By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published November 17, 2005
When her son Michael is ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2010, Sharon Shouse expects to be at the church in the front row, handkerchief in hand.
But in order for her to fulfill her dream, it will take support and prayers for Michael and the 54 other seminarians studying for the archdiocese on behalf of parishioners in the pews.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory recently announced the launch of the 2006 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. The appeal has a goal of $6 million, which is needed to support the diverse ministries of the Catholic Church in North Georgia. Archbishop Gregory chose the theme “Here I am, Lord— Send me” for the appeal.
The Office of Vocations, led by vocations director Father Brian Higgins, is slated to receive a large percentage of the funds raised through the appeal—$1,941,034. With 55 men studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the funds are used to sponsor and educate the seminarians and to facilitate the ongoing discernment process for those interested in becoming candidates for priestly formation.
“A seminary year costs as much as a yearly college education,” Father Higgins said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much it costs. The truth is that we have 55 guys and 55 tuitions, and that really adds up.”
The funds also go toward recruitment, Father Higgins said, toward items such as posters, holy cards and DVDs that are all used to recruit men to the priesthood.
“We are trying to attract the best. We want the best people for God,” Father Higgins said. “It matters that we look professional. Guys out there don’t want to go somewhere with a sloppy program. They are saying that they want to dedicate their lives to Christ and they want to go somewhere that’s as serious about their vocation as they are.”
Dan Ketter, 35, a seminarian studying at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md., along with many archdiocesan seminarians, said that Atlanta has developed a reputation for its priestly recruiting skills.
“We have a lot of contact with other dioceses and it’s clear to all of us who are studying for Atlanta that we have an outstanding vocations program, vocations director and support staff,” he said.
Ketter said that the superior quality of the recruitment aspect of the vocations office helps to attract men who have been out in the work force.
“For guys like myself who have had a professional career, quality is something that is important to you,” he said. “The more attractive a vocations program is the easier it is to make that transition from professional life.”
Ketter’s mother, Mary Ann, said she often worries about “bragging too much” about her son, but she is constantly affirmed in her belief that her son will be an exemplary priest.
“People always seem so eager to tell me how kind he is, and they always have such glowing things to say about him,” she said. “I just feel he is going to be a wonderful priest. I can just see him giving homilies. He’s so spiritual but so down-to-earth at the same time.”
Mrs. Ketter also feels grateful for the encouragement her son gets from the archdiocese.
“It’s very reassuring that he has that support from the archdiocese and especially from Father Higgins,” she said. “I think Father Higgins is very easy for Dan to talk to and really offers a lot of encouragement.”
Sharon Shouse’s son Michael is 31 and is studying pre-theology at Mount St. Mary’s. Mrs. Shouse, who has taught at St. Joseph’s School in Athens for over 21 years, has been impressed with the level of support provided to her son and the other seminarians.
“The seminary is a time to discern, question, think and pray,” she said. “Michael seems happy and content. When he first thought about this, he got so much support from Father Higgins and the other seminarians.”
She cited events like the annual Eucharistic Congress that allow the seminarians to get involved in the church. She also said that special Masses and prayer intentions for her son and his fellow seminarians mean a lot.
“I feel really honored,” she said. “The archdiocese has been so supportive.”
Ketter said that the vocations program in the archdiocese helps to create exemplary priests.
“They have high expectations of us. They are pushing us for excellence, for holiness—all those things that make good priests,” he said.
For Mrs. Shouse, who hopes her son will be one of those future holy priests, the decision to give to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal seems an easy one.
“Without our priests, what do we have? What a beautiful way to spend money,” she said. “You know you can hear all the bad you want, but I think the good far outweighs the bad. We have so many humble and holy priests carrying the banner. They are the future of our church.”
Pledge envelopes for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal can be found at all parishes in the archdiocese. Pledges can also be mailed, with checks made payable to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, to P.O. Box 105290, Atlanta, GA 30348-5290.
Pledge forms can also be obtained by calling (404) 885-7277.
For more information call (404) 888-7801 or visit www.archatl.com/offices/development.