A nice story on Archbishop Burke and the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.
"The walks," as the seminarians call them, are opportunities for young men to have heart-to-hearts with a man who regularly meets with the pope, a heady prospect for a young priest-in-training. The conversations are usually casual, and the seminarians get to see a more personal, human side of Burke – like when he gets a little skittish around off-leash dogs.
Kenrick officials organize the walks using time sheets. When the sheets are posted, there’s a rush to sign on.
"It’s like when you throw pellets at the Japanese fish at the Botanical Gardens," said seminarian Edward Nemeth, 26. "Guys falling over each other to get their names on the list."
On Saturday, Nemeth and eight of his colleagues at Kenrick will be ordained as priests in the St. Louis Archdiocese – the largest St. Louis ordination class in 25 years and one of the largest in the U.S. It’s also the same number of ordinations in St. Louis as the last three years combined.
Since the 1980s, declining interest in the priesthood has been a growing crisis for the Roman Catholic church in the U.S., a situation that was compounded by the clergy sex-abuse scandal earlier this decade. One church study suggested that 80 percent of parents whose sons are considering the priesthood try to dissuade them, fearing their child is entering a life of loneliness and unhappiness.
Burke is credited for helping to address such concerns at Kenrick. He is active in recruiting priests and knows the seminarians, their names, their life stories, their joys and their fears. He’s also a frequent visitor to the seminary, sometimes dropping by unannounced for lunch with the students.
"He’s the center and the core of this whole thing," said the Rev. Michael Butler, the vocations director for the archdiocese.
The student body at Kenrick-Glennon, which includes the undergraduate Cardinal Glennon College and graduate-level Kenrick Theological Seminary, is 112 students, the largest enrollment in two decades and a 50 percent increase over last year.