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Friday, August 8, 2008

"Seminarians make impact on fellow WYD pilgrims"

From the Pittsburgh Catholic
By John Franko

When Eric Campbell went to World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, he met seminarians who showed him what the seminary was about and what living for Christ was about.

It convinced him that it was a life he wanted to explore.

“That made me want to enter the seminary,” he said. “It changed my life completely.”

Campbell, 20, was one of more than two dozen diocesan seminarians who made the pilgrimage with young people of the diocese during the World Youth Day 2008 gathering in Sydney, Australia.

He interacted with young people from St. Paul in Butler.

Campbell said he was impressed by their faith and their interest in spirituality. Just talking to them and seeing how the event was changing their lives, he noted, gave him hope.

He said he told them of the importance of not being afraid to abandon themselves to God.

“We can show them that its OK to live your life for Christ, to lay down your life for each other,” he said.

Seminarian Kevin Fazio, 36, joined young people from St. Columbkille in Imperial and St. John Neumann in Franklin Park.

Fazio said he waited for teachable moments to talk about the faith, and he found the youths to be very receptive to his sharing.

“You could tell that they were genuinely interested,” he said.

Fazio noted that there were a variety of questions asked about the church, but that people are particularly interested in vocation stories. He recalled a conversation with a young woman from Latvia.

“There’s something unique to a vocations story that people find interesting,” he said. “People from different countries, from all ends of the earth.”

Seminarian Mike Seeger, 19, traveled with St. Sebastian in Ross Township.

He said he was amazed by the openness and honesty of the questions asked by the young people.

It meant a lot to him that he was able to share his own excitement at seeing Pope Benedict XVI with the teens, Seeger said.

“We came back and we were jumping up and down, shaking,” he said. “It was just an amazing experience. Everyone was really excited.”

The reaction of the young people to the seminarians’ presence was overwhelmingly positive.

One adult leader pointed out that at least two of the young men in her group had expressed an interest in the seminary to her. Others were asking more questions.

David Jimenez of St. Bede in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood was part of a group that welcomed seminarian Michael Peck.

Jimenez described Peck, 34, as a “humble and peaceful man” who led them in the Liturgy of the Hours” and created a prayerful focus each day.

“That really provided you with a lot of guidance and reflection,” Jimenez said.

He noted that the excitement and glitz of World Youth Day sometimes overshadows the prayer aspect, but Peck did not allow that to happen.

Kristy Foglia noted that Peck started with morning prayer, ended with evening prayer and said grace at meals in between.

“He really showed that God was in his life and that he can be in mine as well,” she said.

Foglia said she was impressed that Peck, a late vocation, had left his job in order to follow God.

Joanne Sheehan, catechetical administrator at Mater Dolorosa-St. Joseph in Chicora, spoke of the one-on-one communication between seminarian Dave Rombold, 20, and her young people.

She recalled, in particular, their taking part in adoration of the Eucharist together.

“He is such a good example,” she said. “You know what a real person he is. You can be a real person and still love Jesus.”

Sheehan pointed out that Rombold also connected with the parents who made the trip. They also experienced “real-life conversations that weren’t like a sermon.”

The group bought Rombold a gift, and each of them signed it as a token of their appreciation for his contributions.

“He wasn’t a holy roller, he was somebody just like us,” Sheehan said. “That will attract boys to the seminary.”

Sheehan said Rombold described his life at the seminary and what it means to have Bishop David Zubik living there.

She also noted that he talked to each of the young people individually and let them know “how cool” it was that they have Jesus in their lives.

“He brought it to a level that was understandable and interesting,” she said. “It was everyday kind of stuff.”

While the seminarians spoke a lot about their life of discernment, they said their interest in the young people extended beyond recruiting others to join them.

Seminarian Dan Gallagher noted that at an event like World Youth Day young people are looking at themselves in a different way, trying to find where they’re at in their faith.

He said his own real conversion began in Cologne. It was where he really opened his eyes to Christ.

Gallagher, 24, said he wanted to help others do the same.

World Youth Day provided good pastoral experience that could prove valuable in the future, he said.

“As a priest, it would be awesome to lead a pilgrimage to World Youth Day,” he said. “It is such a powerful experience.”

The young people of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Pleasant Hills shared the World Youth Day experience with seminarian Michael Roche.

“He was great,” said Torie Wytiaz. “We just loved having him with us.”

Her brother, Nick, was interested in Roche’s journey to the seminary.

Roche, 29, gave up a career as an accountant. “You realize that it wasn’t what he was called to do,” Nick said. “He had a call to God.”

St. Elizabeth traveled without a priest, and the young people appreciated that Roche was there to provide a spiritual aspect.

Torie said it was “neat” that Roche was as excited as they were to see Pope Benedict.

Nick admitted that the group was initially skeptical about traveling with someone they had never met because they were afraid it would affect their plans. He noted, however, that the skepticism was short-lived.

“It worked out great,” he said. “It was a great program that the diocese decided to have.”

He added that, should the day come, members of the St. Elizabeth group would like to attend Roche’s priestly ordination.

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