Op-Ed: So far miner seminary is a lot different than I imagined

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. 

So first, let me explain some context for all you ignorant people out there. Catholics have major and miner seminaries. You typically have to go to miner seminary for a couple years before your Diocese sends you to major seminary, and only after a couple years of THAT can you actually be ordained a priest. It’s a long process!

So, you can imagine how eager I was to move into my diocese’s miner seminary to begin my studies. The sooner I start, the sooner I can be a priest!

So yes, maybe you’re right, and if I read my Vocation Director’s pamphlets better I wouldn’t be so surprised. But I still have to say I imagined seminary to be a lot different than this! I remember the Vocations Director said we’d wake up early every morning, and that’s been true. But almost nothing else he said seems to be correct. I thought I’d go to Mass every day, pray some of the Liturgy of the Hours, and take some philosophy classes. But so far, I’ve mostly just gone deep underground and swung a pickaxe at black rocks for hours on end.

I knew the dormitories would be pretty simple, but my dormitory—or “worker’s quarters” as the rector calls it—is literally just a square metal box with a bedroom, kitchen, and a few windows in it. I shouldn’t complain though, because all the guys have the same kind of accommodations, but I wish they mentioned it at one of the discernment retreats. I’m more pleasantly surprised at the stipend. I thought the Church was financially struggling, but it’s good to see the Knights of Columbus can still manage to pull together a $40/hour stipend for all 934 seminarians on the “job sight” (another one of our rector’s fun nicknames for the seminary). 

Oh sure, don’t say I don’t enjoy it. It’s pretty rewarding when we have to run from a cave-in, not to mention the comradery I’ve developed with my fellow miner seminarians—or just “miners” as I’ve found they call themselves. But except for the cave-ins, I have a hard time seeing how this is preparing me for diocesan priestly ministry. I just have to trust there’s some formational point to making me spend all daylight hours in darkness below the Earth, hauling buckets of rock up to the surface. And now that I think of it, their Spanish program is pretty good at least. That should help me minister to my diocese’s growing Hispanic population! 

Still, I hope I can advance to major seminary soon. I’ve had to go to the hospital a few times already after one of the guys forgot to set the brake on the minecart (what the rector calls the seminary’s vehicles). And that knee surgery last year wasn’t fun! I guess 10 years of this stuff really takes a toll on the body. But it’s all worth it to follow God’s call!

Editor’s note: Keith’s diocese said they are aware of his desire to be a priest but say he can’t pass his clearances due to his extensive contact with miners. They have no plans to tell him this at publishing time.

Originally published Nov 12, 2022