Local seminarian grateful to others as he prepares for June ordination
By Pat Shea
Sun associate editor
How do you know when God calls you to a vocation? For Syracuse seminarian and transitional deacon Christopher Seibt, 27, the call came early.
“Parents of a priest who had just entered the priesthood came to talk to my fourth grade class at St. Daniel School about vocations,” explained Deacon Seibt. “During the visit the parents asked if anyone had ever considered being a priest. The thought just kept resonating in my mind and gradually became more prominent and more present. I found that I was extremely happy whenever I thought about it and whenever I was involved in ministerial work such as altar server training, religious education and service to the poor.”
As Deacon Seibt continued his Catholic school education at St. Daniel, and later at Bishop Grimes Prep, there were moments of brief indecision when he considered other paths for his life. “Sometime after I first felt that I was called to the priesthood, I began to also feel called to marriage. I began to desire to have a family of my own, and so throughout high school, I took the time to discern between the two. In the end, the desire to become a priest was stronger.”
As the thought of devoting his life to the church increased, Deacon Seibt received strong support from family, friends and teachers but there was one supporter Deacon Seibt felt had the biggest impact on his decision, by leading through example. “Msgr. Eugene Yennock [pastor of St. Daniel Church] inspired me the most to consider a vocation to the priesthood. He is a priest to whom I always look as an example of how to live a good priestly life and also to love it.”
Decision from grace
With the assistance (and persistence) of Father John Donovan, then director of the Office of Vocation Promotion and currently pastor of St. James Church in Johnson City, Deacon Seibt filled out an application from the Diocese of Syracuse and was accepted as a candidate for formation, withdrawing from Le Moyne College in his junior year to enter Theological College Seminary at the Catholic University of America as a Basselin scholar.
“This type of decision came from grace,” explained the deacon. “It didn’t come from me. It came from somewhere much deeper.”
As he moved forward in his studies Deacon Seibt gained new friends and received tremendous encouragement from his family. “Throughout my life I have been very blessed and inspired by my parents and my family, particularly my late grandfather, Sam Raite. My family is as excited and as happy as I am and support me 100 percent as I prepare for my ordination in June 2013,” said the deacon.
After entering the seminary, Deacon Seibt also received support and friendship from other young priests who were ordained from his home parish of St. Daniel, namely Father Christopher Celentano. “Recently I also found the hard work and pastoral heart of Bishop Cunningham a good priestly example, as well as that of all the priests who have played an important role in my formation, especially Father John Manno [pastor of St. James Church in Syracuse],” stated the deacon.
The road to ordination
It has taken eight years of formation to prepare for the priesthood but Deacon Seibt feels it has helped him grow. “Formation has been long and, at times, challenging, but I have found it to be both a grace and a blessing in so many ways, I have gained intellectual knowledge and pastoral experience. I have developed my basic human skills and have grown in my spiritual life.”
During these final months of preparation, the young deacon considers the future. “I think that a priest has to be a good general practitioner in many ways: able to teach at a variety of levels, listen and offer advice, able to care for those in need of any kind, and, most especially, able to celebrate the sacraments well,” said Deacon Seibt. “Ultimately, I hope to be a good priest in whatever parish or ministry the bishop, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, places me.”
With youth on his side, Deacon Seibt is optimistic about his future, despite any general opposition from the world around him. “Our culture currently is not very supportive of faith and religion, particularly vocations to the priesthood and religious life,” explains the deacon. “We can either let this be a source of discouragement or we can accept the challenge of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ with greater energy and strength, and in a way that offers hope to all those whom we encounter.”
Deacon Seibt also waves away any concern about his youth in approaching his new role as a priest. “I know some people are shocked to see a man as young as I am dressed in clerical attire, but I’ve met some people who received the call at a young age and others who were called later in life. Both have gone on to become good priests or religious.”
Age should never be a concern if someone feels called to a vocation the deacon is quick to point out. Young or old, if called, a person will be filled with grace to follow the call to its completion. “As Blessed John Paul II often said, ‘Do not be afraid!’” Stated Deacon Seibt. “Spend time in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, with attention given to the Scriptures, frequent celebration of the sacraments, involvement in ministerial activities, with the inspiration of holy priests and sisters, and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You may find that over time the initial thought [about entering a vocation] grows and develops into a deep desire that you find within your heart.”