What makes a man decide to enter the seminary to discern whether it is God’s will for that man to become a priest?
As probably would be expected, the answer to that question varies for the three men who entered St. Paul Seminary in Crafton this school year and who also will study at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh’s Bluff neighborhood.
John Ferguson, 20, of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen Parish in Butler, studied psychology at Butler County Community College before he went into the seminary this fall. He is in the second year of college. Ferguson previously was a newspaper carrier for the Butler Eagle.
"The reason I have entered seminary is to deeply discern the call to priesthood that has been on my heart since I was young boy," Ferguson said. "I am attracted interiorly to the life a priest lives, bringing souls closer to Jesus and Jesus closer to his people."
Merv Knieriem, 35, of Madonna del Castello Parish in Swissvale, studied criminal justice and criminology at Edinboro University for two years and for one year at Louisiana State University before entering the seminary this fall. He had worked at Office Max as a print center specialist. Knieriem is in his third year of college.
"In today’s fast-paced and noisy world, there is still a quiet and patient voice calling everyone to a closer relationship," Knieriem said. "Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from the noise and slow down long enough to hear. There are numerous faithful who are praying for the church, and God calls up leaders to help shepherd the church amidst the tumult. Hearing this voice has led me to St. Paul’s.
"I’m not sure where the voice will continue to lead me, but with each step I feel closer to God and am comforted."
Gabriel Salibi, 23, of St. Richard Parish in Richland Township, graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, with a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy. He entered the seminary this fall, and he is in his first year of pre-theology. Salibi most recently worked at Loafers Bread Co. in Wexford.
"I entered seminary just this past August after experiencing a profound invitation from Christ to serve as his priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh," Salibi said. "Like St. Peter, I found myself to be unworthy of such a call. Yet, Christ constantly reminds me that it is precisely through my unworthiness that he qualifies me and draws me deeper into the mystery of his priesthood. ‘Perfect love casts out all fear’ (1 John 4:18), and there is nothing that I want more than for people to fall in love with God, who has first loved us, and with his holy Catholic Church.
"Thank you for your prayers, I am dependent on them."
Gabriel Crawford, 32, of St. Raphael Parish in Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood, entered the seminary last January, and he is in his first year of pre-theology. He graduated from Geneva College with a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry and a master’s of divinity degree from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Crawford previously worked as a barista for Caffé d’Amore Catering in Pittsburgh.
"To me there is but one reason that I have entered into the seminary and now, in particular," Crawford said. "‘The one who loses his life for my sake,’ says Jesus, ‘will find it.’ I have found, and continue to find, that for every bit of my choices, preferences and desires that I have for my life is given over to Jesus, I receive abundantly more than which I had surrendered.
"So, I am in the seminary now to continue on this path upon which more and more of my life is placed into the merciful hands of the crucified Savior. The life I have today, I have received as a gift from our loving Father. Therefore, it is only right and just that I return this gift to him for whatever purposes he has."
In addition to the four men who entered the seminary this year, there are six others studying at St. Paul and Duquesne University:
• John Flynn, 21, of St. Richard Parish in Richland Township, entered the seminary in fall 2015. He is in his fourth year of college.
• John Paul Gaston, 20, of St. Barbara Parish in Bridgeville, entered in fall 2015, and he is in his third year of college.
• Jacob Gruber, 21, of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Pleasant Hills, entered in fall 2014, and he is in his fourth year of college.
• Michael Howard, 32, of St. Benedict the Abbot Parish in Peters Township, entered the seminary in fall 2014, and he is in this third year of college.
• Aaron Ledgerwood, 26, of St. Regis Parish in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, entered in fall 2015, and he is in his second year of pre-theology.
• David Schmidt, 25, of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen Parish in Butler, entered the seminary in fall 2015, and he is in his second year of pre-theology.