By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — If anybody’s mind was wandering as Bishop Robert W. Finn began his homily, he certainly brought them back to attention.
“This may be heresy,” the bishop told a church filled with seminarians, their families and Serra Club members Dec. 22.
“I’m sure that if it is, our seminarians will tell me,” Bishop Finn said at the annual Advent Mass for the three dozen seminarians, sponsored by the Serrans at St. Thomas More Parish.
Bishop Finn then contemplated the Luke’s Gospel reading for the day — Mary’s “Magnificat,” her prayer upon her visitation to Elizabeth to tell her the news of the Annunciation.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his holy servant,” she rejoiced in prayer upon learning that she, an unwed teenager, would bear the Son of God.
It is quite an expression of faith, Bishop Finn said, but even more so if his potential “heresy” is examined.
“Did Mary fully understand everything God was doing with her? I don’t think so,” Bishop Finn said.
In fact, Mary was certain of only one thing, he said.
“God was in charge,” Bishop Finn said. “God’s plan was unfolding and she at every moment of her life said, ‘Yes,’ to God’s plan.”
For Mary, that was all she needed to know, Bishop Finn said.
“Mary gave everything to Almighty God,” he said. “The great gift of her obedience to God’s will continues to unfold.”
Thus it also is with the seminarians — and their families — who are also modeling Mary’s answer to God’s call without knowing what the future holds.
“Ordination is the easy part,” Bishop Finn told the seminarians. “That’s just getting started with what God will accomplish with us.”
He told the entire congregation that the seminarians will continue to need the prayers and support of the people, as do all priests and people of God.
“Pray for them that they may be like Mary and be obedient to every direction of God and the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Finn said.
The annual event, which includes dinner after Mass and Christmas presents from the Serrans to the seminarians this year drew 28 of 32 seminarians and their families who are in various stages of their preparation for ordination to the diocesan priesthood.
The only four who were absent were the four men studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome — Transitional Deacons Alex Kreidler and Andrew Mattingly, who will be ordained to the priesthood in 2015, and Trevor Downey and Tyler Sanders, whose ordinations are still a few years away.
And if this year’s event was particularly festive, it was because 2015 is going to be a banner year for priestly ordinations.
In addition to Deacons Kreidler and Mattingly, seven more young men will be ordained in 2015, and all of them took the opportunity Dec. 22 to thank the Serrans and Bishop Finn for the support they have received as they hit the final stretch.
“It’s been a long journey, and it’s been filled with so many graces,” said Deacon Bryan Amthor. “There is no way I could do it without all your prayers.”
“This is my eighth year to be here at this dinner,” said Deacon Joshua Bartlett. Then he pointed out his younger brother, Silas.
“My brother is over there, and he is halfway through the application process,” Deacon Bartlett said to a vigorous ovation.
Deacon Ryan Koster pointed to a member of his family, his infant nephew Cason Koster.
“I baptized him two hours after being ordained a deacon” in May, Deacon Koster said. “He may be up here one day.”
Deacon Gabriel Lickteig said he had no problem sharing his upcoming ordination with so many.
“Why do we have so many vocations?” he asked. “Because we have a great leader in Bishop Finn” adding an echo of the bishop’s homily: “Let’s put everything in Our Lady’s hands and we’ll do good.”
Deacon Jorge Moreno, a native of Colombia, spread his love around.
“I am so grateful to God, Bishop Finn and my new diocese,” he said. “You have given me the opportunity to be hear, learn a new language and a new culture.”
Likewise for Deacon Felipe Suarez, also a native of Colombia.
“Here, Lord, I have come to do your will,” he said, in flawless English. “It was harder than I thought to learn your language, but here I am, Lord. I am here to do your will, and I thank you all for your support.”
Deacon Curt Vogel thanked the Serrans for the greatest gift possible.
“Thank you for your prayers,” he said. “That is what we need more than anything else.”
Deacon Vogel also expressed his gratitude to the bishop, not just for his support but for his example.
“Our diocese is blessed to have Bishop Finn,” he said. “He has shown us what it means to carry the cross daily and to grow in holiness.”
Then Father Richard Rocha, director of the Vocations Office, sprang the great news upon the seminarians and the Serrans.
“We have already talked to 13 men so far” who are in the process of applying for seminary education, he said. “Over the holidays, I will talk to No. 14 and 15.
“God is continuing to bless us,” Father Rocha said.