St. Finn Barr parishioners ‘adopt’ seminarians for Lenten prayer project

By Christina Gray

Parishioners of St. Finn Barr Parish in San Francisco have responded enthusiastically to their pastor’s invitation to pray for local seminarians this Lent.

Father Raymond Tyohemba told Catholic San Francisco March 9 that he put up a special Lenten “Vocation Tree” as a visual reminder to support the young men currently in priestly formation at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park.

There are a total of 71 men enrolled at the seminary, including 13 from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, according to a spokesperson.

“God has invited us to pray at Lent for what we need, and what we need right now in the Church is an increase in vocations to the priesthood,” Father Tyohemba said.

The Nigeria-born priest cited a March 3 statistical report by “L’Osservatore Romano,” the official newspaper of the Holy See. It revealed the size of the global Catholic Church at the end of 2021, and the numbers of priests, women religious and seminarians serving, or preparing to serve it.

The report showed that although the total number of Catholics worldwide increased 1.3% over the previous year, the number of new seminarians has been steadily declining since 2013. The sharpest decline was in North America and Europe. Africa was the only nation that saw a small increase in the number of new seminarians.

The report noted a “serious imbalance” in the ratio of Catholics per priest in the Americas and in Africa, both home to large Catholic populations.

St. Finn Barr Mass-goers were greeted by the Vocation Tree on the first Sunday of Lent, according to Father Tyohemba. Red paper hearts bearing the names of the individual 13 seminarians were hung from the tree, and parishioners were invited to choose one to support in prayer.

“When we pray for them, we are praying for their perseverance, we are praying for their humility, we are praying for their zeal, and we are praying for their obedience to God’s will,” said Father Tyohemba.

The branches of the Vocation Tree were bared after eager parishioners took home every heart with name they could see and speak in prayer. A second and then third set of names went up to meet the demand by those who missed out the first time.

“They were the same names, but with different and more people praying for them,” said Father Tyohemba. “Some people told me they have the name on their prayer altar at home.”

Father Tyohemba said he had been “thinking hard” about what else his community could do to support seminarians after last year’s Holy Hour for Vocations. Sponsored by the Office of Vocations, the Holy Hour is an annual opportunity to pray for an increase and strengthening of vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and consecrated life.

“I thought this would be one way of contributing our prayerful support of the future priests of the archdiocese,” he said.

These are the names of the men in priestly formation for the Archdiocese of San Francisco being prayed for by St. Finn Barr parishioners:

Leandro Calingasan
Abraham Garcia
Emmanuel Gutierrez
Kyle Laluces
David Mees
Joseph McEntire
Elijah Miller
Jerick Rea
David Sandler
Cameron Sellers
Brother Mikheal, COSJ
Jimmy Velasco
Jeff Yano

Christina Gray is the lead writer for Catholic San Francisco.