Catholic Herald Staff
Discernment of a religious vocation is a deeply personal and private experience; however, in the case of priestly discernment within a diocesan setting, it takes on a very public role.
The personal process will always take precedent, Chris Newkirk, a member of the Diocesan Vocations Team, shared. She expressed the gravity of ensuring that men can discern with the freedom necessary and without pressures of feeling that they have disappointed anyone if they discern out of the seminary.
Fr. Adam Laski used the human analogy of a dating relationship.
“College seminary is like dating. Major seminary is like buying the ring and getting engaged,” he said, adding the “I do” doesn’t take place until ordination to the diaconate.
The priestly ordination follows as a confirmation and solidification of the “I do, and now I am on mission.”
Ben Schmitt and Noah Roe are two young men who entered college seminary as freshman for the 2019-2020 academic year. Discernment has led them to new paths in 2020.
As Vocations Director Fr. Tom Thompson said, “It was a blessing to have them discern with us – but I really appreciate the honesty they both had in their discernment and where they are called to.”
Both young men offered personal messages to be shared.
Ben Schmitt was accepted into UW-Stout’s technical education program and hopes to pursue a career as a middle and high school shop teacher.
Referring to his discernment and time at seminary, he said, “Looking back as a whole, I am very glad that I did go and finish the year, especially since I was really on the fence about it initially. I am extremely grateful for my time there, as it helped me to understand myself and God’s plans for me much more.
“Even though towards the end of my first year it became clear to me that leaving seminary would be the right thing to do, it wasn’t easy to do. Seminary helped me to grow as a man of faith through its structure, community, and many other things that were good in of themselves, but things that I ultimately needed to walk away from. All in all, I am at peace with my decision.”
Noah Roe is currently studying physics at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
He shared, “Diocesan seminary was a great place of growth for me in my spiritual discipline and discernment. I grew in charity, love and fraternity as well as clarity about who I am as a beloved son of the Father. After much prayer, I came to the realization that I have a charism for the traditional Latin Mass and it exclusively. This charism does not fit with the typical diocesan seminary, because the ordinary form of the Mass is usually in English.”
Roe is still considering discernment with a religious order after finishing his degree, but one that celebrates the traditional Latin Mass.
If that is not his calling, he hopes to have “a beautiful Catholic family.”
He added, “All I know is that the seminary was a great way for me to purify my desires and hear the voice of God more clearly.”