Seminarian Kevin Hrycenko joins in a game of volleyball during the picnic. John Blaine photos
Seminarian Kevin Hrycenko joins in a game of volleyball during the picnic. John Blaine photos

Great food and beautiful weather set the backdrop for a special summer gathering of the Diocese of Trenton’s 17 seminarians the evening of July 19.

Photo Gallery: Annual Seminarian Picnic 2018

Hosted by the Diocese on the grounds of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, the picnic afforded the men, who are pursuing studies in three different seminaries, an opportunity to socialize and share their seminary experiences as they journey toward their goal of one day serving as priests for the Diocese.

The evening opened with the seminarians, along with several priests of the Diocese gathering for Evening Prayer in the church, followed by an outdoor picnic and a game of volleyball.

“We know the priesthood is best when lived together and we try to foster that [fraternity] right from the beginning,” said Father Michael Wallack, diocesan director of vocations and pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish. “It’s a great night, a beautiful night and we’re happy to be able to host it here at St. John’s.”

Seminarians Kevin Hrycenko and Christopher Carlo, both of whom are entering their second pre-theology year in Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., reflected on what they have enjoyed about the past academic year.

“It’s amazing because I get to meet seminarians from all over the country, not just the Diocese of Trenton,” said Hrycenko, who then added how he appreciated seeing his brother seminarians from the Diocese that evening.

“It’s exciting, especially since this is the first time we’ve gotten together since the [priests’ June 2] ordination and it’s good to be together again,” Hrycenko said.

Carlo described his seminary studies and spoke of the great opportunity it has been to learn more about himself – self-knowledge – to pray and get to know the other men who are also pursuing priestly vocations.

Carlo said developing one’s spiritual life is a priority in the seminary, a time in which he can “learn more about who God is, more about myself and if God is calling me to this vocation to the priesthood.”

He added that he appreciates further studies on Jesus and the Catholic faith “as we prepare to become teachers of the faith.” There is also the social component of the seminary affords the men an opportunity to develop friendships and build solidarity with one another.

Among those priests joining Father Wallack at the picnic were Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians, Father Garry Koch, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, and assistant director of vocations, and Father Daniel Swift, assistant director of vocations and pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford,

Monitor photographer John Blaine and Mary Stadnyk, associate editor, contributed to this story.