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Collection for Seminarian Education Fund August 1-2


On the weekend of August 1-2, prior to the Feast of St. John Vianney on August 4, parishes in the Diocese of Gaylord will take up the annual special collection to support the Seminarian Education Fund.  All funds raised through this collection are used exclusively for tuition, books, room and board, and health insurance for diocesan seminarians.

The diocese continues to work hard to create a culture of vocations in which men and women are encouraged to listen for, and respond to, God’s call for their lives. An active volunteer Vocations Advisory Committee strives to promote vocations awareness and to support men and women as they discern their call, whether to priesthood, religious life, marriage or the single life. The committee sponsors a number of special events including the annual Altar Server Appreciation Day, Vocations Recognition Dinner, the St. Andrew Task Force for young men, the Mystical Rose group for young women, an annual golf outing and more.  Those efforts continue to bear great fruit for our diocese and for the Church.

Through those efforts, the Diocese of Gaylord has been exceptionally blessed with men who have stepped forward to say, “Yes,” to God’s call. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the diocese expects to have 15 men enrolled in seminary discerning their future to serve as a diocesan priest. This is nearly four times as many as we had just eight years ago!

“We are witnessing a re-flowering of vocations from our own local Church of Gaylord and what a blessing it is for us all to play a part in it,” said Fr. Matthew Wigton, Director of Vocations.

The diocese joyfully celebrated the priestly ordination of Fr. Tyler Bischoff and diaconate ordination of Scott Lawler, Al Pillarelli and Ben Rexroat this summer.  In November, we look forward to the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate of Kevin Endres, Brent Hemker, Frank Kopasz, Martin Korson, Scott Landane, and Jude Younker and in January, Ordinations to the Priesthood are planned for Deacon Scott Lawler and Deacon Robert Pahlkotter.

Yet the needs remain great in our 21 counties and across the country.  According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, it would take three times as many priestly ordinations as is occurring nationwide to maintain the population of 38,600 priests as the eldest generation of priests continues to wane due to retirement and mortality. 

In the Diocese of Gaylord, nearly a third of the active priests are currently working past their retirement date and most of our Pastors serve more than one parish, with some serving as many as four or five. We also rely on the generous service of priests retired from other dioceses living in our area and the gracious service of the religious priests to ensure the Sacraments are available for our Catholic faithful. It is clear the diocese needs every one of the vocations that the Lord sends our way.

The process to prepare for priesthood typically requires eight years of education beyond high school, including a college degree followed by four or more years of theological study at a seminary. The cost per year to educate a seminarian is approximately $34,000 meaning the diocesan costs for the upcoming school year will approach $510,000. While this is obviously a great expense, our seminarians are gifted individuals, eager to serve the People of God. 

“I am always touched by the lives of the seminarians; that they freely embrace God's call by setting aside everything in order to follow Jesus and to serve His Church,” said Fr. Wigton.  “Our seminarians are wonderful men with a compassionate heart, desiring to increase the presence of Christ in the hearts of all.”

The annual Catholic Services Appeal (CSA) provides a portion of the funding for vocations efforts, but it is not sufficient to fully support all of the need. The number of seminarians is unpredictable year to year and the CSA budget is set many months in advance of the fiscal year – far in advance of admission dates set by seminaries.

To further assist with seminarian education expenses, an endowment fund was set up within the Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation specifically for this purpose.  The principal donations remain in the fund for perpetuity and the interest accrued on the principal may be used, but the amount of interest available in any year is also unpredictable due to the economy.  (Individuals wishing to make a contribution to the Northern Michigan Catholic Foundation may contact Patrick Schaffler at  231.922.9070 or

Without the financial and prayerful support of parishioners, many of our seminarians would find it impossible to pursue their vocation. We would never want to turn away someone discerning their call to priesthood due to a lack of funds.

We know economic times have been tough in recent years and giving may be a sacrifice, but God calls each one of us to support His Church in a variety of ways. Your generous gift of $25, $50, $100, $500 or more to the Collection for Seminarian Education will make a huge difference now — and for the future of the Catholic Church here in northern Lower Michigan. If parishioners are unable to give financially at this time, they can still be of great help and support through their prayers.

Any amount received in excess of this year’s need is set aside and reserved solely for education of seminarians. Many parishes have included an envelope in parishioner boxes for this yearly special collection while others are making a separate envelope available for the collection dates. Donations may also be made online by going to the diocesan website and clicking on the “Make a Gift” link and noting the gift is for the Seminarian Education Fund.

“I am very grateful to all who generously support our seminarians with their prayers and financial assistance,” added Fr. Wigton.  “May we entrust all of them to Our Dear Blessed Mother, that she might form them into her Son, and we might see the Faith flourish!”

To learn more about our seminarians or vocations efforts in the Diocese of Gaylord, log on to  Our seminarians also maintain an online blog to share their experiences and stay connected with the faithful of the diocese. Titled “Fiat Voluntas Dei” (“Let God’s will be done’), the blog can be accessed through the diocesan website at or by “Googling” or searching for “Gaylord Seminarians Blog.” 



2015-2016 Diocese of Gaylord Seminarians

Preparing at:

Pontifical North American College, Rome:

Christopher Jarvis
Mitchel Roman


Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners, Wisconsin:

Deacon Al Pillarelli
John Bauer


Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois

Christopher Nowak
Michael Lingaur


Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio

Nicholas Cooper
Sean Farkas
Alex Kolawkowski
Gavin McNeil
Bradley Nursey
Deacon Benjamin Rexroat
Paul Wilbert

Assigned in the Diocese of Gaylord:

Deacon Scott Lawler, Our Lady of the Lake, Prudenville
Deacon Robert Pahlkotter, Cheboygan Catholic Community, Cheboygan


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