Geneva seminarian finds joy, challenges in vocational journey - Catholic Courier
Priests and seminarians leave Mass.

Seminarian David Cataline recesses from an Aug. 3 Mass at St. Dominic Church in Shortsville during which the faithful prayed for diocesan seminarians. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Geneva seminarian finds joy, challenges in vocational journey

Later vocations are still vocations, according to seminarian David Cataline.

Cataline — who entered St. John’s Seminary in Boston at age 43 — spoke to the Catholic Courier earlier this summer about the benefits and challenges of being an older seminarian.

For example, he said, old habits are harder to break, getting back into the swing of academic work took some practice, and feeling like an older brother to the other, much younger seminarians required some adjustment.

On the other hand, being older means being more experienced: “I had so much experience in the world dealing with not just church and parish information, but also working in school administration and education,” he said.

Seeds of a vocation started at seminarian’s home parish in Geneva

A native of Geneva, Cataline, 47, has been involved in church ministry since fourth grade. In his youth, he was an altar server at his home parish of St. Stephen in Geneva (now Our Lady of Peace Parish), and he worked in the church rectory during high school. After that, he served as a catechist for 10 years.

Despite his deep involvement in parish life, he did not think a priestly vocation would be in the cards for him.

“Out of the three brothers in my family, I was the one who was going to provide the grandchildren,” Cataline explained, saying he felt he had a familial obligation to expand the family tree.

He said that God kept him close for a reason, though, even if God’s plan for his life took a little time to come to fruition.

“God has a way of getting his way, as Father (William) Coffas always says!” Cataline remarked.

Pastor offered seminarian many ways to learn about parish and priestly life

In August, Cataline concluded his pastoral year at Our Mother of Sorrows and Holy Cross parishes in Greece and Rochester under the direction of Father Coffas, who is the parishes’ pastor.

A pastoral year, which is optional for Diocese of Rochester seminarians, is a yearlong period of field work and hands-on learning at a parish, somewhat like an internship or residency. A seminarian can apply for a pastoral year, and at the discretion of the pastor of the parish to which he is assigned, he can participate in or take on leadership roles in the parish to gain experience in priestly ministry and parish administration, Cataline explained.

He said that Father Coffas was very generous when assigning tasks and offered him the opportunity to see what it is like being a pastor of two separate parishes and having to learn about different personalities and procedures while offering pastoral care.

“I appreciated my ability to go to Father Coffas and say, ‘Hey, I have this idea,’ and he’s like, ‘Let’s run with it and see how that works,’” Cataline said. “Not many people can actually do that, and that’s why I think this (Our Mother of Sorrows/Holy Cross) is a very great place to have a pastoral year, because you have a pastor who is very open to your suggestions, and he’s also very good at giving feedback and critiquing.”

He added that Father Coffas “leads with a pastoral heart. In that itself, the pastoral year has been a really good experience.”

Seminarian was involved in administrative, pastoral aspects of running a parish

Cataline said that serving the two parishes kept him busy. Not only did he oversee the triduum liturgies during Easter and assist at funerals, weddings and Masses, he also worked on special projects for the churches as well.

For example, he said he implemented the use of an online scheduling system for liturgical ministers to keep better track of their availability and more evenly distribute ministry participation. He also helped to strengthen the joint family faith-formation program and created the Blessed Grimoaldo Santa Maria Altar Server Society, a program to encourage greater devotion and attention to the ministry of altar server.

One of his favorite tasks, he said, was joining Father Coffas, then-Parochial Vicar Father Joseph Martuscello and senior priest Father Robert Schrader in visiting nursing homes to distribute holy Communion and administer anointings.

Cataline said that he also appreciated being a part of transitions happening in the parish, which was a unique experience. For instance, being a part of changes in priestly assignments — such as when Father Justin Miller replaced Father Martuscello, who in June was assigned to Auburn’s St. Mary Parish — is different when one is part of a priestly fraternity, he remarked.

“Many (seminarians) don’t experience that turnover, that change. It’s not going to be the same,” Cataline said, referring to how a priest must adjust to parting with a brother priest with whom he shared work and daily life and learning to live and work with someone new.

But learning about such turnover firsthand was important, he said, as was having the opportunity to interact with priests with whom he will be working after his anticipated ordination in 2026.

Pastoral year at Our Mother of Sorrows and Holy Cross strengthened seminarian’s vocation

Not only did his pastoral year give him practical experience in the skills he will need for the future, it also strengthened his feelings on his choice of vocation, Cataline said.

“I’ve grown deeper in love with the parish life … (and) I’ve grown more in love with the sacraments and being with the people,” he said.

He highly recommends that seminarians consider a pastoral year, noting that there is so much to learn in a seminary but even more in a parish.

He also encourages others, especially young people, to attend the annual seminarian and vocations Mass and picnic hosted by the diocese every summer to meet the seminarians most people only see in photos on posters in churches.

“I also encourage people, if they are thinking about religious life or being a priest, the two things you should always seek to attend is a priestly ordination or the funeral of a priest,” Cataline said. “If you want to learn the impact of a priest, go to their funeral.”

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