Support Our Seminarians Banquet celebrates the priesthood

Surrounded by seminarians, Emcee Kathy Quinn and Kansas City-St. Joseph Vocations Director Father Adam Johnson, Father Jerry Arano-Ponce, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Topeka, retells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the 2018 SOS Benefit. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY— As the sun set Jan. 26, a steady stream of people rode the escalator to the main floor of Union Station for the 25th annual Support Our Seminarians Benefit, affectionately known as SOS. The railroad station’s Grand Hall glittered with lights as attendees perused the silent auction items on display or greeted friends as they entered. As time passed, the Grand Hall grew crowded, with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and hundreds of laymen and women.

The annual benefit began in 1993, under the leadership of then-Bishop Raymond J. Boland of Kansas City-St. Joseph and then-Archbishop James Keleher of Kansas City, Kan. SOS supports, both spiritually, through prayer and messages of encouragement, and monetarily, young men in formation for the priesthood, from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., and Conception Seminary College. The funds raised help reduce the price of the seminarians’ college educations. Currently, there are 62 seminarians from both the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan. and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and 80 at Conception Seminary College.

The 2018 SOS was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of the Americas, and images of her graced the walls and the silent auction tables.

The event’s chairs this year were David and Emily Lopez, son and daughter-in-law of Manny Lopez, the long-time owner-operator of Manny’s Mexican Restaurant on Southwest Blvd. Emcee Kathy Quinn of the Fox-4 TV station, introduced the evening’s speakers, Archbishop Emeritus James Keleher, Father Jerry Arano-Ponce, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Topeka, Kan., and Paul Sappington, a pre-Theology II seminarian at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.

Archbishop Keleher recounted the origins of the SOS benefit and reminded the audience that he will be 87 on his next birthday. “But, I will leave this world knowing I’ve left two great bishops behind:” his successor, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Turning then to the seminarians around the room, he said, “Young people, from whom we might draw future priests, have their I-phones, I-pads and TVs, and what are they getting? It is totally secular and much if it is terribly offensive!” With an expansive gesture, he drew in the lay people. “That’s why we need you … because you believe in the priesthood and support the priesthood and you have to let people know how important it is to support our seminarians.”

Father Arano-Ponce told a brief version of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Paul Sappington followed him and recalled his days as an electrical engineer, with lots of money to spend. Then he heard about spiritual direction through City On A Hill, the Catholic Young Adult ministry for the Kansas City area.

Through spiritual direction, he resurrected his prayer life and, as it grew stronger, realized he was being called to the priesthood. He sees Mary, whether under her title of Our Blessed Mother or Our Lady of Guadalupe, or another of her many titles, as an integral part of life and of the priesthood.

As attendees ate, drank, chatted and listened to the speakers, seminarians prowled the room, urging people to purchase raffle tickets for an Alex Smith autographed football, dinner at Manny’s and dinner at the Hereford House.

Martha Hodes, who has coordinated and organized the SOS benefit dinner for many years, said that while pledged funds are still coming in, it looks like Kansas City-St. Joseph, Kansas City, Kan., and Conception Seminary College will each receive about $56,666 to help with seminary and college costs.

With love, laughter, open hearts and wallets, the SOS Benefit again helped support today’s seminarians and tomorrow’s priests.


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October 28, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph