Praying it forward: Adopt a seminarian programs can make a lasting difference
Praying It Forward
Adopt a seminarian programs can make a lasting difference
By John Sacco
Timing is often everything. Just ask Father E. George Saletrik, pastor of St. Regis Parish in Trafford.
In his first year at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Father Saletrik was having a “bad day” in late October 1991. His mood and outlook changed when he retrieved his mail.
“There was a big manila envelope in there from St. Sebastian School in Belle Vernon,” he recalled. “I went to lunch with my mail and opened my big envelope, and inside there were about 20 homemade Halloween cards from third-graders. It really brightened my day.”
All the classes in the school had “adopted” seminarians for the year, planning to correspond with them.
Father Saletrik wrote back to the third-graders, and their correspondence and friendship lasted through their eighth-grade graduation.
Those letters remain a turning point for Father Saletrik. They moved him 30 years ago and motivate him now as he stewards the parishioners of St. Regis Parish.
He brought a similar program to the parish last year, and is hopeful it can be implemented in earnest as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
“Throughout my time in seminary, it was a wonderful experience to have that bond with that particular class,” he said. “There are rough periods; we all go through them. Seminarians do as well, and it’s nice to know there are people out there who are praying for you and supporting you and backing you.”
Father Saletrik said then-Bishop Anthony G. Bosco and the Diocesan Vocations Office encouraged parishes, Catholic schools and faith formation programs to “adopt” seminarians, and they all appreciated the efforts.
“Now, as a pastor, I have the opportunity to return the favor,” he said. “Our faith formation classes at St. Regis each adopted one of our seminarians and did the same thing, paying it forward.”
During his time in the Diocese, former Bishop Edward C. Malesic wanted vocational ministry teams at all parishes to encourage the program. That has continued under Bishop Larry J. Kulik.
“That need for support for our seminarians is very important,” said Father Saletrik. “The seminarians know, just as those in my time there knew, there are a lot of people praying for us. To have that actual connection of a card, letter or an email to someone you know by name at a particular parish and is doing something for you is very meaningful.”
Karen McDade, director of religious education and faith formation at St. Regis Parish, said she has high hopes for the program this year.
“It creates an awareness among our children, and it lends support. It helps (the seminarians) in their journey,” she said.
Father Saletrik hopes that the program at St. Regis will lead to something special for the current seminarians, as it did for him in 1992.
“Lo and behold, when I went back to seminary the following year, those third-graders had become fourth-graders,
and they decided to continue to adopt me. They continued to be my adopted class all the way through. At the time I was ordained, they were completing seventh grade,” he said.
That summer, he received his first assignment — St. Sebastian Parish in Belle Vernon. At eighth-grade graduation Mass, Father Saletrik used a sample from each student in his homily.
“It’s unbelievable that a little goes a long way,” he said. “What I received in the mail in 1991 went a long way for me.”