A ‘crate’ idea to support seminarians


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

MOUNT PLEASANT —Recently, seminarians of the Diocese of Davenport received small crates full of goodies, including snacks, school supplies, games and notes of encouragement. The items were donated and assembled by members of St. Alphonsus Parish.

Josiah, Lydia and Malachi Bly, children of St. Alphonsus-Mount Pleasant Vocation Committee member Amy Bly, show off seminarian gift crates they helped assemble last month.

“It’s just a way to say, ‘Hey, we’re thinking of you and we want to encourage you,’” said Kelly Burgmeier, a member of the parish’s vocation ministry team.

St. Alphonsus created the vocation ministry team earlier this year after the diocese hosted a series of “Hundredfold” workshops geared at empowering parishes to help promote vocations on a local level. This includes vocations to ordained life, consecrated life and lay life as married or single persons.


In May, the committee posted bulletin announcements asking for donations of items to help seminarians stay energized, organized and stress free. The announcement also requested personalized notes to help the seminarians feel supported. Burgmeier, a teacher in the Mount Pleasant Community School District, used leftover crates that Walmart donated to her school. The team wrapped the items, placed them in crates and put a bow on top using materials on hand. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money,” she said. “Look for resources that already exist and make use of them.”

The parish’s pastor, Father Paul Connolly, brought the gift crates to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport May 31 and distributed them to seminarians attending a prayer vigil dedicated to men who would be ordained the following day. Additionally, Father Joseph Sia, diocesan director of Vocations, and his administrative assistant, Colleen Darland, each received a gift crate.

Seminarian Isaac Doucette said he liked the toothpaste and candy best, adding that the gift crate made him feel “very loved. It’s great to receive someone’s generosity; it reminds us of how generous God is to us.”

The gift crates are one example of how St. Alphonsus has been working to support vocations. While the gift crate creation was an original idea, the committee has generally used author Rhonda Gruenewald’s Hundredfold materials as a guide, taking on “bite-sized projects,” Burgmeier said. On World Marriage Day, all married persons stood up to receive a blessing. Couples who had been married the longest were invited to remain standing to be recognized. The parish invited Fr. Sia to speak at a Lenten fish fry about vocations. On the anniversary of Fr. Connolly’s ordination, the parish hosted a multicultural reception to honor him. The committee hosted games at the parish picnic.

Additionally, the parish has a calendar for parishioners to sign up to pray for vocations. Seminarian prayer cards are always available for parishioners to take home. This summer, the parish is hosting Totus Tuus, a week-long youth program that explores vocations in a broad sense.

The committee consists of four laypersons and Fr. Connolly. The group gathers as needed to coordinate events, generally about once a month. Burgmeier said it doesn’t take much time or money to support vocations, just creativity and resourcefulness. “We keep it low-key and manageable,” she said.

Committee member Amy Bly said she is “excited” to be part of the committee. Three of her four children helped to assemble gift crates. “I’m excited to have the kids involved and do it as a family.” She hopes to foster a sense of vocation culture in her family as well, “whether priesthood, marriage, a (religious) sister, whatever!”

Share your ideas

What is your parish doing to support vocations?
Let us know at messenger@davenportdiocese.org.

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1 thought on “A ‘crate’ idea to support seminarians

  1. The baby girl’s shoes in the first picture are on backwards. That’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen! Beautiful little face!! Thank you for this post. Gives us great ideas and support to bless our seminarians!

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