Seminarians reflect on annual convocation

Father George McDaniel, left, gave a talk on the history of the Catholic Church in Iowa at the annual statewide seminarian convocation in Ames, Iowa. Pictured with Fr. McDaniel are, from left: Dominic Nguyen, Isaac Doucette, Grant Colburn, Cameron Costello and Father Joseph Sia, vocation director for the Diocese of Davenport.

Serving for the love of the people

By Andrew Rauenbuehler

During our annual seminarian convocation, we were able to hear many stories about some of the first priests in Iowa. While there were many takeaways from learning about our history, two points had the greatest impact for me. One was the generosity of the church in France and other parts of Europe to help fellow Catholics practice their faith in our area during the westward expansion. The other was the zeal and determination with which the priests worked.

Concerning the first point, the first bishop and priests in Iowa came from France. They left their relative comfort and familiar surroundings for what would be a harsh life serving communities of mostly Irish and Germans here. Not only did our first bishop, Bishop Mathias Loras, work to establish the church in our area, he regularly made trips back to France to recruit seminarians to come back with him to serve.
Furthermore, Bishop Loras depended much upon the financial support of parishioners in France to help fund his mission within the Archdiocese of Dubuque (which at the time included what would be become the Diocese of Davenport). This fact made me appreciate the interconnectedness of the church throughout the world. Regardless of nationality, race or social status, to be a member of the church, the body of Christ, demands that we recognize and help to support fellow Catholics around the world that are facing difficult situations, whether it be poverty or persecution.


However, concerning the second point, all the work and money raised for the new diocese in Iowa was never to build an earthly kingdom. The parishes, structures and institutions that our ancestors in the faith built and the tireless work of so many sisters, priests and lay faithful alike were directed towards the salvation of souls.

In letters of some of the first priests that we heard about at the convocation you could sense the great love for souls and the desire to serve them among those first priests. I hope that the priests in our diocese and those studying to serve this diocese in the future will be inspired by the great example of those who went before us.

(Seminarian Andrew Rauenbuehler is a third year theology student at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.)

Moving forward in the church

By Isaac Doucette

The Iowa seminarian convocation this year was held at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Ames from Aug. 5-7 with 60 seminarians attending. The purpose of the convocation was to allow seminarians across the state to grow in fraternity, learn about a topic, and grow spiritually.

This year’s topic was the history of the Catholic Church in Iowa. We covered the history in chronological order from the oldest diocese to newest (Archdiocese of Dubuque, Diocese of Davenport, Diocese of Sioux City and Diocese of Des Moines).

The church in Iowa started with very few resources. There was no money, church buildings or priests. Thanks to the generosity of others and a few frontiersman priests, the church was established and grew. The untamed, beautiful and wild Iowa prairie stood before them. There were many challenges, such as having to prefabricate wooden church buildings up river, floating the finished wood pieces down river (hoping they would get to their destination) and then reassembling.

Bishop Mathias Loras and Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli were some of the first clergy frontiersmen to evangelize and catechize Iowa. We learned about their holy lives and self-sacrificing example.

After the talks, we discussed how the frontiersman attitude still applies today and moving forward. The frontier just looks different. Instead of prairie, Iowa has corn, soybeans and great cities. Given the current situation, it is crucial to think outside the box, have the frontiersman attitude and trust in God. We have fields of opportunities to evangelize and catechize. We wade into the frontier of rising secularism, unbelief and strong divisions by meeting them with deep faith, great hope and love. Holiness of life and living out the human vocation of self-gift are the tools to go out into the new frontier with confidence, joy and high yield.

(Seminarian Isaac Doucette is a first year theology student at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill.)

Christians have a duty to listen

By Ben Snyder

During the Iowa seminarian convocation, I was struck by the stories of the missionary priests and settlers who traveled thousands of miles and built communities in the name of Jesus Christ.

Today, we are panicking about the “nones” (people who have no religious affiliation) and fewer priests and sisters. If we look at the past, we see that Iowa was once part of a diocese that spread from the Mississippi to Oregon with only one bishop and a handful of priests.

Look what came from their evangelizing zeal! I think this is actually a great time for the Catholic Church to be that missionary presence one on one with our neighbor. What does that look like? A fire alarm went off at our hotel at midnight. We had to leave our rooms and I got into a conversation with a man staying at the hotel who appeared to be intoxicated.

It turns out that he was a Protestant who married a Catholic woman who had a daughter from a previous relationship. They had a bad encounter at the Catholic church and he was still mad about it a year later. But this man who felt he had been pushed away by the church was able to hear, “I’m sorry for what happened” from two seminarians. We wanted to show him that the church is more than what he initially encountered. He had a story and we, as Catholic Christians, have a duty to listen. This is how we find the lost, those on the peripheries, in places like a hotel parking lot in the early hours of the morning when a fire alarm goes off.

(Seminarian Ben Snyder is a second year theology student at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.)

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