ASK FATHER: How to support a seminarian assigned to our parish?

seminarians NACFrom a reader…


Our parish has received a terrific seminarian this summer. He comes from a great background and his older brother is a priest so he seems to have a strong support at home. My question is how can my family help support him along with our parish? Aside from adding him to my intentions in my rosary, what I else can I do for him, not only now but as he continues his studies?

Prayer is a good thing, as well as intentional sacrifices and mortifications offered on his behalf and against the wiles of the Enemy.  The Rosary is a great choice.  Offering Holy Communions for him is good.  Go, perhaps, to daily Masses and when Father prepares the chalice for the Sacrifice, at the addition of the water, mentally add the seminarian to the wine to be transformed by Father and Christ’s priestly action.  Ask your Guardian Angel also to help him and to defend him from the Enemy.

Another thing you can do is contribute to his future clerical sense.  That is to say, depending on where he is in his formation – such as major seminary – you might provide for him a biretta through this blog’s ongoing BIRETTA PROJECT.   By “clerical”, we don’t mean snooty or superior, of course.  That’s for libs, with their smug condescension.  Books on the priesthood are a fine contribution.  Perhaps something like  Those Mysterious Priests by Fulton J. Sheen (US HERE – UK HERE) or even The Priest Is Not His Own which is terrific (US HERE – UK HERE).  Joseph Ratzinger put out a little book of reflections on priesthood called Ministers of Your Joy: Scriptural Meditations on Priestly Spirituality (US HERE – UK HERE).  There are myriad more books.  Perhaps, Fathers out there reading this… you could post or send your own suggestions about works on priesthood which were and are helpful for you.

I just had a thought… what a great gift it would be for a seminarian, a newly ordained priest, or a veteran, to receive a Kindle pre-loaded with a couple dozen or more books on priesthood.  Interesting, no?  I suppose one would have to…

  1. create an email that could be handed over to Father (or the seminarian);
  2. form a group who could purchase and send as gifts the Kindle books to that email address;
  3. load them on the Kindle;
  4. give the pre-loaded Kindle to Father along with email address and password.

People could then continue to add titles as they surface.  Even if Father moves to another place, the Kindle could still receive so long as books are sent to that email.  Also, that priest could also pass the Kindle along, with the email and password, to another priest or seminarian.  Father or the seminarian could create wishlist as well.  Kindle (US HERE – UK HERE).

You can even get the pre-Conciliar Roman Breviary on Kindle in ENGLISH in two-monthly portions (e.g., current July/Aug 2017 – US HERE – UK HERE).

I like this idea.

However, remember when trying to give support to a seminarian to keep balance between friendly presence and a bit of distance.  We must never make a seminarian feel obliged to remain in seminary if priesthood truly isn’t his calling.  A man must be totally free in making his choice without a sense that, because people were good or generous to him, he has to stay in.  Get my drift?  Avoid psychological pressure at all costs.  Giving some things anonymously is often a good plan.  Find the balance.


Prayer is one of the best things you can do. Let him know of your prayers. Get the address of the seminary he’ll be returning to in the Fall and make a plan of writing to him. Gifts are nice, but use some common sense with gifts – seminarians often get inundated with well-meant, but ill-conceived gifts. It is likely, for example, that the seminarian already has a rosary. Statues, prayer books, and religious tchotchkes of all sorts – unless the seminarian has expressed a specific interest in something – are likely to be appreciated as far as the sentiment is concerned, but are less appreciated than, say, a gift certificate for a religious goods or clerical clothing store. A gift certificate to a local restaurant can be a good things – seminarians will occasionally have some free time, and a chance to get off campus for a nice dinner with friends can be a healing salve. Depending on how far away the seminary is, some gifts that have a local flavor can be kind – candy from a hometown candy store, or a small memento from a local sports team. When you do write to your seminarian, be sure to include a family picture – perhaps even something with the local parish church in the background.

While he’s still in town, invite him over to dinner, or out to a local restaurant. Get to know him, and let him know of your prayerful support for him as he continues his discernment and formation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. PhilipNeri says:

    Seminary formator here. . .

    Invite him to dinner at your home. . .thank him for answering God’s call to priesthood. . .give him good books. . .and then — ask him to help wash the dishes!

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  2. Deacon Jason says:

    My parish has hosted a large number of seminarian interns over the years, all of whom (thanks be to God) are now happy, faithful priests in my archdiocese. In talking to them later about their experience at the parish, they all mentioned how much they appreciated people *letting them know* that they were being prayed for. Getting invited to people’s houses for holiday barbecues, etc. was a close second.

    As seminarians, they were still nervous about how parish life would be: Would they be lonely? Would people welcome them? Remember, they are discerning giving up marriage and family to serve the Lord. Discernment is hard work, but experiencing the kind of big family they will someday have as a spiritual father can help them in that process!

  3. hwriggles4 says:

    Years ago, our Catholic young adult group gave support to seminarians at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving. Once a year, we would put together gift packages that contained toiletries, snacks, a small first aid kit, etc. Seminarians don’t have much money, so things like soap and toothpaste will get used. [You make them sound like refugees from ISIS (which, in the case of some seminaries, may be a good analogy).] Our group was also invited to attend Mass at the seminary five or six times a year (Holy Trinity Seminary is a college seminary), and would go.

    Gift cards might be good as well, such as restaurants, a movie theatre pass, or to buy gas for a car. Other good gifts might be a bus or train pass if the seminary is in a large city. Many seminarians are assigned an apostolate that they report to a few times a month, and need to supply their own transportation to get there.

    The Knights of Columbus in our diocese contribute to a fund for seminarians. This fund is for seminarians who need money for certain things, such as travel money to get home at Christmas. It’s not money that’s squandered away on beer and pizza. [Seminarians having pizza and beer together once in a while is a necessary survival technique.]

    Many Knights of Columbus councils also sponsor a seminarian. Monetary donations are given to specific seminarians to help defer expenses.

    By the way, my diocese is now sending some seminarians to where Fr. Philip Neri, OP is on the faculty. I hope Fr. Philip concurs with these ideas.

  4. Once you have gotten to know the seminarian over the summer, there is one more thing to do that he will not be aware of: when he returns to the seminary for classes, send a kind letter to your bishop to thank him for sending this young man to your parish.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. PhilipNeri says:

    hwriggles4, I concur!

    Also, please tell the seminarians coming to Notre Dame that if they do not use their book gift cards that they should give them to any Dominican friar who just happens to be teaching at NDS. :-)

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  6. Joy65 says:

    I am a seminarian, and I very much appreciate gifts of cash or Amazon gift cards, which allow me to get my books and sundries easily and quickly.
    But, even more so, I like receiving cards that let me know folks back home are praying for me. One parish has cards in the perpetual adoration chapel that allow an adorer to write that he is offering his holy hour for a seminarian’s intentions, and then the parish collects those and sends them to the seminarians. Those have often come just at the right time to pull me through a hard week of formation.”

    I would have thought the same thing.

  7. boko fittleworth says:

    What Fr. Morelli said. And cookies.

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