The Vincentians are reestablishing their roots in St. Louis through a new Mission House for discerning vocations and seminarian formation.
Formally known as the Congregation for the Mission, the Vincentians celebrated with a Mass and blessing and dedication of the house Aug. 19. The three-story building, located at 3259 Lafayette Ave. in The Gate District neighborhood, is part of the Vincentians’ rededication to the city of St. Louis, where the religious community founded by St. Vincent de Paul established its roots when it came to the United States from France in 1818.
The effort is part an ongoing planning process to increase promotion of vocations with the Vincentians’ Western Province, which encompasses all of the United States west of the Mississippi River and Alaska. In July 2021, the province moved its offices from Earth City to space at Aquinas Institute of Theology in Midtown St. Louis. The multi-year planning process also has examined how the Vincentians could become more visible, available and engaged with others in the community, said provincial superior Father Patrick McDevitt.
“All of this is cooperating with grace,” he said. “When we have had a chance to cooperate with God, all good comes.”
After discussion, surveying and planning, the Vincentians are redesigning their recruitment, vocation and formation efforts to address the need for more ordained clergy within the Vincentian community. Father Jeff Harvey, CM, has been named formation director and local superior of the Mission House, and Father Toshio Sato, CM, will serve as director of vocations.
Two Vincentian seminarians will call the Mission House their home. Mark Buehrle, who is in his second year of formation, recently moved into the residence, and a second seminarian, Joshua Smith from the Bahamas, is anticipated to arrive in the coming months.
Buehrle, a native of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, had been a teacher for nearly two decades when he began feeling like “there was more I could do. I loved teaching but I felt like I was kind of missing something,” he said.
In early 2022, he spent time discerning and connected with Father McDevitt. “We didn’t even discuss priesthood — we discussed what my next role might be,” Buehrle recalled. Father McDevitt called a week later and invited him to think more deeply about the priesthood.
Buehrle grew up at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Cape Girardeau, so he was already familiar with the Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity through volunteer work and other programs. He’s now in his second year of formation, working toward dual master’s degrees in arts and divinity, taking classes alongside the Dominicans at Aquinas Institute of Theology. College seminarians will start their formation with classes at Saint Louis University.
Father Harvey will oversee the seminarians’ formation, which also will include aspects that are specific to the Vincentian charism of serving the poor. “These men in the initial stages (of formation) will learn what does it mean to help the poor and to have an openness for the poor,” Father Harvey said. “We have to have them embrace it — not just learn it — and for them to see that this is the life that I want and what I want to do. It’s a life of working with and for the poor.”
Father Sato said he is looking forward to connecting with young people in the archdiocese and introducing them to the Vincentian charism. The Mission House will host a Vincentian Connection, a regular gathering that includes sharing vocation stories, serving meals to the poor, and Mass, followed by dinner. Other discernment and service opportunities are in the works.
“We want to become more connected to St. Louis and to see young people joyfully living the faith and being creative with the mission,” he said.
The Vincentians’ history in the Archdiocese of St. Louis traces back more than 200 years ago, with the arrival of then-Father Joseph Rosati, a Vincentian who became the first bishop of the Diocese of St. Louis. He moved to Perryville, where he opened St. Mary’s of the Barrens Seminary to educate men in the region and train new members for the Vincentians.
The Vincentians had a long history of forming future priests, including at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Today, the community is present in several parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, including St. Vincent de Paul and St. Pius V in St. Louis, St. Catherine Laboure in south St. Louis County and St. Vincent de Paul in Perryville.
At the blessing and dedication Aug. 19, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said the Mission House is more than just a residence for discerning vocations and seminarian formation. It’s also an invitation to encounter the Lord more closely through the Vincentian charism of caring for the poor.
“The Vincentian Mission House is more than just a building, for it is a building that has with it and those who fill it, an invitation,” he said. “An invitation to come and encounter the Lord Jesus more closely, and to be able to follow in His footsteps, to learn of His mission and of the particular charism of St. Vincent de Paul. That charism from so many years ago is so important, especially in the world today.”
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The Vincentian Connection is a regular gathering for people who are discerning a vocation. The gathering includes sharing vocation stories, serving meals to the poor and Mass, followed by dinner. Upcoming dates include Oct. 1 and 22 and Nov. 26.
To learn more about discerning a vocation with the Vincentians, text or send a message on WhatsApp to vocations director Father Toshio Sato at (501) 420-4405.
The Vincentians also are on Facebook CMvocationswest and at www.vincentian.org.