

From left, Steven Weller (La Crosse), Kyle Loecker (Omaha), Daniel Strecker (Omaha) and Miguel Colunga-Santoyo (Lansing, Michigan) hang out in a dorm room during a period of free time.

4374:37 p.m.

Reed Flood (Des Moines, Iowa) takes advantage of free time to study.

5005 p.m.

Nathan Allen (Sioux Falls) reads from a breviary during Evening Prayer.

8428:42 p.m.

Thomas Bennett, left, and Eric Wuebben (both Sioux Falls) come face to face during Nerf Wars.










More photos from the day

Tags: , ,

Category: Featured, Vocations