Seminarians from the Diocese gather for an annual retreat in San Alfonso Retreat House, West End. Staff photo
Seminarians from the Diocese gather for an annual retreat in San Alfonso Retreat House, West End. Staff photo
Along with personal prayer, rest and camaraderie, 13 seminarians from the Diocese spent a major part of their annual retreat reflecting on Hebrews 11:1-3: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it, the ancients were well attested. By faith, we understand that the universe was ordered by the Word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.”

This year’s retreat, held July 20-25 in San Alfonso Retreat House, West End, opened with words of encouragement by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., followed by a series of presentations relevant for men preparing for the priesthood.

Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, and an associate director for vocations, served as the retreat facilitator. Topics for discussion included: “Knowing Oneself”; “Developing a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ”; “Nurturing Virtue Instead of Sin”; “Taking Care of Oneself Physically, Spiritually, Emotionally”; “Pastoral Awareness Of The People On The Periphery,” and “The Habits You Develop As A Seminarian Will Be The Habits You Have As A Priest.”

Father Koch said the annual seminarian retreat “provides an opportunity for the men to build a relationship with one another, strengthening those bonds that will serve to assist and sustain them in their priesthood.”

“As not all of the men attend the same seminary, they do not have many occasions to get to know or interact with each other,” he said. “So, from a human formation perspective, the retreat allows them to connect.”

The retreat, which was hosted by the diocesan Office of Seminarians, is an opportunity for a shared perspective on spiritual growth, developments as men of the Church and, in particular, as men of the Church for the Diocese of Trenton, Father Koch said.

Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians, noted that of the 13 men, three are new to the formation program with the others varying in their years of seminary experience. Among the men was the Rev. Mr. Rjoy Ballacillo, who was ordained a transitional deacon in June by Bishop O’Connell. He is preparing to enter his fourth year of theology studies in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., anticipating ordination to the priesthood next year.

Father Koch said he hoped the retreat helped the men recognize important aspects about themselves “so that they can be more effective in ministry, and so that they can continue to grow in faith, in their relationship with Jesus Christ and in their understanding of themselves as disciples.

“I also hope that they came away aware of their need to grow as disciples – as evangelizers – as they continue to discern their vocation,” he said.