Diocese is blessed with 9 new seminarians as vocation awareness seeds take root

The nine men accepted as seminarians for the Diocese of Peoria last fall all have different stories. The good news of their vocation interest is "obviously the work of prayer and the great support of the people of the Diocese of Peoria," said Father Patrick Henehan, vocation director of recruitment.

Seeds planted at last year’s Hundredfold Workshop to raise awareness of vocations have started to blossom, with nine more men accepted as seminarians for the Diocese of Peoria.

Sent to Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, last fall were: Chip Chipman of St. Patrick Church of Merna, Bloomington; Nathan Hopper of Epiphany, Normal; Justin Lindsey of St. Jude, Peoria; and Jacob Martini of St. Patrick, Ottawa.

Now studying at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, are: Daniel Dionesotes of Holy Trinity, Bloomington; Ryan Mann of St. Columba, Ottawa; Ben Schoonmaker of St. Mary, Rock Island; and Jack Swoik of St. Joseph, Pekin.

Daniel Delgado of St. Patrick, Sheffield, is attending Parkland Community College in Champaign.

“They all have different stories, which is always fascinating and fun,” said Father Timothy Hepner, vocation director of recruitment for the Diocese of Peoria. “It’s not just one place. Obviously our Newman Centers are good, fertile grounds, but honestly we’re seeing our Catholic high schools are, too.”

Both Father Hepner and Father Patrick Henehan, pastor of St. Jude in Peoria and diocesan vocation director of formation, credit something even more important for the good news.

“It’s obviously the work of prayer and the great support of the people of the Diocese of Peoria,” Father Henehan told The Catholic Post.

See related story: New seminarian credits eucharistic adoration


The intention of the Hundredfold Workshop in Peoria last year was not necessarily to recruit seminarians, but to foster a “culture of vocations” across central Illinois. Making that possible are the many vocation apostolates or ministries that have been started as a result of the gathering.

At Blessed Sacrament in Morton, the vocation team has taken several simple activities from “Hundredfold: A Guide to Parish Vocation Ministry,” a book written by workshop presenter Rhonda Gruenewald, and implemented them one step at a time, according to MaryBeth Steinkoenig.

While each seminarian of the Diocese of Peoria has his own “trading card,” this blank card invites prayers for someone who has yet to discover their vocation.

One of the first things was to arrange a vocations panel to speak with students during Catholic Schools Week in January 2017, and invite one of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist to speak with small groups of girls this January. In addition to answering questions last year, the priests and religious played games with the students.

“That way the children got a chance to see their joy and how they lived out their vocations,” Steinkoenig explained.

During National Vocation Awareness Week last November, the team planned a Holy Hour for Vocations and made seminarian “trading cards” from the diocese’s Office of Priestly Vocations available. Like baseball cards, the cards carry pictures and “stats” for each man studying for the priesthood.

“There’s also one trading card that is a blank card and that’s very powerful because then you’re praying for someone who has yet to discover their vocation,” Steinkoenig said.

Last summer, each family with a seventh or eighth grade boy received a letter inviting parents to think about sending their sons to Emmaus Days, a vocation awareness program sponsored by the Diocese of Peoria. Each young man received a personal letter, too.


Prayer is also a very important aspect of what is being done by the LaSalle Catholic Community Vocations Apostolate, Laura Lugo told The Post.

“We are like companions on the journey,” she said, noting that during their Vocations Holy Hour they pray a rosary and a litany of the saints at eucharistic adoration.

“Through this act of love of sitting in adoration we are also on the journey with the seminarian who is hard at work studying or who is having doubts or who is learning so much that he is excited he is on this path of discernment,” Lugo said.

“We are also on the journey with our Lord and keeping him company on a Tuesday, praying the Sorrowful Mysteries,” she said. “Yes, I think this is mostly an act of love and we are blessed to be a part of it.”

“We agreed we would not try to ‘build Rome in a day,’ but that we would start small in our first year and build from there,” Deacon Mike Marvin of Holy Trinity in Bloomington said of the vocation ministry there. “To that end, we have been able to increase awareness and increase public prayers for vocations by various means.”

The team, which includes a member from Historic St. Patrick, did host one major event, however. They welcomed more than 200 people to a reception at Holy Trinity as part of the “Priests Pedaling for Prayers” bike ride across the Diocese of Peoria last April.

“We want to try to help families understand their role in God’s plan for building his kingdom,” Steinkoenig said, expressing her joy and thankfulness at the news of nine new seminarians. “So even if we don’t see something at our parish, I think that is good sign that our prayers are helping hearts see what their vocation might be.”

See related vocation story: Msgr. Ketcham’s influence on vocations recalled by young priests, seminarians


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