Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted catches up with seminarians _____ and Fernando Camou at the Diocesan Pastoral Center July 23. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted catches up with seminarians _____ and Fernando Camou at the Diocesan Pastoral Center July 23. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Phoenix’s seminarians have a couple more weeks left for their summer ministry — whether that’s at a local parish, in a department of the Diocesan Pastoral Center or on assignment in Honduras. Still, several said the experience has already deepened their fervor for the priesthood.

Fernando Camou can’t help but get excited for the priesthood, which, God-willing is two years down the road. He found great role models in the priests at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Scottsdale. Conversations with a visiting Dominican priest serving in Pakistan, where less than 2 percent are Catholic, have also been fruitful.

“The joy that these priests have in their extreme generosity has given me a lot of joy and excitement,” said Camou, who is entering his third year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

He was among 17 seminarians that attended an appreciation luncheon in their honor at the Diocesan Pastoral Center July 23. Camou returned to St. Daniel that afternoon to check on progress of next week’s bulletin. When he’s not an altar server at Mass, Camou embraces the role of parish receptionist. He has spent the summer answering the phone, preparing ministry schedules, learning from the finance council and compiling the bulletin.

He said the practical experience gave him a foretaste of full-time parish life. Fr. Thaddeus McGuire, pastor, also ensured Camou didn’t leave St. Daniel without practical priestly advice.

Fr. McGuire wanted to instill in Camou the importance of being there to greet parishioners after every Mass — even those celebrated by another priest. Camou learned it becomes an opportunity to offer the sacrament of reconciliation to parishioners who might not come during regularly scheduled hours.

Only ordained priests can hear confessions, but seminarians got to reach out in plenty of other ways this summer. Deacon Keith Kenney, who is temporarily serving as a deacon during his final year of seminary, found himself blessing homes of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Deacon Kenney said some non-Catholics sought out a blessing following “a scary experience.”

He used it as a way to evangelize. He reminded them that something in their heart made them reach out to the Catholic Church.

“Now you have to ask yourself, is there something else to it?” he left them to ponder.

Deacon Kenney extended an open invitation for prayer or to talk. He found the combination of the human quality combined with holy water, a book of blessings and his garb gave them peace.

That wasn’t his only job. Deacon Kenney also preached three Sunday homilies in Spanish — at both Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral and St. Gregory Parish — and sometimes during daily Mass. He said preaching brought his seven years of formation together.

As a deacon, he also presided at baptisms, funeral services and many rites of committal. Despite it all, his most moving experience was serving a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat for post-abortive parents with classmate Deacon Scott Sperry.

“It was wonderful to see these people reach that chance to receive some healing,” Deacon Kenney said.

Healing souls, from abortion and other forms of sin, is among a priest’s key tasks. Six men from the Phoenix Diocese became official candidates for priesthood this summer and will start their theological study in August. Another seven or eight are preparing for their first year in seminary.

Ian Wintering is among them. The 2011 Seton graduate and St. Mary Magdalene parishioner has been discerning the priesthood with Fr. Will Schmid. Helping with youth retreats and serving at the Gilbert parish this summer helped him discover the beauty of the integral parts of Mass. Family and parishioner support has also affirmed the start of his journey.

Phoenix’s 26 seminarians will finish their local assignments Aug. 4 then go on retreat together before starting the new school year. Seminarians finishing college are at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Others are at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver with three at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Two will be the first local seminarians completing their philosophy work at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

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