Archbishop gets personal

burke 01 A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Newsday story that examined a trend of older men entering the seminary and becoming ordained in a New York diocese. The otherwise solid story failed to examine whether the bishop had contributed to the influx of seminarians and ordinations. In response, faithful GR reader FW Ken wrote that the personal involvement of the bishop encouraged vocations:

I used to have an interesting article on vocations that stressed the importance of the bishop's attention to drawing men into vocation. Our bishop also made vocations a priority by meeting the guys up front, spending time with them in person and by phone, and creating a mechanism to allow Spanish speakers into the process before they learn English.

Speak of the devil -- or God. Now Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has written a story with a similar sub-theme: the personal involvement of the archbishop has encouraged seminarians to become ordained.

Once or twice a year, each student at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will drop by Archbishop Raymond Burke's residence in the Central West End at 4:30 p.m. From there, they set off down Lindell Avenue and into Forest Park..

"The walks," as the seminarians call them, are opportunities for young men to have heart-to-hearts with a man who regularly meets with the pope, a heady prospect for a young priest-in-training. The conversations are usually casual, and the seminarians get to see a more personal, human side of Burke -- like when he gets a little skittish around off-leash dogs.

Kenrick officials organize the walks using time sheets. When the sheets are posted, there's a rush to sign on.

"It's like when you throw pellets at the Japanese fish at the Botanical Gardens," said seminarian Edward Nemeth, 26. "Guys falling over each other to get their names on the list."

Avid GR readers will recognize the characteristic Towsend-ian virtues of the passages above: the novelistic details, the perspective of seminarians while they meet with the archbishop, etc. The first two paragraphs might be the first I have read about a meeting or colloquy between an archbishop and seminarian.

Still, I think that Townsend could have done better in one way. He noted that the seminarians like Archbishop Burke's devotion to the Latin Mass. Yet he suggested that seminarians like him for another reason as well:

Strength, [Deacon Edward] Nemeth said, came from watching Burke deal with controversy in the succeeding years, an example the archbishop continues to set for future seminarians.

"He stands for truth when he knows that's not going to be easy," Nemeth said, "so we know he'll support us when we have to do the same."

Hmm. I wonder if Nemeth is referring to Archbishop Burke's well-known position about not giving Holy Communion to obstinate pro-choice politicians. If so, do other would-be seminarians and seminarians agree with Nemeth? Their admiration would make sense. After all, Thomas Reese, S.J. is quoted in the story saying that these priestly recruits and seminarians are much more conservative than ordinary Catholics.

I am not asking for much: Just an extra sentence or two in an otherwise well-done story.

(Photo by Todd Ehlers used under a Creative Commons license.)

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