Guest article by Corinne Cahill
Located right off Gonzaga’s campus, Bishop White Seminary is the only college seminary for training men into Catholic priesthood in Washington State. Listening to the call to serve is a life-changing moment for these men. The three aspects of priesthood that men will learn in seminary are teaching, works of mercy and liturgy. They grow deeply in faith and essentially learn how to be a man. Even if the men decide upon graduation that God is not calling them to be priests; they still walk away with a knowledge of how their faith fits into their understanding of the world.
The Rev. Daniel Barnett, 50, is the rector and vocational director for the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. His job is to point the men in the right direction for their life. Hosting the “Come and See” event at the seminary is one way that Barnett helps men get a better grasp on their calling by inviting the men to see what the seminary is all about and to be able to talk with one another about where God is leading them.
“My job is to form men to serve,” he said.
The growth in the seminary is human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. These are what they call the four pillars of formation, Barnett said. Seminarians go through eight years of training. Bishop White is the first stop in that process.
“The initial integral formation is helping the men know what it means to be a man. Along with school and clubs, they have to be clean, pressed and on-time,” he said, “and mom isn’t doing your laundry here.”
In order to graduate the men must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, 32 credits of philosophy, and go through a formation program such as Bishop White Seminary. Most priests are philosophy majors because of how well it lines up with admission into a seminary, Barnett says.
“They have to decide how their faith fits into philosophy and everything in their life,” said Barnett. “Its human growth, helping men grow to serve in the parish. Our mission in the end is to serve people as Christ does. We want to be a bridge and not an obstacle so people can encounter Christ through us.”
After all of this, the men have to study four years of theology. Since there is no school of theology in Washington, most seminarian graduates go to Washington, D.C., Oregon, or California from Bishop White.
Nicolas Castoldi, 25, and Erick Ramirez, 23, are both transfer juniors at Gonzaga, in the seminary program. Both men started in music but felt something was missing in their lives. The “Come and See” event at the seminary led Ramirez to Bishop White.
“I was confused with what God wanted from me so I started visiting lots of congregations,” Ramirez said. “This was one of the seminaries I went to and I loved it. I felt like this was where I belonged.”
Castoldi remained undecided about priesthood for six years after graduating high school. After a year at Walla Walla Community College studying music he felt like he needed to be doing more. He joined the Reach team, a travelling youth ministry, and continued in that for two years. Once Castoldi returned home, he was still not sure about seminary.
“I thought if I wanted to teach people how to live, I needed to know how to live myself,” Castoldi said. “In Reach you always had a mentor to guide you in your faith, but I needed to establish that on my own.”
Castoldi graduated with his AA still thinking about Bishop White. He thought that since it had been on his mind for six years that he should listen to the calling and see where God would take him in the seminary. Both men are still deciding what they want to do after they graduate from the program.
“I still don’t know what I want to do. But I feel great and this place has really grown me as a man and a person,” Ramirez said.
“It’s such a hard question to answer,” said Castoldi. “It’s easy to answer if I want to become a priest, but this is really about what God wants me to do and that is a whole other level. If God wants me to be a priest, I will be.”
Furthermore, Castoldi mentioned that if God was calling him to have a family then that is what he would do instead. Both men are using the seminary to really listen for what God wants of them.
The seminarians lead busy lives. With daily prayer and Mass, volunteer work and classes the men have a full workload as they train for life in the parish.
“It’s easy to feel like I should not pray and do homework,” said Ramirez. “But prayer is very important in our lives.”
The pillars of priesthood that Bishop White instill in the men help train them to go out into the community and make a difference. They grow the men in faith and in themselves.
“I am challenged to share more of what I’m thinking, and be more open about my faith life,” said Castoldi. “I think this is how we should be anyway. It’s good to be more communal, because life is full of other people and we are in this together.”
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