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Then-seminarians Robert Lawson, Joseph Martin and Jeffrey Fennewald gathered with other seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Louis for dinner in 2023 at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
Then-seminarians Robert Lawson, Joseph Martin and Jeffrey Fennewald gathered with other seminarians from the Archdiocese of St. Louis for dinner in 2023 at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

ACA | Seminary forms a life of service to the Church

Fathers Jeffrey Fennewald, Robert Lawson and Joseph Martin ordained May 25 for the Archdiocese of St. Louis

When three men were ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in the spring, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary president-rector Father Paul Hoesing was reminded of the years of formation they underwent on their journey to the priesthood.

Fathers Jeffrey Fennewald, Robert Lawson and Joseph Martin, ordained May 25 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, have been well-prepared for a lifelong commitment to serve the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, he said. That seminary formation thrives because of the support of committed benefactors and those who give to the Annual Catholic Appeal every year, he said.

“Every ACA contribution supports the training of future priests for this archdiocese, so a yearly donation potentially affects their decades-long service,” he said. “Kenrick-Glennon Seminary thrives with (ACA) support and moves a new generation of priests to be indebted in service and love to the people who have been so generous through the years. The men of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary are learning that their whole life, and especially Jesus’ ministerial priesthood, is a completely gratuitous gift. In other words, we cannot earn love, and the gift of love is meant to inspire a lifelong response.”

In his transitional diaconate year before ordination to the priesthood, Father Robert Lawson baptized 24 babies while assigned at Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield. While his seminarian classmates unofficially crowned him as “top in the class” for baptisms, it was a taste of what was to come as a priest.

“In the opening prayer, it says you’re rejoicing because of your child’s birth, and the Church is rejoicing with you also,” he said, “because today, the number of people won for Christ is increased. There’s just something blessed about being able to be that person who brings this child into new life in Christ.”

He reminds parents that it takes a village to raise a child, and the parish is an important part of that community of support. He, too, is there to support them through his priesthood. “The Church as a whole is here to support you,” he said.

Father Jeffrey Fennewald

Fr. Fennewald
Father Fennewald found positive influences at his youth group at Sacred Heart Parish in Troy, including his youth minister, Eddie Voltz — who eventually became Father Eddie Voltz. Some of the older parishioners at Sacred Heart also told him he’d make a great priest. But then it started happening among his peers at Benedictine College, where he was studying.

“The people who seemed the most free and joyful were the people I saw staying close to the Eucharist and confession,” he said. “Jesus was drawing me to Himself, and the witness of these people and the priests were immensely impactful.”

In his transitional diaconate year at Ascension Parish in Chesterfield, Father Fennewald found that the connections he made with parishioners reinforced the formation he received at the seminary, whether through a conversation with someone about a homily he gave or by making connections with young adults.

In his final steps before ordination, Father Fennewald and his classmates practiced administering the sacraments of reconciliation and baptism and celebrating Mass. Even though the words had no meaning in those practice sessions, he found himself in a sacred place and growing in excitement for his vocation as a priest. “My vision for what I hope to do as a priest hasn’t really changed, but it’s the excitement and the awe that has become more great,” he said.

Father Robert Lawson

Fr. Lawson
One of Father Lawson’s first priestly influences happened in the second grade, when as a student at Holy Trinity School in St. Ann, he observed students light up when parish pastor Msgr. John Leykam visited the class. By high school, it was no secret that he was interested in the priesthood.

Through his seminary formation, a break from studies to attend to some health needs and being there to support the faith community when his grade school and parish closed, Father Lawson said he discovered hope and the understanding that all he has done on the path to priesthood comes through trusting God.

“One of the things I’m looking forward to bringing that further into priesthood will be just the being able to give myself even more fully to the people of God in a more stable state,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being able to really dive deep into the parish life.”

Father Joseph Martin

Fr. Martin
Father Martin grew up in a tight-knit family. He received the faith from his parents, and through his experience of homeschooling received a strong catechesis and exposure to Catholic culture and traditions. At a young age, he served at Mass, and eventually other priests asked him if he had considered the priesthood.

He didn’t rule out the idea of priesthood — and as it seems, God didn’t either. By college, he knew he couldn’t compartmentalize his faith, so he stayed close to the sacraments and made more conscious choices to develop his prayer life and invest in friends who shared the same faith and values.

As a transitional deacon serving at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin this past year, Father Martin said there were plenty of opportunities to grow in confidence and put into practice the formation he received in the seminary. One of those ways was by making himself available to help with eucharistic adoration when needed.

“I remember saying, Lord, you have to take care of me now,” he recalled when discerning his vocation. “But then He keeps giving me opportunities to take care of Him and to make Him available to the people. That has helped me grow as a person. My needs are being met with Jesus in the Eucharist, so I’m free to go and be available to other people.”

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