No matter where they were, seminarians found grace this summer
September 1, 2023
Archdiocese seminarians took on a variety of jobs this summer, but no matter where they were, they saw God at work, too.
At a recent gathering for the seminarians and their families, the young men reflected on the graces they received over the summer as they helped at parishes, camps and at workplaces.
Here’s a sampling of those graces from just six of the seminarians:
Elhabbal, of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha, said God helped him over the summer to overcome fears he had after he chose to enter the seminary. Elhabbal is entering his first year at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Lord “reassured me, like no matter where I was – whether I was in the seminary, going to college, whatever path – He was going to be there for me. But He didn’t want that fear in my life, because He could be all the more present to me when there’s no fear.”
Pohlman, of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, said: “I’ve gotten to know the drive from Cedar County to Omaha very well because we’ve had lots of family weddings this summer: two sisters and a cousin. The real blessing in that has been having a front row seat to just the initial joys and blessings of married life.”
That view also helped him envision his call to the celibacy of the priesthood, Pohlman said, as he enters his fourth year of theology studies at the North American College in Rome and is on track to be ordained in May.
Hepp, of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, said: “The grace from this summer for me was Jesus really showed me my strengths and weaknesses. And He helped me to accept both of them, especially the weaknesses, because most people, I feel, struggle to accept their weaknesses.”
“But for me, in a particular way, I really struggled with this idea that I need to be perfect.”
The Lord helped him realize his uniqueness in regard to his vocation, Hepp said, and he will continue to “dig into that a little more deeply” as he begins his third year of theology studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
LaSala, of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, said that over the summer, as a missionary in the Totus Tuus youth program, “I was living a really simple life, and I wasn’t living in the world. I was living for Christ. And I found that to be really fulfilling. I found that I was just completely filled up …”
“I also found I was just coming to know a little bit more about my heart and the ways that the Lord wants to love my heart,” said LaSala, who is starting his second year at St. John Vianney College Seminary.
Conrad, of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fort Calhoun, found himself leading an RCIA class this summer.
“We were talking about the Father’s merciful love for us, and I was explaining to the nine candidates about the prodigal son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son,” said Conrad, who is entering his second year of theology studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. “And I asked them: Has anyone heard this before? And all of them said no. So I said ‘OK. Cool. Let me explain it to you.’
“So I walked them through the parable …”
“What ensued was just a beautiful conversation of how God never turns His back on you, that He’s always pursuing you, He is always waiting for you, no matter what. … And to see them open up there and just spend the rest of the evening sharing their stories and their hearts with each other, it was just a beautiful grace.”
Gunderson, of Christ the King Parish in Omaha, is is entering his first year at St. John Vianney Seminary College.
He found grace at his workplace.
“A particular grace that struck me this year was with my twin brother, Grant,” Gunderson said. “I entered this summer doing a job at Runza that was very difficult for me. … I couldn’t reach these new strangers, these new co-workers of mine. … And it dawned on me: It was so hard because I just wanted to try to give myself to my co-workers as best I could. But it seemed like every time I was just failing.”
At a get-together with family, Gunderson talked with his twin and another brother. Grant “was saying back in middle school he made it his goal to make other people happy, that it was his job to serve others. … It blew me away because I know when I was in middle school … it was all about me, like how can I be cool, how can I pursue my dreams?
“But here I’m hearing the humility of my twin brother, and it touched my heart. So it was from there that I decided, well, if he can make his goal … so can I.”
From then on, Gunderson made his work relations all about love, and everything changed.
“The last couple weeks were the greatest weeks at Runza I could have ever asked for. … But it couldn’t have started without my twin.”