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Small Bible-belt diocese sees increase in seminarians

.- Bishop William Friend has been praying for years that God would give the Diocese of Shreveport, in northwest Louisiana, just six seminarians. Now, he recently told the Shreveport Times, he thinks that God just may be listening. Four new seminarians have recently begun studies for active service in the Church and will hopefully join 43 priests in the diocese currently serving at 50 parishes.

"It takes a vocations culture of asking people to think about their lives and what they might do for God," Rev. Pike Thomas of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish told the Times. "The more (seminarians) we have, the more we're going to have as long as we keep up the invitations."

Many credit the increased interest in vocations to changing times in the diocese and the culture at large.

John Mark Wilcox, vocations director for the diocese told the Times that "The millennials --unlike Gen Xers -- they are completely unafraid of commitment."

Added Bishop Friend: “[the increase] is indicative of the goodness of young people and their relationships with God…It also indicates some new revitalization of the faith community."

Garrett Tiller, who just graduated from High School, has four years of college and then four more of theology training ahead of him on his road to the priesthood. He told the Times that he is pursuing this vocation--somewhat unusual for the strongly Protestant south--because of his love of the Church and to help people grow in their relationships with God.

 "You can help one person on so many levels -- spiritual, with marriages, baptisms, funerals -- in good times and bad," he said.

Garrett’s Grandfather, Randy Tiller, president of the local chapter of the Serra Club, a lay organization aimed at promoting priestly vocations, said that some of his grandson’s friends have already started asking him questions.

"We've got some visible presence," he said. "They will go a long way to keeping the idea alive and in the forefront."

He added, according to the Times, that it was his grandson’s vocation that inspired him to start the Serra club chapter.

According to the diocese, the new seminarians range in backgrounds from Tiller, who just graduated from high school, to a 20-year veteran of the casino industry.

Added Wilcox: "Every time I see a spark, I travel and pour some gasoline on it."


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