Seminarian: Collection helps in studies, discernment

Bill Cremers can point to encouragement from parishioners, priests and Catholic organizations as he discerned his call to the priesthood.
Pursuing his vocation might have proved an unaffordable dream, however, without the northeast Nebraska Catholics who give so freely to the Archdiocese of Omaha’s annual seminary collection, says the third-year seminarian at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
“With my own family background, without scholarships or assistance, it’d be pretty difficult to afford anything,” said Cremers, the son of Jim and Marlene Cremers of St. Anthony Parish in Columbus.
Cremers, 24, is one of 26 men who will benefit from the archdiocese’s latest seminary collection, Jan. 6-7. Archbishop George J. Lucas is scheduled to ordain Cremers a transitional deacon May 25, eight days before current transitional Deacons Padraic Stack, Patrick Moser and Taylor Leffler are ordained the archdiocese’s newest priests.
Father Andrew Roza, archdiocesan director of vocations, said the seminary collection, along with other gifts to the seminary fund, enables the archdiocese to cover educational costs and pay stipends for living expenses for its students in major and minor seminaries. A year’s seminary education averages nearly $40,000. 
And the Archdiocese of Omaha doesn’t require seminarians to repay their costs if they fail to complete their studies all the way to ordination, unlike some Catholic dioceses, Father Roza added.
“We would never want to leave a man feeling stuck with a debt that would leave him feeling forced to move forward,” he said. “Certainly dating would be much different if the couple expected every meal, movie and gift to be repaid in the case of breaking up prior to marriage!”
Cremers said he also has received financial gifts from St. Anthony parishioners and two local councils of the Knights of Columbus: St. Anthony Council 9264 in Columbus in his home parish, and Genoa’s St. Rose of Lima Council 10607, in the parish where his father grew up. And he has received gifts from individual priests.
“It definitely inspires me,” said the 2011 graduate of Scotus Central Catholic High School in Columbus. “As a priest, I’ll want to be generous to seminarians, too.”
Cremers said he began to feel the tug toward priesthood during his teen years at Scotus Central Catholic, although some St. Anthony parishioners will say “they saw priesthood coming” before that – from watching him as an altar server at Mass.
He credits JC Camp, an annual summer retreat sponsored by Columbus’ three parishes, with awakening his faith after eighth grade. It “led me to encounter Christ in a way I hadn’t before and to see my friends in a different way and to see the difference faith makes,” he said.
Cremers said his maternal grandfather, the late Ray Bonk of Columbus, had once been a Franciscan and studied for the priesthood. Bonk offered him advice, he said, but it was Father Dan Andrews, now pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk, who first suggested priesthood, while Cremer was a JC Camp junior counselor between his freshman and sophomore years in high school.
“Realizing what is expected of a priest, I wasn’t sure if I could be one of them,” Cremers said. But by the start of his senior year at Scotus Central Catholic, “I surrendered to the Lord’s will.”
He treasures his undergraduate years at Conception Seminary (Mo.), from which he graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. When he’s not studying at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary – where Father Paul Hoesing, on leave from the Omaha archdiocese, serves as dean of seminarians – Cremers has studied Spanish in Guatemala and gained ministry experience in rural parishes and in Omaha.
“Whereas I started seminary just knowing Columbus, I’ve gotten to know the archdiocese as my home,” Cremers said. Once he’s ordained in 2019, “I know there won’t be a bad assignment. Christ is always present,” he said. 
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