Diocese launches program of discernment

STAMFORD—The Diocese of Bridgeport has announced plans for the St. Edmund Campion Program of Discernment at St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford.

The new program will accompany men, 18 and older, in encountering Christ and in discerning whether they have a calling to enter full-time seminary formation.

“The strength and appeal of the program is its flexibility in meeting a Catholic man wherever he may be in his journey to and with the Lord,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “The time in the residence program will give men who are drawn to a vocation the opportunity to deepening of the spiritual life and growth in self-knowledge, while they discern the question, ‘What does Jesus Christ ask of me?”

The men in the discernment program will reside on the first floor of St. John Fisher Seminary, where they will have a separate lounge to socialize. College seminarians and pre-theologians will live on the second floor. Each participant will have a house job to help maintain the common spaces of the program residence.

Father Paul Check, rector of St. John Fisher, said that for the men in the resident program, this discernment takes place within a community built upon fraternal charity, prayer and the sacraments.

“Two indispensable aids will be the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the man’s home and life, and the community of like-minded men,” said Father Check.

Father Check said that to enter, the candidate need not quit his job or change whatever educational degree he is currently pursuing. The program will have two divisions, resident and nonresident.

He said that although the men in the new resident program will live among the seminarians at St. John Fisher, they will not be considered seminarians, nor will they have entered a formal program of philosophy studies or regular formation for priesthood.

“Joining the house of discernment requires a different level of commitment than entering pre-theology or college seminary. Therefore, this option may be attractive to some men who require more assurance before setting aside a career, changing a course of studies, or selling a residence. Nevertheless, all resident program participants will either work full-time or be full-time college or university students,” said Father Check.

Candidates will be screened by the vocations advisory board. Those accepted will receive an orientation by the program director. The men will also be called on to live a celibate life.

The program commitment calls for daily Mass, preferably at St. John Fisher; personal prayer for 30 minutes daily, preferably before the Blessed Sacrament and one decade of the Rosary.

If a man’s schedule allows, he will join the seminarians for communal prayer and dinner at St. John Fisher on Monday through Thursday, or whenever possible. The men will also be asked to observe a house curfew, as well as the seminary technology and media policy.

The men will have a monthly individual meeting with the program director, participate in spiritual direction and regular confession. They will also engage in apostolic or charitable work, as approved by director.

(For more information contact: Rev. Paul N. Check, rector at: St. John Fisher Seminary, 894 Newfield Avenue, Stamford, 06905. By phone at: 203.322.5331, or email at: