BLACKWOOD, N.J. — Catholic men studying to be priests have expressed their “deepest appreciation” for words and prayers of encouragement from grade-school students participating in a New Jersey letter-writing campaign.
“Please convey my deepest appreciation to the children and tell them to continue their prayers for us here,” one seminarian wrote. “God does indeed hear the prayers of little children.”
In a project sponsored by the New Jersey State Council of the Knights of Columbus, Catholic students are able to send words of encouragement to men studying to be priests in the United States and Rome.
It complements the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations this Sunday. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a resource page that includes prayers for the occasion.
John Tirado, the Seminarian Letter Project chairman, said he was inspired to begin the project by his childhood admiration of priests and their sacrifice for the Church.
“I’ve always been greatly inspired by anybody that spends a lifelong devotion to God,” he told Catholic News Agency April 15. “These individuals, these men, are being an instrument [of God].”
Tirado said that the practice of writing letters is a “very easy, very inexpensive” way to help a group of people who “need all the support they can get.”
As chairman of the project, Tirado contacts other Knights of Columbus councils and Catholic schools in his state to encourage them to participate in the campaign.
So far, nine other local councils have joined to help schoolchildren send letters to several seminaries in the United States and to the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Tirado has seen “very enthusiastic cooperation” from principals and teachers in the schools “because they see the value” of encouraging seminarians, as well as excitement from the students because they “enjoy writing the letters.”
Although he has been managing the project for a number of years, he said a note from a seventh-grade girl this year is “one of the best letters” he has been able to send to the seminarians so far.
In the letter, the girl explains how her mother had “prayed for a son so that she could give a priest to the Church,” but jokingly added that she “soon found out” God does not “work that way.”
“I am writing you with a heart full of appreciation for following the call of Jesus to serve him and us as a beloved son and priest,” she said.
“You may be sacrificing the choice of getting married and having a family,” she wrote, “but you will be able to actually touch Jesus and consecrate the host and wine into his actual flesh and blood.”
Other students told the seminarians about their interests at school, such as sports, while some simply encouraged the men.
“I believe you have the passion and determination to become a great priest,” wrote one student.
Another student said his seminarian should not be discouraged by the physical state of the Church to which he’s assigned.
“I know you will be a great priest at any church, even if it’s old and beat down,” he wrote.
Stationary and postage are the only costs of a letter-writing campaign, Tirado said, but the benefit is helping encourage the vocation to the priesthood.
He hopes that Catholics all over the country begin similar campaigns in their parishes or Knights of Columbus councils.
“Our guys just really need it; they need all the support they can get,” he said. “Maybe that’s God’s will for us.”