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Reflecting an assertion made elsewhere in this volume, it's quite possible that a visit to a seminary can represent the first opportunity a group of school students would ever have to meet an actual seminarian. As such, these visits can be foundational to a young person's vocations-related considerations.
Seminaries, novitiates (institutions dedicated to religious-order formation; for example, a Jesuit novitiate in St. Paul, MN), and other formation houses often welcome tours from groups dedicated to fostering vocations in students.
Organizing and leading such a 'vocations field trip' can be distilled into three basic steps. First, determine what institution (a seminary, a novitiate for a religious order, etc.) will be the focus of the visit. Second, look around the Internet via a search engine to determine who the best contact person would be for the institution. Third, reach out to that contact person and set up the date and time of the visit—and also get a 'lay of the land' as regards what the students would actually see and do during their stay.
In the case of researching religious order institutions to visit, it's important to keep in mind that different orders have different channels for forming their members: larger, more centralized orders, like the Jesuits, tend to have purpose-built, stand-alone novitiates—whereas smaller, more decentralized orders, like the Benedictines, often have their novices live in the same communities as their fully formed members.
* Relatively inexpensive to moderately expensive (depending on transportation costs)
• Reaching out to seminary/formation house official to set up visit
• Coordinating transportation
• Underwriting cost of transportation
• Helping with chaperoning of field trip
This companion summary to that titled “How to Organize School Visits for Seminarians and Religious” (which appears elsewhere in this volume) is intended to help vocations groups at the school or parish level organize and lead visits by school students to seminaries and religious order novitiates and other houses of formation within the Church.
Similar to what's mentioned in “How to Organize School Visits…”—it's quite possible that the first chance that a group of students would ever have to meet an actual seminarian would be a visit to a seminary. These visits can be foundational when promoting vocations.
Organizing and leading such a 'vocations field trip' can be distilled into three basic steps. First, determine if you want to visit a seminary, a novitiate for a religious order, or another house of formation. Second, search the Internet to determine who the best contact person would be at the place your group will visit. Third, reach out to the contact person, determine the date and time of the visit and get the details for what the students will do during their visit. Many of these institutions will already have a 'tour itinerary' in place for school-age visitors to follow that can be shared. (For example, a seminary might have in its 'itinerary' including a tour of the worship space, a visit to a classroom where seminarians are learning, and a question-and-answer session with seminarians and their superiors.) After reviewing the itinerary, it is good to discuss ideas, so that your group's expectations and the outcome of the visit can be congruous.
Template for an outreach email to be sent to your contact at the seminary/novitiate/house of formation you wish to have your students visit [simply cut and paste the text shown in the letter below into an email and modify as appropriate]:
Dear [NAME OF CONTACT]:
My name is [NAME HERE], and I'm from [PARISH/SCHOOL NAME]. I'm writing you today to see if a group of our [SCHOOL'S / PARISH'S] students could visit your [SEMINARY/NOVITIATE/ HOUSE OF FORMATION] in the near future.
We at [PARISH/SCHOOL NAME] are very interested in fostering vocations to the priesthood, deaconate, and religious life. We feel our students would learn a lot from making a visit and taking a tour of the facilities.
Would it be possible for our students and their teachers to visit your [SEMINARY/NOVITIATE/ HOUSE OF FORMATION] on [DATE/TIME]?
Also—if this visit works for you and your group, could you please tell me if there is a set 'tour itinerary' that you have in place there? (That is, a list of what visitors can see and do during their time at your facility.) If so, we'd appreciate it if you could provide the details—so our students and teachers would have a better idea of what they'd be seeing while on their tour.
Could you please email or call me at [PHONE NUMBER] at your earliest convenience to further discuss this request?
Thank you so much! This 'field trip' will make a big difference in our efforts to spark vocations at [PARISH/SCHOOL NAME].
List from USCCB titled 20 Ways to Promote Vocations in Your Parish or School—see number 14 regarding an additional best practice which can be applied to your efforts to facilitate student visits to seminaries, novitiates, and houses of religious formation:
Webpage of St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas (MN) regarding the 'Team Vianney' program; this program is a group of Catholic men in 9th-12th grade living in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who meet each quarter for dinner, talks, and a Mass with college seminarians at the University; click on 'Team Vianney' to see a rundown of events and more details:
Story from cincinnati.com regarding a group of 5th graders' trip to a local seminary and their reactions to it:
Website of Our Lady of Charity (IL) with story about 6th grade students' visit to Mundelein Seminary and details on some of the activities they took part in there:
Story from The Leaven which describes the visits of high schoolers from around the Archdiocese of Kansas City visiting the homes of religious orders in northeastern Kansas:
SPARK: Built by Serrans for Vocation Directors.
A service of Serra International, United States Council, in collaboration with the NCDVD.