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Seminarian Brett Jamrog provides instruction to Kristi Cornelius’ fifth grade religion class at St. Cecilia School, one of many responsibilities he has embraced during a pastoral internship year at St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha. SUSAN SZALEWSKI

Seminarian’s year a boon for St. Cecilia Parish

Brett Jamrog is taking a yearlong break from college classes at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. But he’s not taking it easy.

The 26-year-old major seminarian is learning, growing and working during a pastoral internship year at St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha. 

He’s been teaching religion at the parish grade school, helping with liturgy at the cathedral, leading young adult Bible study, coaching seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball, running parish social media accounts, helping present a videotaped “Catholicism” series, leading a table of parishioners at Alpha faith enrichment sessions, preparing immigrant youths to receive the sacraments – and more.

Father Michael Grewe, pastor of St. Cecilia, welcomed the seminarian and gave him plenty of latitude. He “let me dive in and take a leadership role,” Jamrog said. 

Father Grewe, who is also vicar general for the archdiocese, said St. Cecilia parishioners have been friendly, supportive and excited to have Jamrog serving the parish.

“We try to get him involved in the active life of a parish,” Father Grewe said, and that broad range of experience can help a seminarian discover his talents – and the parish benefits as a result.

Jamrog said that soon after arriving at St. Cecilia in August, he reached out to the school about teaching. He visits most classrooms at least weekly and spends more time with seventh- and eighth-graders, said Julia Pick, principal at St. Cecilia School.

“Mr. Jamrog has been such a positive addition to the St. Cecilia Cathedral community this year, both in the parish and the school,” she said. “Seeing the collar in the classrooms on a weekly basis is something that not every school can offer and we are lucky to have Mr. Jamrog here with us, even for such a short amount of time. ... The students enjoy seeing him so frequently and he has such a great voice for Catholicism.”

Throughout the parish Jamrog has been trying different things, is willing to get involved and is comfortable mingling, talking, sharing and making people feel welcome – all good qualities for a priest, Father Grewe said. 

“He’s a self-starter and that’s served him – and us,” he said. “I just see so much potential in him.”

St. Cecilia, the mother church of the archdiocese, is a particularly good place for a seminarian to learn, Father Grewe said. Jamrog, who grew up in the Diocese of Lincoln and began in seminary there, said being at St. Cecilia has helped him meet clergy and lay people from throughout the archdiocese because of the many archdiocesan events held at the cathedral.

Jamrog said that when he started the year, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to effectively minister to adults, an area he sees as crucial to the church’s future.

But leading a table of parishioners in St. Cecilia’s Alpha program helped him grow in confidence, he said, and that role and others helped him realize that God gave him abilities in speaking, teaching and leading.

“The pastoral year has made the priesthood seem more attainable,” Jamrog said, and calmed some of his fears about what he saw as his inadequacies.

Not all seminarians are assigned a pastoral internship year. But Jamrog and others have benefited from the experience, said Father Andrew Roza, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Omaha. The assignment “can help a man feel more comfortable and confident in the parish setting and within the archdiocese as a whole,” he said.

“We want for each man to be able to approach ordination with moral certitude that he is in the right place and that he has the requisite abilities and maturity to have a really amazing life as a priest,” he said. “If we believe that a pastoral year will significantly assist a man in arriving at that confidence, then we ask him to do one. It usually turns out to be a real gift both to the man and to the parish to which he is assigned.”

That seems to be the case for Jamrog, Father Roza said. “Brett has a really approachable and positive way about him, and I think that has allowed him to make an impact in the short time that he’s been at St. Cecilia.”

Jamrog said his parents, Connie and Jeff Jamrog, raised him to be disciplined and motivated. Connie Jamrog teaches fifth grade at St. Gerald School in Ralston. Jeff, a former Husker football player, is now a coach at Midland University in Fremont.

The parents urged their son to give his all in everything, even an Xbox game, Brett Jamrog said. And now, “I’m kind of an all-or-nothing person,” he said.

St. Cecilia parishioner Michelle Desmet said she has seen how much Jamrog has grown in the five months she’s known him, when the two first met at an Alpha session.

“He definitely is very spiritual, enthusiastic, a leader and a great role model,” she said. “All of us that have come to know him believe he has the gifts for becoming a fantastic priest.”

Jamrog’s vocation story

Brett Jamrog grew up in Lincoln, graduating from Pius X High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

In college, he said, he had a “powerful reversion” to the faith he’d grown up with. He credited the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), a mission trip to an orphanage in Ukraine, and a Diocese of Lincoln priest he kept in contact with through high school and college who “made the priesthood relatable and holiness attractive.”

The priest, Father Ben Holdren, modeled a life of prayer, gave inspiring homilies, treated everyone the same and was “loving, like the Lord,” Jamrog said. 

It was during the Ukraine trip, after Jamrog’s sophomore year in college, that he first thought about becoming a priest. In the following years, he said, he prayed more about his vocation but deep down seemed to be avoiding it.

He had been accepted as a FOCUS missionary and was about to embark on that path after graduation, he said, but God started making it clear that he wanted him to enter seminary.

So a day before booking his flight for a FOCUS trip, he talked with Lincoln diocese’s vocations director and changed course.

After Jamrog’s first seminary year, his parents moved to Elkhorn. He eventually joined them in the Archdiocese of Omaha.

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