Twenty-two diocesan seminarians gathered July 18-21 for their annual retreat at the Catholic Conference Center in Hickory.
The four-day event marked the end of the summer pastoral experience for most seminarians. The retreat included prayer, holy hour meditations and spiritual reflections. It also included fellowship and leisure such as ultimate frisbee, soccer and river swimming.
Father Than Nguyen, of St. Matthew Church in Durham, and Father Kevin Moley, C.Ss.R., from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Newton Grove, delivered presentations to the seminarians—a group that included three newly-accepted collegians and three transitional deacons.
The event was organized by Father Bill John Acosta-Escobar, former director of the Office of Vocations, and Father Phil Tighe, current director.
The group toured the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral construction site, too. Their tour was led by Monsignor David D. Brockman, vicar general, and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.
Guests included Bishop Herbert Bevard, of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Monsignor Joseph McLoone, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, July 21, the group gathered with priests from throughout the diocese for the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. The Mass was held at 5 p.m. at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cary.
Seminarian Jairo Maldonado declared his intention to pursue the sacrament of holy orders. Bishop Burbidge officially accepted him as a candidate.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge said: "Jairo … tonight you promise to continue your priestly formation by preparing yourself in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord. And in this ceremony, the Church accepts your resolve with great joy and prays that God, who has begun this good work in you, will bring it to fulfillment.”
Mr. Maldonado, who is originally from Colombia, was joined by friends such as Father Fernando Lopez, of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, and Keith and Maria Isley of Saint Luke Parish.
“We got to know Jairo last summer,” Mr. Isley said. “He’s serious and smart, but he also has a fun side, too.”
Father Lopez agreed, adding that Mr. Maldonado, who learned the English language in nine months, has a gift for working with people.
For his part, Mr. Maldonado said the experience of discerning the priesthood is a blessing.
“I’m just Jairo,” he said with a simple shrug. “But I felt He called me, and I’m willing to give my best.”