More than 1,000 people spent part of Sunday afternoon March 19 at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights mingling with and offering support to seminarians from Borromeo and St. Mary seminaries. The occasion was the 33rd annual Bishop’s Seminary Brunch, which raises money to help support the young men discerning vocations and studying for the priesthood.
Although Bishop Daniel Thomas, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Cleveland, was ill and unable to attend, Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla said he was glad to be there in his place.
“You are really good people. Look how many are here today. I’m sure you would have preferred ‘March Madness,’ but this shows how much you care about the seminarians, priests and the priestly ministry, and that’s important to them,” Bishop Pilla said. “They are talented young men and they could have chosen to do a lot of things, but they chose to do this.”
Ginny and Tom Barnish, parents of Father Jeffrey Barnish who was ordained in May 2015, co-chaired the brunch for the second year.
“We are pleased to be serving once again as co-chairpersons of this magnificent event,” Ginny Barnish said. “Being able to give back in a small way for the many blessings our family has received from our association with the diocesan seminary has certainly enriched our spiritual lives. By your presence here today, we know that you also share in our belief that we are all truly grateful to the young men who have chosen this path in their lives. We pray that you continue to provide our seminarians with both the spiritual and financial support that will enable them to fulfill their vocation.”
The Barnishes said the benefit of doing God’s work can’t be measured by material things like a big house or accolades. They referenced their son, a priest, and their daughter who is doing missionary work, as blessings.
Four of the eight deacons who are on track to be ordained as priests in May were introduced by Father Mark Latcovich, president-rector of the seminaries. Each spoke briefly on an aspect of their ministry and vocation. Speakers and their topics were:
- Deacon Jacob Bearer of St. Mary Parish, Painesville, whose diaconate assignment is at St. John Vianney Parish in Mentor spoke about hidden companions who journey with seminarians and serve as quiet champions of their vocations.
- Deacon Matthew Jordan of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Akron, whose diaconate assignment is at St. Ambrose Parish, Brunswick, talked about priests as servants.
- Deacon Robert (Bobby) McWilliams of Immaculate Conception Parish in Kenmore, whose diaconate assignment is at Our Lady of Angels Parish in Cleveland, discussed priests as spiritual fathers battling for the salvation of souls while guiding the “children” in their care.
- And Deacon Peter Morris of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elyria, whose diaconate assignment is at St. Thomas More Parish, Brooklyn, spoke about priests as compassionate companions who remain passionate about the fire or God’s love.
“It’s at moments like this when I’m proud to be called rector of the seminary,” Father Latcovich said.
Father Michael McCandless, diocesan vocation director, said each vocation begins with a moment of invitation. “Cleveland is a supportive community for vocations,” he said, noting the role many individuals, families and organizations like the Holy Name Society, Parents of Priests, Serrans and Avilas play in making the culture of vocations stronger. “And that makes my job much easier.”
He challenged brunch attendees to “make three individual invitations to a vocation between now and next year’s brunch to continue the Cleveland culture of vocations.
Seminarians in attendance also stood and were recognized.
The seminary choir, directed by Edward Kaczuk, director of music at the seminaries, performed.
Bishop Pilla offered a closing blessing and as attendees filed out, they greeted the seminarians and dropped pledge envelopes into large silver bowls.
Funds generated at the brunch have been used for a variety of things to support seminarians, including new mattresses in the residence halls, rewiring the halls for internet capacity and providing new technology for research, study and proclamation of the Gospel. In addition, funds are used to defray costs for special events like the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and World Youth Day.
Father Latcovich said the rector’s fund provides individual seminarians with support for unexpected expenses like car repairs, medical costs and other miscellaneous needs that could distract them from their full participation in the nine-year formation program.
“I pray that the good work begun by you will be brought to fulfillment through this event today,” he added.
Visit clepriesthood.org for more information on priestly vocations.