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Seminarian increase in Diocese of Lansing

By Maria Servold | Photography By Jim Luning | March 2022

Increased Number of Seminarians Benefits Parishes and People of the Diocese

As a young man serving at Mass and participating in church activities, seminarian Jon Bokuniewicz says he felt called to serve a parish and its people.

Now, as a first-year theology student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, he says he is following the path God has laid out for him.

“I had always been involved in my home parish with youth group, catechism classes, whatever I could get my hands on,” he says. “I fell in love with the parish setting and being with God’s people and seeing the incredible things he does in the midst of his people.”

Sacred Heart Seminary is an ideal place to learn about the faith and grow in holiness, Jon says.

The 2022 DSA theme, based on Hebrews 10:24, “Stir up one another to love and good works,” is borne out in Jon’s journey to seminary. He grew up in Fenton, and his home parish is St. Augustine in Howell. He says the priest and deacons there helped draw him to a priestly vocation.

“I had great examples in my pastor and the deacons of that life of holiness and serving the people of God,” he says. “It was really inspiring for me. It lit my heart on fire for how great this life could be. My dream for being a priest is to become a father to people and to bring them to Jesus. It’s a great gift. We get to become part of people’s families.”

He also attributes a Jeremiah 1:7 group he participated in during high school with helping him discern his vocation to the priesthood. A handful of young men in that group are all pursuing priesthood.

He graduated from high school in 2017 and immediately entered college seminary at St. John Vianney in Minnesota.

“The quality of the formation we received there is really superior,” he says.

“They are so focused on forming good men in the college, so that we can be good fathers and priests. So much of what’s implemented in the college helps transform us to be good, holy men.”

Now, at Sacred Heart, Jon will study for four years to earn his master of divinity degree before ordination in 2025.

Jon is one of six seminarians in the Theology I class at Sacred Heart this year, and one of 31 total seminarians in the Diocese of Lansing.

In recent years, the diocese has been blessed to see an increase in the number of men pursuing priesthood.

“Prayer works,” Jon says. “There has been a prayer in the diocese and from the vocation director, and an emphasis that ‘God is going to provide this.’ We’ve seen the fruits of that. The numbers have gone way up in the past few years. That means more men are responding to God’s invitation and the work of the vocations office. The Holy Spirit is bringing good fruit from our efforts.”

The remarkable increase in the number of seminarians has resulted in a substantial increase in costs to the diocese for seminarian education and formation. DSA contributions are an important source of support for the increased costs, says the appeal’s director, Matt Hufnagel.

Jon says it is a “huge blessing” that his studies at Sacred Heart are funded by the diocese – not just tuition costs, but also retreats and trips that are part of formation. DSA funds are instrumental in helping cover these costs.

“If we didn’t have the support of the DSA, it would put more strain on the diocese,” he says. “It’s a blessing we have the support we do and we can continue to fund the fruit of our labor through the work we’re doing. Now, in a concrete way, we can put our vocations into action with the support of the DSA.”

Jon says he is looking forward to attending a 30-day silent, Ignatian retreat in South Dakota this summer with his fellow seminarians. Although he knows spending that much time in silence will be a challenge, he is hopeful that it will prove fruitful in his formation.

“From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you,” Jon says. “This time in seminary has given me a gift that is priceless. I’m so grateful for it. It is an opportunity to go deeper into prayer and have a personal relationship with the Lord. We are so blessed to have this opportunity to not just be formed as priests, but as men who are formed for Christ. It’s a gift we get to share with the other people in our lives. Our lives are completely transformed by Christ and we get to share with others what he’s done for us. In a sense, giving to the DSA benefits the whole Church. The benefit is the holiness of priests and sanctification of men.”

Increased Number of Seminarians Benefits Parishes and People of the Diocese

2021-2022 Diocese of Lansing Seminarians