NU tops schools in Kansas in number of former students in seminary formation


Newman University graduates or former students now in formation for the Diocese of Wichita are, l-r: Kyle Dugan, Tanner Martin, Sam Brand, Adam Grelinger, Andrew Labenz, Ed Herzog and J.D. Betzen.

Ed Herzog originally came to Newman University to play golf.

Although Herzog was raised Catholic, he didn’t choose Newman because it is a Catholic university, and didn’t consider himself an actively practicing Catholic.

While at Newman, however, something happened. Herzog, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business in 2010 and an MBA in May 2011, found himself becoming more interested in the faith. He became friends with the theology professors. He took more classes to pursue his interest. He decided to be confirmed in Newman’s St. John’s Chapel.

Today, Herzog is a student at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emittsburg, Md., and one of seven former students from Newman University who are now in seminary formation for the Diocese of Wichita. According to Father Mike Simone, director of vocations for the diocese and former chaplain and director of Campus Ministry at Newman, that’s the most men in formation this year who hail from a single university in Kansas.

“This year, there are more alumni and former students from Newman in seminary formation for the Wichita Diocese than from any other school that sends men to us,” Simone said. “I think that says something important about the Catholic identity and mission of Newman.”

Formation is a period of six to nine years in which men prepare intellectually, spiritually and pastorally to handle the demands of priesthood, Simone said. In addition to earning a master’s degree in theology, men perform practicums to help prepare them for pastoral ministry, hone their personal skills to better work with people, learn how to deliver homilies, minister to the sick and poor, and other activities that help them, as Simone said, “learn to lead people to Jesus.”

Simone said more men have been coming to formation from Newman over the past few years than from other area institutions.

“For me as vocation director, to see this sustained pattern is exciting,” he said. “And, the quality of the candidates is very good.”

Simone added that the large number of men in formation from Newman can be attributed to the university’s Catholic heritage, traditions and academics.

“The first step for young men who are interested in the priesthood is learning to pray and live a life of holiness, and Newman can teach them that,” he said. “The second step is allowing them around a priest, so they can see how that vocation is lived. At Newman, they come into closer contact with that than they would just sitting in a pew, because Newman is a close, small community that provides those opportunities. By helping at Mass and in Campus Ministry, they learn to take responsibility and pride in what they’re doing, and in their devotion.”

J.D. Betzen, who studied at Newman for two years before transferring to Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., agreed that the activities and opportunities Newman offered to get involved played a large part in the development of his faith. Betzen served at Mass, lived on the Metanoia Christian community floor in Beata Hall his sophomore year, and was a student worker in the Campus Ministry Office. “Having that office available on campus definitely had an impact on me,” he said.

Herzog agrees that Newman offers a good environment for men considering the priesthood, and that it prepares students well for the path they will take.

“The nice thing about Newman is there are great professors who are really true to the mission and give students the tools to transform society,” he said. “With the skills they teach you, they really do prepare you to go out and make a difference, no matter what direction you take in life.”

Herzog and Simone also credit former Newman Chaplain Father Joseph Tatro for the increase of men in formation. Herzog said Tatro, who left Newman in June 2010 to pursue graduate studies at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Va., played an important role in helping him make the decision.

“Fr. Tatro put the bug in my ear to consider it, and that idea never went away,” Herzog said. “I talked to Fr. Tatro and then Fr. Simone when he came to Newman, and I got involved in Campus Ministry. One thing led to another, and here I am.”

Simone noted that all these factors are important in helping more Newman students consider the priesthood. Ultimately, however, the reason goes beyond mere earthly concerns.

“What can we do to promote vocation? We do a lot,” he said. “But part of it is God’s mystery. We can help set up the right conditions, and offer the teaching and training. But really, it’s God.”