How the seminarians spent their summer

PHOTO: Bishop Malesic gathers with diocesan seminarians at his residence July 23, the last time they will be together before the bishop leaves for his position as bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland. From left are David M. Slusarick, Christopher J. Pujol, Craig E. Alexander, Bishop Malesic, Jeremy P. Zawelensky, Aidan P. Kerlin, Andrew J. Hamilton, Zachary L. Lentz and Father Tyler J. Bandura, director of the Office for Priestly Vocations.
Interviews by Mary Seamans;
Photos by Mary Seamans and Jerry Zufelt

Four diocesan seminarians got a taste of life in a parish during summer assignments. Christopher J. Pujol and Craig E. Alexander worked under the supervision of Father Alan N. Polczynski, pastor of Christ, Prince of Peace Parish, Ford City, and St. Lawrence Parish, Cadogan. Andrew J. Hamilton and David M. Slusarick worked under the supervision of Msgr. Michael J. Begolly, pastor of the three parishes in New Kensington, Mount St. Peter, St. Joseph and St. Mary of Czestochowa. Here they discuss their experiences.


A summer assignment is important for many reasons — to be among the people and accompany them in their everyday lives, whether that be in the joys and sorrows of life or just the average day.

We lived in the parish with people who we might serve one day. At Mount St. Peter, St. Joseph and St. Mary of Czestochowa, we were able to walk with parishioners, go to daily Mass with them, help out in the community and later maybe have a meal with them.

It is important as seminarians to be in a parish for the summer because we learn from the pastor. We take what we have learned in the seminary and implement that in the parish, to see how we can actually live out the vocation we are seeking.

Spiritually, it is important to live outside the seminary. We are going to be out in the world, and we need to have a practical spirituality of availability to people, as well as setting aside time in our lives to pray for ourselves and for our parishioners and to build up the kingdom of God.


This summer we’ve been involved in the daily life of the parish, assisting at Mass each day and at first Communions, confirmations, funerals and baptisms. We have been the sacristan or server, or minister of holy Communion and lector. We have also seen how the pastor navigates some tough issues and sat in on meetings of the new advisory council for the three parishes, sometimes offering the prayers. We have attended staff meetings, meetings of first holy Communicants and parents, and meetings with the catechists.

We called families to check on them and let them know that the Church cares about them and see if they need anything, with a particular focus on the homebound. We help at the Community Clothes Closet, and each Thursday we are at the Knead Café, a food ministry started by two parishioners of Mount St. Peter. It’s another community gathering place. Everyone is welcome at the table, and the food is very good! We help unload the truck there on Thursday mornings and prepare the produce which is then distributed to families who may need some extra help with food.


It was wonderful to watch Father Alan interact and get to know the people of the parish. I was doubly blessed because I was assigned there with Chris Pujol. I was grateful for the time and effort he put forth to show me how to serve at Mass.

We helped distribute food to the needy. It’s wonderful that we have that program, but sad that we need it.

Father Alan, as the dean, was given all the Holy Oils for the parishes in the deanery. Chris and I delivered them, which was wonderful for me, not being from the diocese originally. I saw many churches that I had never been to before. I also joined the other seminarians to help at the high school Vocations Discernment Day. We spent the day with 12 young men sharing prayer, talk and vocation stories. One of the main ways to foster a culture of vocations is through prayer, praying the rosary, holy hours dedicated to vocations and eucharistic adoration. Our priests are good, holy men, which fosters vocations as young men see that and are inspired to discern this vocation.


It was a blessing to work with the children and the parents of the first holy Communion class, preparing them virtually for their first reconciliation. It was a blessing to have a summer assignment during the quarantine and move forward with what the church is asking each of us to do. This summer has taught me a lot about priestly ministry, which is living the life of Christ and carrying him out into a world that is so fearful and anxious. The Church continues to move because the love of Christ is a beating heart that each of us are called to follow.

It was a joy to be assigned with Craig Alexander and a treasure to be at two parishes to see how they live and work together to form a community of faith. It was my second summer working with Father Polczynski, who is a wealth of knowledge and information for future priests. To build a culture of vocations in the diocese we have to realize that a vocation is something that we each respond to. It starts at home with the family and understanding what a priest is. He lives a life of service and devotion and a life of prayer.


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