Seminarian parents form friendships based on common bond

Stacey Floersch of Omaha and Diane Leffler of West Point share a wonderful friendship.
Yet they probably would have never met, except for one big thing they have in common: Both have sons studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Stacey was first introduced to the Leffler family when her son, Paul, broke his leg playing soccer three years ago in his first year in seminary. She received a telephone call from Diane’s son, Taylor, also studying at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.
Taylor reassured her, Stacey said, but also noted, ‘“It’s really a bad fracture.’”
That sent Stacey straight down to St. Louis, meeting Taylor for the first time. (“Taylor was amazing, he was with Paul the whole time,” she said.) Just weeks later, she met Diane at an archdiocesan dinner for the parents of seminarians. 
The two hit it off immediately. And like other seminarian parents through the years, they have gotten to know each other well. That’s in part due to annual “back-to-school, seminarians-with-their-families” picnics with Archbishop George J. Lucas, a seminarian parents’ dinner each fall and a gathering at Christmas, also with the archbishop.
But there is even more to this particular relationship.
Diane, an outgoing woman who laughs easily and often, has been battling pancreatic cancer for the last two years. A member of St. Mary Parish in West Point, she frequently travels to a cancer center in Omaha for chemotherapy treatments.
And Stacey, a quietly generous introvert from St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, has become a mainstay of prayer and support, bringing lunch to many of Diane’s visits. 
“What do we do? We visit! We just visit,” Diane said. “I remember one of my initial treatments, she brought me a prayer package.”
“We never talk about her illness at all,” Stacey said. “There’s always something to talk about,” such as the latest goings-on with their sons and daughters.
That includes now-transitional Deacon Taylor Leffler preparing for his June 2 ordination to the priesthood with fellow transitional Deacons Patrick Moser and Padraic Stack. And Paul Floersch, now in Rome for his first year of graduate-school theology.
Stacey recently gave Diane some centerpiece lanterns she and her husband, Mark, used for their second-oldest son’s wedding last December, to help Diane and her husband, Dana, decorate for the priest ordination party they plan in West Point. And Diane is there to help with any need, Stacey said.
Stacey and Diane’s easy relationship, based on faith and the common bond of seminarian sons, is similar to that which develops naturally among many seminarian parents, though often not as dramatically.
Deacon Moser’s mother, Sandy, said she and her husband, Edward, of St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater, have attended several of the seminarian gatherings in Omaha, about three hours from their home. The common experience of having seminarian sons makes for solid friendships, and they discover parents of seminarians closer to home, as well, such as in O’Neill and West Point.
“It’s nice to know they understand what you’re going through,” she said.
The archdiocesan Vocations Office does its part to encourage these ties by organizing the gatherings, which include the archbishop and Father Andrew Roza, vocations director.
The gatherings give parents a chance to visit with one another, with the archbishop and with their sons’ friends in the seminary, Father Roza said. The parents’ dinner in particular gives them time just with one another, and even more opportunity to ask questions of both him and the archbishop, he said.
“It’s a chance to talk with each parent, share stories. It’s a really enjoyable event,” he said. “Their friendships are a big win for everybody.”
Now there is talk among some parents of starting a monthly rosary group to pray for their sons, Diane and Stacey said. Father Roza said he is in full support.
“Of course, I love that kind of thing,” he said.
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