August 5, 2016
Seminarians for the priesthood from across the diocese gathered in Belfield June 12-14 for fun and fellowship. The gathering, informally titled “Seminarian Getaway: Unload and Unwind,” was sponsored by the Belfield Knights of Columbus Council 6310.
Knights of Columbus Council 6310 members Steven Vetter, newly elected grand knight, and Roger Decker spearheaded the three-day event that included active participation from over 30 member knights. The Catholic Daughters also assisted.
Nearly all of the 29 men who are studying for the Catholic priesthood for the diocese participated in the event. Two men going through the discernment process also participated, along with a number of priests from across the diocese.
The Belfield Knights of Columbus council has been active in encouraging women and men to answer the call to a religious vocation. For nearly 30 years, the council has sponsored a Lenten fish fry and other fundraising events, with much of the money raised going to fund vocation education.
Decker and Vetter hatched the idea to “do something special for the seminarians” after Vetter’s brother, Nick, who is a seminarian, paid a visit to the community.
“This was done for the seminarians,” Decker said to the seminarians at the parish and community supper. “It is you who are the future of the church and we need you.”
The event included prayer, visiting and interaction with local farmers and ranchers, who are experiencing problems on their land from prairie dogs. One of the activities included a day of thinning the prairie dog population while getting to know the laity, who are members of the St. Bernard Parish.
Father Josh Waltz, diocese director of vocations, spoke to the importance of the seminarians seeing the laity as members of the church to be served, especially in a small community like Belfield, noting the diocese is made up of a lot of small towns.
“It was great to be out in a small town because lot of times small towns don’t get to see all the seminarians,” Waltz said. He noted a majority of the seminarians attended the event where they received “a lot of amazing generosity” from the laity and lot of good benefactors.
Waltz said the attraction of small towns, which is “something very unique to North Dakota,” is also an attraction for seminarians. “We have a lot of young men that are signing up because of the fraternity and the love the parishes, the support of the laity.”
He said the support of pastors for events like this is great. Including Fr. Josh, other priests participating were Fathers Justin Waltz, Chris Kadrmas, Adam Maus, Shannon Lucht and Bill Ruelle.
The interaction with local agricultural producers was also an important part of the activities. Waltz was especially impressed with the emotion displayed by the landowners who needed help with the prairie dog harvest.
He told those assembled at the supper, “Last night (Sunday night) from what I could tell, as much as a farmer can get choked up, the guys (council members) got choked up . . .”
Decker said the commitment of the Knights of Columbus Council 6310 to vocation development is very strong. “A religious vocation is such a special calling and our council felt a need to go beyond the fundraising of the Lenten fish fry. These young men are studying to be priests, the future shepherds of our Church. The ‘Seminarian Getaway: Unload and Unwind’ event was one we as knights could show our support for our seminarians.”
He reiterated Waltz’s theme of parishioners getting to know the seminarians. “This also gives us a chance to interact with each other, learn about the needs of the seminarians and lend support. We wanted to show the seminarians there is much support for their commitment and there are many women and men in the diocese who support them,” Decker said.
Grand Knight Vetter added, “The main purpose was to bring all of the seminarians together as a group where they could mingle with no outside pressure or demands. It was also important to make this be an enjoyable and relaxing venue where fellowship amongst each other can be achieved.”
Over two-dozen people and/or businesses joined in supporting the event financially. “Our sponsors generously donated because they realize the important role that priests play in keeping our church strong and able to serve the members of our parish and community,” Decker said. “The relationship of the future priests is so important in the formation process, because they will be the shepherds of our Church.”
Waltz said the experience was very good and thanked the Belfield Knights of Columbus Council 6310 for their efforts. “We have seminarians who are going to be amazing priests but none of that is possible without the support of the laity,” he said, mentioning the welcome by the St. Bernard’s Parish community was great. “I didn’t know what to expect (when asked to participate). I did not expect the food, the generosity . . . If you guys are up to it, I would like to make this an annual thing.”
Decker said the getaway would not have to be a prairie dog hunt but, could be something “unique to the Belfield community that very few other places in the state can offer.”