The criteria for acceptance in the seminaries have now been overhauled worldwide, since the abuse scandals of around five years ago. Now there is greater attention to psychological health and a well adjusted character.

Now there is only one area in which the future priest is allowed to be somewhat ‘crazy’ – and that is in his love of God. In fact this burning love is even a crucial element in the formation of his priestly personality. We receive many letters from the almost ten thousand seminarians we support all around the world. One particular virtue is especially noticeable in them, namely

Gratitude to God, who has granted them this vocation, and gratitude to you all, in whom they see the hand of Divine Providence.

For example, Gover Chavez of Yurimaguas in Peru is conscious of the ‘difficulties of the world’ and of his own weakness – yet sees that God nevertheless helps him to fulfil his vocation with understanding. Julio Cesar, at the same seminary, sees further and sees your help as a spur to remain faithful to his vocation and ‘to be able to express his gratitude one day in service to the Church’.

All of them – Gover, Julio, Enrique, Juan and the rest – justify us in the hope that they will worthily receive the sacrament of ordination and allow themselves to be penetrated by it in the way that Saint Augustine described: ‘The spiritual power of the sacrament is like the light: the one who is to be illuminated by it receives it in its clarity.’ There are 26 young men preparing for the priesthood here in Yurimaguas, one of the very poor apostolic vicariates of Peru. Your support of strengthens them in their vocation.

Likewise in the 172 candidates, from 27 different dioceses, currently studying for the priesthood in the seminary of Christ the Priest (Cristo Sacerdote) in La Ceja, Colombia, we can confidently hope for faithful pastors and missionaries. We are helping here. The selection criteria are strict, and the expectations high.

German Dario sensed his vocation even as a small child. ‘One day a Capuchin priest came to our village and sang the song El Sembrador (the Sower). That struck me very deeply and I knew that this was the path for me.’ His mother did not understand him, and nor did his parish priest. He entered the seminary, but was forced to work because of financial problems.

Now, at the age of 32, he has come back and is happy. ‘I thank God with all my heart for this wonderful vocation, and also all the benefactors who are strengthening me in my vocation. You will always be in my prayers, so that God may reward you with many blessings.’ Reinaldo too had to take a roundabout route. But the seed of his vocation, planted in his heart by his grandmother, ‘who taught me a great love for God and his Church’, and by his parish priest ‘through the witness of his life’, sprouted and flourished within him. Reinaldo was successful in many occupations – and yet he still found his way into the seminary.

Others have come here straight from school and are grateful, like Oscar Alirio, to everyone ‘who has helped me to hear the call of God within me, since the day he first tenderly called me’. Each of the 172 candidates has his own story, for God calls each one by his name.

ACN and it’s many benefactors have the privilege of helping each of them respond to God’s call, to carry His light and His love, to those that are in need of His mercy.

This article can be found in Mirror 0116.