From Catholic San Francisco:
New seminarians for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Top row, L-R: Abraham Garcia, Christian Badilla, David Sandler, Dereck Delgado, Emmanuel Gutierrez.
Bottom row, L-R: Jeff Yano, Jose Carmona, Leandro Calingasan, Cameron Sellers, Stephen Unachukwu.
Sept. 17, 2020
Nicholas Wolfram Smith
10 men from the Archdiocese of San Francisco began seminary studies this year, the largest group of new archdiocesan seminarians in years. Including them, the archdiocese now has 17 men in formation.
The seminarians come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, and several of them moved to the archdiocese before discerning the call to priesthood.
David Sandler was the director of religious education at St. Anthony, Novato before entering seminary. After spending “a beautiful year” there, “It became very clear that the Lord was calling me beyond a life of youth and young adult ministry and into a life of serving his church fully,” he said.
Leandro Calingasan and Stephen Unachukwu, from St. Augustine Parish and St. Mary’s Cathedral respectively, attended seminary before they immigrated to the United States and discerned the call to priesthood again.
Emmanuel Gutierrez, St. Charles, San Carlos, worked in construction for a decade. Cameron Sellers, Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park, retired as a colonel after more than three decades of service in the U.S. Army and a stint working in a legislative office. Other seminarians worked in information technology, courier service, a movie theater and In-N-Out before joining seminary.
The increase in men discerning a priestly vocation is a boon for the archdiocese, which like much of the U.S. church has struggled lately with vocations. Last summer, the archdiocese hit a twenty-year low in the number of its seminarians in formation. In the past five years, the archdiocese has not accepted more than three applicants in a single year.
A year ago, 10 new seminarians would have seemed “an impossible number. It wouldn’t have made any sense,” vocations director Father Cameron Faller said. “It’s a powerful story of the power of prayer.”
The vocations office has emphasized the importance of praying for vocations. In 2018, the vocations office organized Holy Hours throughout the archdiocese when it had no seminarians to ordain to the priesthood that year. Religious orders, priests, parishes and laity in the archdiocese have all been encouraged to dedicate time to pray for new vocations.
“We’re grateful for the prayer warriors in every parish. Their prayers don’t go unanswered,” he said.
A connection with a friendly priest also makes a difference, Father Faller said. Each of the seminarians “would say there was a priest who helped them during their discernment,” he said.
When asked what advice he would give to men thinking about applying to the seminary, seminarian Jeff Yano, Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park, said “Listen, pray, and get in touch with priests, spiritual directors, even friends and family who can help you properly discern.” Christian Badilla, St. Kevin’s, said “If your decision brings you peace then that is your answer. Do not get discouraged and always pray even if you don’t feel like it or if prayer is dry.”
Two of the new seminarians attend Bishop White Seminary in Spokane, Wash.; two have been given parish assignments in the archdiocese, and six go to St. Patrick Seminary & University.
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Pray always for purity and love