Financial support from Spokane Diocese Catholics contributes to success of Guatemala seminary
by Donna Connell for the Inland Register
How blessed we felt when we visited the minor seminary, Seminario Menor Señor San José in Sololá, Guatemala last November.
We were four humble travelers: Patt Perlman (chairperson of the Diocesan Guatemala Commission), Jesús Ordaz (parishioner of St. Joseph Parish, Colbert), and Ron and Donna Connell (members of the Guatemala Commission). You would have thought we were dignitaries by the way we were treated at the seminary.
We stopped by the seminary to meet the rector, Father Pedro Poz, and tour the seminary and meet with some students. The seminary has received financial support from the people of the Spokane Diocese since the school opened in 1961. As a result of the efforts of the seminarian students, faculty, and God’s grace, the Diocese of Sololá has more priests than any other diocese in Guatemala: one priest for every 7,000 Catholics.
Bishop Gonzalo de Villa has ordained 66 priests in the eight years that he has been bishop of the Sololá Diocese. Six more priests are being ordained this year.
We were overwhelmed as we entered a classroom and 40 students stood and welcomed us with applause. They proceeded with a program of singing, led by a student with a guitar, in which we were invited to join. Students told us that they miss their families (they can go home one weekend a month), but that fellow students at the seminary have become like their family. One student explained that he was there because he felt called to be a priest. Another said that he wanted to become a priest because he wants to help his community, which currently does not have enough priests.
At the conclusion of the program, each student came up to us and thanked us for coming and supporting the seminary.
Seventeen teachers instruct these young men, following an intense course of study taught in Spanish that also includes learning three Mayan languages, religion, liturgy, and other courses in line with the Department of Education. Students also participate in community service and help with work within the seminary. When we visited, they were in the process of taking exams and planning a community procession for the feast of St. Joseph.
Earlier we met with Bishop de Villa, who reported that the percentage of students going from the minor seminary to the major seminary has improved. The bishop and director are very selective at both levels so that students are more likely to discern that the priesthood is their path. He stated that “the help from Spokane is very important” to the seminary.
Father Poz said that students pay about one-third of the actual cost of the seminary. Many cannot pay that much, so the funds sent from Eastern Washington help with tuition. Annually, the Guatemala Commission has budgeted $3,780 in support of students at the seminary.
Our November trip included many other such awesome experiences. We extend the thankfulness of the people of Sololá to each of you who pray for them and support them financially.
(For more information, visit the Guatemala Commission’s web site: www.
dioceseofspokane.org/diocese-of-solola. If you feel that you would like to help these students and or support the work of the seminary, you can make a donation to the seminary through the Guatemala Commission of the Diocese of Spokane. Please make your donation payable to the Guatemala Commission. All donations should be mailed to the Diocese of Spokane, P.O. Box 1453, Spokane, WA 99210-1453. Please note that the donation is for the seminary on the check’s memo line. All funds will be forwarded to the seminary; donors will receive a confi rmation of their donation as well as and the seminary’s thanks.)