By D.F. Kratzer WEST VIRGINIA— Each year, faithful throughout the diocese “adopt a seminarian,” committing their prayers, encouragement and support to the future priests of West Virginia. Through the diocesan Office of Vocations, parishes, diocesan schools, organizations and individuals sponsor seminarians, sending cards, care packages, financial assistance and other items of gratitude and support. “We’re connecting our people so they can start standing by these men who are students and, God willing, one day stand by them as priests,” said Father Paul Hudock, director of the diocesan Office of Vocations. “Seminarians,” he continued, “are normal guys, they are a lot like our own brothers or a lot like our own cousins, our own sons … they need encouragement.” Father Chris Turner, vocations promoter and pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Wheeling, said that “it is important for parishes and individuals to support vocations because it gets them thinking and praying for vocations in general.” Sponsoring seminarians, he continued, is rewarding for the seminarian and those providing support because it “connects the need for vocations with something concrete.” Father Hudock and Father Turner said that, as seminarians, they appreciated the support of Catholics and were encouraged by their thoughtfulness. Father Turner said he saved many of the gifts he received as a seminarian. Those gifts, he said, “bring me back to those days and how people helped me through those days in various ways, so they can be very helpful.” One parish that supported Father Turner was St. Michael Parish in Wheeling, where he went on to serve as associate pastor in his first assignment. “You build a connection with a particular parish and maybe one day you end up there,” and at St. Michael’s, “it didn’t feel like it was a new place because I had some connection with them in the past,” he said. While in seminary, Father Hudock said, a group in Weirton gathered each week to pray specifically for him and his vocation. This dedication and care, he said, was “incredible” because there were “individuals who I had not met remembering me in such a way.” It has been a joy, he said, to meet those who supported him through seminary. “All those experiences,” Father Hudock said, “mean a lot and they help the seminarians realize that there is a great big community here in West Virginia that appreciates their willingness to serve. … You are a priest for the people. You are also a priest with the people, and the people are the ones who support you and encourage you all the way through life.” For those who wish to sponsor a seminarian, first and foremost, Father Hudock said, is to “get together and pray for seminarians, pray for men who are in discernment and for all our young people who are trying to listen to God’s call.” He and Father Turner said there are a number of other ways individuals, parishes, schools and organizations can support seminarians, including sending pictures, cards, monetary gifts and care packages—which Father Turner said are great to receive during exams—among other items. Father Turner also encouraged sponsors to “be creative” and consider how they can make an impact on their seminarian and encourage correspondence, developing a relationship. “Correspondence and interaction while you are in formation,” Father Hudock said, “is helpful because the priesthood is a whole experience of making continual friendships throughout your life, throughout your priestly career. So those friendships can start right there in seminary and they continue on throughout your life of ministry.” To sponsor a seminarian or for more information, contact Pat Templeton, secretary for the Office of Vocations, at 233-0880, ext. 235, or via e-mail at email@example.com. The Vocations Office’s Web site is located at www.dwc.org/vocations.