By Tony DeGol
The Catholic Register
Jacob Gindhart loves music.
He has played the drums for about a decade and even a little piano, too.
These days, he is marching to the beat of a very different tune.
The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has announced that Gindhart is the latest seminarian in formation for the diocesan priesthood. He recently began studies at Saint Mark’s College Seminary in Erie.
“I’m mostly excited to experience living my life for others in a totally new way,” said Gindhart as he begins this next chapter in his discernment journey.
Prior to becoming a diocesan seminarian, he attended Penn State University for two years where he shared his talent as music coordinator for Catholic campus ministry.
One of seven children, Gindhart is a member of Queen of Peace Parish in Patton.
“I am very happy to have Jacob as a new seminarian for the diocese,” stated Diocesan Director of Vocations Father Matthew Reese. “He has been discerning this faithfully for a while. It is always a pleasure to observe someone take the next step in their discernment.”
The addition of Gindhart brings to five the number of current diocesan seminarians.
As vocations director, Father Reese is constantly working to help young men find their true calling. At a time when the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown – like many dioceses around the country – is experiencing a dwindling number of priests, it is critical work.
“The state of priestly vocations may appear to be small, however, at this time, we’re focusing more on the quality of the young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood more so than quantity,” observed Father Reese.
The Vocations Office recently sponsored a discernment gathering for young men considering the possibility of a vocation. The turnout was encouraging, Father Reese noted.
“The next step in the process is keeping the lines of communication open,” he added. “That includes discussion with myself and perhaps their pastor or spiritual director, but ultimately praying to God for enlightenment as to their true vocational calling.”
All Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown seminarians are in various stages of their formation and looking forward to their next steps.
Mark Groeger and Michael Pleva are entering their second year of Theology studies at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe.
Groeger’s home parish is Saint Andrew in Johnstown. Pleva is a member of Holy Rosary Parish in Altoona.
Both spent their summer in parish assignments for the first time.
“It was really enjoyable to be able to finally get acclimated to a parish to see what happens and use a lot of what we’ve learned in seminary,” said Pleva of his summer assignment at Saint Andrew. “It shows there is life after seminary. What you do is take what you learn in seminary and use it to further the people of God toward the Heavenly Kingdom.”
For Groeger, his summer months at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Bellefonte and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Spring Mills were a great opportunity for him to continue to meet people throughout the diocese and gain hands-on experience.
“I got to do a multitude of things,” he recalled. “It was an amazing experience of what the daily life of a priest is. There is only so much we can learn in the seminary setting, and we have the opportunity in the summer to experience pieces of being a pastor that seminary can’t teach us.”
Seminarian Brian Norris is in his first year of Theology at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.
Justin Treon is beginning his second year of Pre-Theology at Saint Vincent Seminary.
Both spent their summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Nebraska – Norris as a participant, Treon as a worker.
“It was great,” commented Norris, a member of Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg. “I learned a lot about my spiritual life. It gave me some more tools for prayer and how central it is for discernment and the life of a seminarian.”
Treon, a parishioner at Saint Aloysius in Cresson, spent his time at IPF shopping for food for meals and picking up faculty and staff at the airport, but there was also time for spirituality.
“We were encouraged to take time throughout the day to pray,” he said, adding that he also served as a sacristan for Masses.
All five seminarians are welcoming the start of this new academic year.
“I’m so excited,” Pleva remarked. “I’m looking forward to growing closer to God and being strengthened by His will in my life.”
Added Norris: “I’m ready to go! I’m pretty excited to get back and see all the guys from last year.”
The newest seminarian has advice for other young men considering a call to the priesthood.
“I think the biggest thing is to stay open and not just with your mind, but with your heart,” Gindhart recommended. “I always said I was open, but until I really opened my heart to Christ I was never comfortable taking that leap.”
Gindhart credited daily Mass and regular Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament with helping him in his discernment process.
“I think the biggest thing to remember is that God is not going to call you to something that He is not going to give you the strength to overcome,” he continued. “When you do trust Him and you give your heart fully to Him, there will be a peace about that. Stay close to Christ and continue to grow in your faith in as many ways as you can, and He’ll lead you to where you’re supposed to be.”
That resolve from Gindhart, the drummer and pianist, is undoubtedly music to God’s ears.