PROVIDENCE — The Seminary of Our Lady of Providence has a few new faces this year as the community welcomes 13 new young men from New England dioceses, eight of whom are studying for the Diocese of Providence. This is the highest number of incoming seminarians in the Diocese of Providence in almost 40 years. There will be 21 seminarians in total at OLP beginning this fall.
In a message on Twitter, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin asked faithful to, “Pray for our seminarians, including the new students. God said, ‘I will give you shepherds,’ and indeed He is!”
“It is very exciting to have these eight new men [for the Diocese of Providence] joining us,” said Father Brian J. Morris, director of Vocations for the Diocese of Providence. “It will mean that we will have a full house at OLP Seminary.”
Father Morris said that each of these men brings his own diverse background to not just the house, but also to the people who will engage with them.
“The diversity of their backgrounds shows that there is no cookie-cutter formula for who should enter seminary,” explained Father Morris. “And we’ve got guys from parishes from across the diocese, from Providence to Newport, from Central Falls to Cranston and many places in between. My hope is that other men will see these guys and be inspired to ask the question of themselves, ‘Is God calling me to this life?’”
Father Morris credits the prayers of so many people of the diocese with producing the great number of seminarians this year. He also credits novenas and time spent by groups praying before the Blessed Sacrament, with others offering their intentions to foster, affirm and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the diocese through prayer, activities and events.
“And if all of those things seem too overwhelming, just say a Hail Mary each day to Our Lady of Providence that she might intercede in the hearts of men who are considering the call.”
Hailing from Bayaguana in the Dominican Republic, 28-year-old Jairon Olmos is eager to begin his journey as a seminarian here in the Diocese of Providence.
Always offering a smile, Olmos shared with Rhode Island Catholic that even as a child he felt God calling him to the priesthood.
“I am very excited to start this new and first year as a seminarian of the Diocese of Providence and even more so, to start my theological studies. I hope that the theology classes will help me understand more of the sacred scriptures, the sacraments and the life of the Church, but most importantly to help me grow in faith and love for the Catholic Church.”
Nathan Ledoux, 22, will soon begin his academic year of study in Pre-Theology I. A La Salle Academy alum, originally from Rehoboth, Mass., where his family still resides, Ledoux fondly remembers attending Mass at St. Joseph’s in Newport and St. Leo the Great in Pawtucket throughout his childhood.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the other seminarians from our own diocese and the dioceses around New England. It will be a wonderful opportunity to have other young men to face the challenges of formation with through prayer and community. I am excited to continue my studies at Providence College and to become better acquainted with various members of our diocesan community throughout this year.”
Stephen Coutcher, 22, of West Warwick, who will soon begin his year of study in Pre-Theology I, shared that the most helpful tool during his discernment thus far has been silent and contemplative prayer during adoration or before the Blessed Sacrament. He added that he is looking forward to the experience of living and praying together with his brother seminarians as they all try to discern God’s vocation.
He encourages those considering the priesthood to make an effort to pray the rosary daily, asking Mary to intercede for clarity in discernment and to talk to their vocations director.
“Don’t be a ‘cyber-discerner,’ it truly helps to talk about everything you’re experiencing with somebody who has been there. He can answer any questions you may have about seminary life far better than anything you’ll read online.”
Father Christopher Murphy, rector of the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and director of Pre-Ordination Formation, said that along with Providence, the seminary has individuals coming from the dioceses around New England including Manchester, Boston, Hartford, Fall River, Portland and Burlington.
As for seminary life in a time of a global pandemic, Father Murphy added that the faculty of Our Lady of Providence is working closely with the diocese, the Department of Health, Deacon Dr. Timothy Flannigan — a professor of medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals — and rectors from other seminaries to ensure the safety of all those at OLP.
“The program will be adjusted with the health and wellbeing of our seminarians and staff in mind. However, we will also ensure that the program of priestly formation is as full and rich an experience as possible.”
Father Murphy shared his sincere gratitude for all who continue to take the time to pray for seminarians and for the program at the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence.
“Please pray that we navigate the current challenges of our day, anchored in hope and rooted in Christ, confident that the Church will emerge as a beacon for those suffering in the world today. Pray for our seminarians that they may dedicate themselves to their prayer and studies, so that they may one day serve as faithful shepherds of God’s flock.”
For those discerning the priesthood, Father Murphy offered three words of advice: Pray, trust and respond.
“If the call to priesthood has been placed on your heart, you will know it through sincere prayer,” he said.
“God does not deceive or mislead us. Once our vocation has been realized, we need to respond to it. We do so by decisive decision and action. Call the vocation director. Speak to your pastor. Attend a vocation retreat. Read a book on priesthood. Ask for an application to seminary. Trust in the Lord.”
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