Adam Johnson, a seminarian from the Trenton Diocese, volunteers at Caring for Friends in Northeast Philadelphia. CNS photo/Matthew Gambino, CatholicPhilly.com
Adam Johnson, a seminarian from the Trenton Diocese, volunteers at Caring for Friends in Northeast Philadelphia. CNS photo/Matthew Gambino, CatholicPhilly.com

“An eye-opening experience.”

That’s how Adam Johnson, a seminarian from the Trenton Diocese, described the four hours he and 15 fellow seminarians from the College Division in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., recently spent performing works of service to help people in need at Caring for Friends in Northeast Philadelphia. 

While community service has been a longstanding element of the seminarians’ formation process, changes were made to this year’s approach because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Caring for Friends, Johnson said the seminarians, which included four others from the Trenton Diocese, were tasked with sorting through more than 10 pallets of donated food and then assembling meals for needy families in the Philadelphia area.

Other duties found the seminarians working in the kitchen and preparing “single serve” meals for senior citizens who could not cook for themselves as well as packaging dry food products to be delivered to the homeless. 

During their shift, Johnson estimated that the seminarians made from 500 to 700 meals and packaged about 500 boxes of dry food items. 

“I truly did not know how many people were in need of basic necessities such as food,” said Johnson, who is in 4th College. The outreach “really put into perspective of what is truly important to the Catholic faith – to help one another.” 

The experience also gave him an added perspective about his vocation to priesthood.  “Being a priest to me means that we are there to help people who are in very different situations, and to show them the compassion and love that Jesus has for them,” Johnson said. “Working here also taught me the vast importance of community outreach and how an idea of serving people food can make such a different in so many lives.”