Tioga 'adopts' seminarians - Catholic Courier

Tioga ‘adopts’ seminarians

Of the five men working toward the diocesan priesthood, none have physical proximity to Tioga County: Two are stationed near Rochester and the other three are attending seminary in Washington, D.C., Rome and Illinois.

Yet a closeness has developed nonetheless, thanks to an ongoing project in the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in which individual faith communities have “adopted” seminarians.

For the past several months, each church has prayed for its designated seminarian during the prayers of the faithful at Sunday Mass. Parishioners are also encouraged to mail occasional notes of support to the young men.

This initiative is the brainchild of Father William Coffas, parochial vicar at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, where he has served since his 2004 ordination to the diocesan priesthood. With six faith communities in Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick for the five seminarians, the breakdown is almost even. More importantly, Father Coffas said, the effort produces what he calls a “double message.”

“We want to encourage the seminarians, let them know we support them and are praying for them. I also think it sends an important message to those discerning the priesthood — ‘if you go into this, you will be supported as well,'” Father Coffas said.

The worship sites and their adopted seminarians are:

* St. Margaret Mary, Apalachin — Jeff Tunnicliff, who is currently in his third year of theological studies at Theological College, a part of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Tunnicliff is due to be ordained in June 2006 as a transitional deacon — a final step toward priestly ordination that usually occurs about a year later.

* St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley — Hoan Dinh, who is serving his pastoral year at St. Joseph Parish in Penfield, Monroe County. He is getting a year’s experience in parish ministry after having completed three theology years at the American College in Louvain, Belgium. Dinh’s ordination as a transitional deacon is set for June 2006.

* St. Francis, Catatonk — Paul Flansburg, who is serving his pastoral year at St. Paul Parish in Webster, Monroe County. He will return to Theological College in Washington next fall for his third theology year.

* St. James, Waverly — Edison Tayag, who is in his third theology year at North American College in Vatican City.

* St. Pius X, Van Etten — Brian Carpenter, who is in his second theology year at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.

The only Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick worship site without an adopted diocesan seminarian is St. Patrick Parish in Owego. That faith community will instead link up with a man or woman in formation for the permanent diaconate or a religious order.

Tunnicliff — whose home parish is nearby Schuyler Catholic Community — has connected with his adopted faith community by preaching at St. Margaret Mary. Father Coffas added that he expects more seminarians to eventually make appearances in their respective churches. In the meantime, people such as Flansburg are grateful for the support they’re getting from afar.

“I’m very touched by the fact there’s one parish in the diocese — probably the whole world — that’s committed to praying for me every weekend. That’s fabulous,” Flansburg said, adding that the project enables faith communities to support people such as himself “on a very personal level.”

Carol Dady, diocesan coordinator of priesthood vocations awareness and discernment, is enthusiastic about the Tioga County project as well.

“It’s especially wonderful to hear that some of our faith communities are praying regularly for our seminarians and corresponding with them while they are away at school. I know that the men appreciate the prayers and the connection to home,” Dady said

Father Coffas’ emphasis on promoting vocations goes back prior to his priestly ordination. In 2001-02, while serving his pastoral year at St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn, he was a key figure in founding a vocations-awareness program there. As part of that effort, he wrote vocations-related articles in the parish bulletin — a practice he has continued since coming to Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick. Father Coffas is also a Southern Tier regional representative on the diocesan Vocations Awareness Team.

Dady said that the need for such publicity is ongoing, remarking that not enough parishes get consistent information about the seminarians.

“I am always somewhat surprised when I encounter people in our diocese who are unaware that we have men in seminary studying for the diocesan priesthood,” she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about the seminarians for the Diocese of Rochester, as well as vocations in general, visit www.dor.org/vocations.

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