Diocesan Seminarians Enjoy a Balance of Spirituality, Academics, Fraternity, and Fun as They Continue Their Discernment Journey


By Tony DeGol

It might surprise some people to know that DQ and hoops can be as much a part of seminary life as spirituality and academics.

“Seminary is obviously a very prayerful place filled with lots of good men trying to follow the will of God and follow Christ,” noted seminarian Max Kroell, who attends Saint Mark’s Seminary in Erie. “But it’s also a very fun place. We love to play pranks on each other, and we also like to go to Dairy Queen and go get food – normal guy stuff. We just enjoy each other’s company. Personally, I love to get into heated philosophical debates with some of my brothers, but it’s really just normal guys having a good time and lots of laughter.”

That fraternity aspect of seminary life, is critical, added seminarian Jacob Gindhart, who attends Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.

“We’re just a bunch of guys who enjoy time together, so one of the things I like to do with my seminary brothers is play basketball on a Friday night,” he shared. “There’s a number of guys who like to play music, so we gather to play together as a band or sometimes it’s just a couple of us jamming in our rooms. It’s a really blessed experience to be able to discern not just what the Lord’s calling us to, but to do so in this communion with the Church and with our brothers.”

Gindhart, a member of Queen of Peace Parish in Patton, and Kroell, a parishioner at Saint John the Evangelist in Bellefonte, are joining their three brother seminarians in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in inviting the faithful to celebrate and promote vocations to the priesthood, permanent diaconate, and consecrated life during this upcoming National Vocations Awareness Week.

The annual observance, happening November 6-12, is an opportunity for everyone to renew their prayers and support for those who are considering a vocation.

For transitional deacon Justin Treon, this National Vocations Awareness Week marks his last as a seminarian.

The Saint Aloysius, Cresson, parishioner is in his final year of academic studies and formation at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe. He will be ordained to the priesthood in the spring.

“It has been an awesome experience for me,” Deacon Treon insisted. “I honestly could not see myself anywhere else, and I believe they have formed me the best they possible can to be a good, faithful, and prayerful priest for this diocese.”

During this final year of formation, Deacon Treon is in service at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral and Saint Patrick Parishes in Johnstown.

Diocesan seminarian Neil Brett stressed that seminary is a place to discern.

“I’m just like everybody else at the seminary,” he said. “We’re there to figure things out. We want to know what God is calling us to do so we can live our fullest life and our happiest life.”

Brett attends Saint Mary’s in Baltimore and belongs to Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Johnstown.

Seminarian John Roy loves the balance of life at Saint Vincent.

“We have a lot of opportunities for studying and prayer – studying the Word of God and praying before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” noted the Saint Andrew, Johnstown, parishioner. “Amid all of these opportunities, there is a lot of fraternity and friendship among all of us in the seminary.”

Roy cited weekend campfires during which the guys share stories about the experiences of the past weeks, and even a few jokes. The ping-pong table at Saint Vincent also is a popular spot.

“I’m very blessed to be a seminarian, and I’m very happy with the formation I’m receiving and the support I have from my other brothers who are in the seminary studying with me,” he added.

Deacon Treon, Gindhart, Roy, Brett, and Kroell are all signs of hope for the local Church as it prepares to observe National Vocations Awareness Week.

“The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is blessed to have five men in formation for the priesthood,” reminded Father Peter Crowe, Pastor of Saint Andrew Parish in Johnstown and Diocesan Director of Vocations. “Please continue to pray for them and pray that more men will hear the call to the priesthood in the diocese. As Saint John Vianney put it so simply and concisely, ‘The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.’”

Editor’s Note: The five diocesan seminarians share more of their discernment and seminary experiences on Proclaim! TV on November 6 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.

[Photo: Standing in front of the tomb of the Prince-Priest and Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin in Loretto are diocesan seminarians (left to right) John Roy, Neil Brett, Max Kroell, Jacob Gindhart, and Deacon Justin Treon.]