Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spokane seminarians trade academics for year of parish life

by Jami Cary, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 2, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

As part of the priestly formation program, the Diocese of Spokane offers seminarians an optional pastoral year. Two seminarians, Deacon Matthew Nicks and Kevin Oiland, took advantage of that option this past year, taking a much-needed break from their rigorous academic studies to work full-time in a parish.

While not all seminarians choose to take a pastoral year, some men find actively working in a parish before ordination to be a helpful formation tool. According to Father Darrin Connall, Director of Vocations for the diocese, a seminarian might also choose to take a pastoral year for a variety of other reasons, including further vocational discernment, a desire to gain pastoral experience, or a needed break from seminary studies to renew his zeal for priestly ministry.

Kevin Oiland (left) taught religion classes at Cataldo School during his year of pastoral work at St. Augustine Parish, Spokane. (IR photo from Bishop White Seminary)

Seminarian Kevin Oiland spent his pastoral year at St. Augustine Parish, Spokane. The experience, said Oiland, “really gives a face to the Church that you don’t see when you’re in school.”

Father Bob McNeese, pastor at St. Augustine, encouraged Oiland to develop skills in all areas of parish life. The seminarian assisted at Mass, took Communion to the sick, accompanied Father McNeese on hospital calls, lectured in the parish, ran the youth group, helped with RCIA and religious education, and spent time at Cataldo School, where he taught some religion classes.

“Getting to know the kids was great,” Kevin said. “They’re so joyful.”

Oiland returns to Mount Angel Seminary, in Oregon, this fall, more confident of his call to the diocesan priesthood. He is tentatively scheduled for ordination to diaconate in early summer 2008.

Matthew Nicks (left in photo) was ordained to the diaconate last May. Deacon Nicks served his pastoral year at Assumption Parish, Spokane. (IR file photo)

Vocational confidence is exactly what a pastoral year is meant to instill, even if it means that a seminarian discovers a call somewhere other than the priesthood.

“A pastoral year placement can benefit a seminarian’s discernment process because the seminarian is given the opportunity to enter into pastoral relationships with God’s people throughout the course of an entire year,” said Father Connall. “If that relationship of service to people is life-giving to both the seminarian and the parishioner, it is a good indication that God wants the man to be a priest.”

Deacon Nicks also found his pastoral year spiritually rewarding. His choice of a pastoral year in parish ministry was “the ideal context for reflecting on the life and ministry of the priest,” he said.

After a few months of immersing himself in parish life and pastoral duties at Assumption Parish in Spokane, he was more firmly convinced of his vocation to priesthood, and last April was ordained a deacon. He will return to North American College, Rome, for his final year of seminary formation before ordination to priesthood next summer.

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