In his fourth year at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, David Halfmann has noticed a subtle difference in the first few weeks of the academic year.
There are more seminarians than before.
"Every day I meet three or four more people," said Halfmann, a senior in the Cardinal Glennon College program. "It used to be you'd walk into class and know everybody. Nowadays, I walk into class and don't know half of them. ... I enjoy seeing familiar faces and meeting the new guys."
The influx of seminarians creates an energy and character unique to each academic year, with the newcomers replacing the gents who have gone on to be ordained for their dioceses — their priestly formation complete.
This year, more seminarians add to the buzz. With 133 slots available, Kenrick-Glennon has an enrollment of 132, one short of a full house. The enrollment is the most in more than 32 years; it was at 131 in 1985.
Not that the seminary is bursting at the seams. The seminarians have ample room to stretch out on the 22-acre campus in Shrewsbury.
"We have just the right amount of space," said Father Paul Hoesing, in his third year as dean of seminarians. The enrollment lends itself to "a cohesive community life."
The seminary's community life is first-rate, combining with the academic rigors and spiritual development for the hat trick of nonpareil priestly formation. With a sterling reputation, Kenrick-Glennon is a go-to institution for dioceses to send seminarians.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has the largest contingent of seminarians at 48; the number has been in the 46-50 range for the past five years and was in the 44-57 range for six of the previous eight. Seventeen dioceses and religious orders send men to Kenrick-Glennon, including seven new ones over the past two years. Oklahoma City and Sioux Falls, S.D., are new sending dioceses this year.
"We have some very supportive bishops in the region, and we are very involved with the vocation directors of the region, too," said Father Hoesing, who helps in that regard along with seminary vice-rector Father Chris Martin. The archdiocesan director of vocations, Father Martin is president of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors; he succeeded none other than Father Hoesing in that role. Plus, the archdiocese hosted the national organization two years ago.
"Kenrick has had opportunities to present and be present to vocations, and that has helped," said Father Hoesing, adding, "Any time you add bishops and dioceses to your roster, you're going to see an increase in enrollment."
Among the newcomers are college freshman Ryan Geris from the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., and pre-theology student Joseph Martin from St. Louis.
Geris, 18, is among 14 seminarians from Kansas City, Kan., which ranks second to St. Louis in number. He chose seminary life after being "blown away by an overwhelming sense of peace and joy (and) by seeing the brotherhood and community aspect" on a come-and-see weekend.
Martin, 23, comes to Kenrick-Glennon after earning a degree in math and finance at St. Louis University and spending a year in the working world. Encouraged by his parents from a young age to be open to the call, Martin felt more at peace contemplating the seminary and being a priest than anything involving a career.
"I needed to chase that feeling, accepting God's will and being open to the call," said Martin, who was home-schooled and belongs to the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine.
Now, he's part of Kenrick-Glennon's nearly full house, which he describes as "a testament to excellent leadership and a sign of health. I've only been here eight or nine days, but there's a tremendous sense of well-being here in every way."
Kenrick-Glennon Seminary | At a glance
College Seminarians: 28
Theology Seminarians: 104
Breakdown by archdiocese/ diocese: St. Louis (48); Kansas City, Kan. (14); Wichita (13); Omaha (10); Bismarck and Kansas City-St. Joseph (7); Springfield-Cape Girardeau (5); Springfield, Ill. and Belize City-Belmopan, Belize (4); Knoxville, Oklahoma City, Sioux City and Vietnam (3); Apostles of the Interior Life and Rapid City (2); Belleville, Congo, Denver and Sioux Falls (1).
Note: Apostles of the Interior Life is a religious community in Kansas City, Kan.; This year, Oklahoma City and Sioux Falls are new dioceses sending seminarians.
25th Annual Convivium Dinner Auction
When: Saturday, Nov. 4
Mass: 4:30 p.m., the Chapel of St. Joseph at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary
Dinner and Auction: 6 p.m., Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta
For more information, visit: Kenrick.edu/Convivium