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 | By Kristin Session

Prayers answered

Diocese has record number of seminarians in formation

Answered prayers always merit gratitude, but there are certain times when God’s blessings create such joy that it is hard to contain. Indeed, one such blessing is the number of seminarians in formation for priesthood in the Diocese of Birmingham; a number that has more than doubled in the last five years! These men are discerning diocesan priesthood, meaning they hope to live and work in our diocese. These men, who come from the pews of our very own parishes, will be serving our parishes, our families: They will be OUR priests!

As one can imagine, much is expected of seminarians during their formation and education. Naturally, they attend class and study, but they are also being formed to become men of Christ. This formation requires a daily prayer schedule and participation in apostolic programs in nearby parishes and communities. During the summers, seminarians return home and are assigned either to serve in parishes within the diocese or to participate in special programs such as Spanish immersion. In short, the rigorous formation program makes it impossible for seminarians to seek employment.

The Office of Vocations applies for grants from the Catholic Extension Society, receives funds from Catholic Charities and Communities, and actively seeks out scholarship opportunities for seminarians when available. Yet it has always been the people of the diocese who have responded to the need.

For over 60 years, the people in the Diocese of Birmingham have been most generous in their support of our diocesan seminarians through continuing prayers and financial contributions to the Burse Club. Approximately nine years ago, the Burse Club was renamed as the Seminarian Education Fund to better reflect the purpose of the program in our diocese.

When the Burse Club was first established in the 1950s, parishioners were urged to give at least $1 monthly, a mere $12 a year. At that time, the educational cost per seminarian was less than $2,500 per year. The current annual cost of tuition per seminarian has risen drastically to approximately $45,000. Once a man is accepted, it takes between seven and eight years to complete priestly formation. With the rising costs, length of the formation period, and the significant increase in the number of seminarians, contributions to the Seminarian Education Fund are a considerable blessing, an intentional means of investing in the future priests of our diocese.

There is much hope as the Church continues the work of preparing good and holy priests to serve the people of God. Your prayers and financial support will help future generations of priests answer the call to be faithful shepherds after the heart of Christ.

We ask that you keep our seminarians in your prayers and continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Birmingham. The Novena to St. John Marie Vianney on the following pages is a prayer specifically for our priests as we beg the Lord to send more laborers for this vineyard.

On Aug. 5-6, a second collection will be taken up in parishes as we honor St. John Marie Vianney, patron saint of priests and co-patron of our diocese. Donations offered during this collection will directly support the Seminarian Education Fund.

Want to help our future priests?

Give generously to the St. John Vianney Seminarian Education Fund second collection in your parish the weekend of Aug. 5-6, 2023.

Make a one-time or recurring donation to the Seminarian Education Fund here or visit

Contact Bob Sellers, CFO of the diocese, at 205.838.8322 to speak about estate planning or stock donations to the Seminarian Education Fund.

Kristin Sessions is the coordinator of Vocations Ministry.