Get to know the first-year seminarians at Newman

Oct 06, 2023
First-year seminarians

Eleven seminarians from St. Joseph’s House of Formation enrolled at Newman University this fall: Elias Belton, Samuel Costello, Zachary Dowell, Philip Eck, Jacob Feuerborn, Zachary Kuestersteffen, Andrew Meyer, Thomas Schawe, Aidan Schroeder, William Alex Veith and Jack Wingate. 

St. Joseph’s House of Formation, which was established by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita in 2017, is a program for seminarians during their first four years of college who are on their journey into priesthood.

Let’s get to know this year’s new seminarians. 

Elias Belton (St. John, Clonmel)

Belton, who’s studying philosophy for theological studies at Newman, discerned into the seminary because “It just always felt like that’s where God was calling me to help people.”

Elias Belton

In addition to his studies, Belton likes to spend time reading and playing complex board games, including Twilight Imperium, which can take up to 12 hours to finish. 

One of Belton’s favorite saints is St. Augustine because he likes his way of connecting his emotions to his writing. 

While a seminarian, Belton is “most excited to learn more about God.”

Zachary Dowell (St. Joseph, Wichita)

Dowell spent his childhood in Wichita, growing up with his dad and siblings, and chose to stay in his hometown to pursue a degree in philosophy for theological studies from Newman.

Zachary Dowell

Prior to arriving on campus, Dowell attended Butler Community College for his associate degree in accounting. He spent time in the Catholic Student Center at Wichita State University since Butler didn’t have one. 

“I kept getting the same voice in my head who said I should go to seminary to study to become a priest,” Dowell said. “I believe that where I am in seminary is my calling because God will take me wherever I need to go, as long as I trust in Him.”

“I am most excited for the friendships that will come as I continue my vocational journey, and for whatever God is calling me to next,” he said. 

Philip Eck (Sacred Heart, Colwich)

Like his fellow seminarians, Wichita native Eck is studying philosophy for theological studies at Newman.

He shared that since he was a kid attending weekly Mass, he’s felt a pull toward the priesthood. And while he’s discerned into seminary, he’s still trying to decide where the path will take him.

Philip Eck

“The curiosity grew and developed into a desire to serve the Lord with my life the same way a priest does,” he said “Despite this, desire is just a feeling, and while sometimes I want to give my life to God as a priest, other times I have the desire to give my life to God as a husband and father and bring new members into the church. I am not quite sure what God wants of me, but I am more than willing to wait and see because I know that He wants me to be truly and infinitely happy.” 

Eck said his favorite thing about Newman so far is the community.

“I went to schools that felt like a large family at times, and Newman has a pretty similar feel,” he shared. “The teachers truly care about the students, and the Campus Ministry is awesome. Having Christ himself on campus in the tabernacle makes a noticeable difference that most places cannot match.”

With the majority of his life ahead of him and no idea where he’s going, Eck feels there is a lot to look forward to. 

“What I am most excited for is growing in knowledge of myself, of God, and of the many subjects I am curious about,” he said. “I can’t wait to see where the Lord guides me in the upcoming years.”

Jacob Feuerborn (St. Thomas Aquinas, Wichita)

Feuerborn discerned into seminary through a lot of prayer and time spent in adoration. 

Jacob Feuerborn
Jacob Feuerborn

“I am only able to discern through the help of my friends and family,” he shared. “I believe it is my calling at the moment because I am joyful, and even in the hard moments, God is always working. There could be no better place to be physically and mentally for a man my age than the House of Formation.”

Feuerborn, who’s studying philosophy for theological studies, loves the fact that Newman has a chapel on site and the ability to attend Mass and confessions. 

“I am most excited about the fact that I can develop myself into a better person in the image of Jesus Christ,” Feurborn said. “The men at the house are always striving for the principles of charity, prayer, study and fraternity. Growing in these principles daily has a major effect and makes a man into a better husband or priest.”

Zachary Kuestersteffen (St. John the Evangelist, El Dorado)

Kuestersteffen believes everyone has a vocation, and everyone is called to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. 

“However, not everyone is called to the priesthood or consecrated life,” he said. “I think it is a common misconception that once someone joins the seminary, they commit to the priesthood and the lifelong commitments that come with it. This is not the case at all. Everyone should strive to cooperate with the will of God in their life, but seminarians do this in a way more focused way toward the priesthood.” 

He continued, “As a first-year seminarian, I have committed to begin this discernment journey.” 

Zachary Kuestersteffen

Kuestersteffen added that how he ended up in seminary is a long story, but it started by growing up in a Catholic family, spending a lot of time around priests and finding the priesthood inspiring even as a child. 

“Because of this, the priesthood was always a possible path for my own life,” he said. “After high school, I didn’t have much of a direction, so I went to college to become an engineer. Much happened to me during this time. Perhaps most importantly, my relationship with Jesus improved drastically.”

At the time, Kuestersteffen was attending Wichita State University and spent a lot of time at the St. Paul Student Center on campus. 

“This gave me access to prayer and the sacraments that I had never experienced before,” he said. “I also had the opportunity to build solid Catholic friendships, many of which I still possess today. My faith truly became my own during this time rather than just something my parents made me do.”

After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, he got a job in the aerospace industry, dated an incredible woman, and thought that he was doing pretty good in life. 

“The problem was that I was miserable,” Kuestersteffen said. “My job was soul-sucking, the idea of marriage petrified me, and I didn’t seem to have any goals worth working toward. This was a dark time for me. I spent a great deal of time looking for fulfillment in places, people and things that were not God, and nothing seemed to fill me up. I knew something big needed to change.”

Kuestersteffen has since come to realize that the missing item was a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. 

“Regardless of where I end up, this needs to be both the journey and the destination,” he said. “I want to give my life to Him. I want to love the people He loves. I want to live for the people He lived, died and rose for. Anything that I have to sacrifice to accomplish this goal is not a loss, but a gain. I don’t know if God wants me to be a priest, but seminary will give me a unique opportunity to figure that out while simultaneously growing in holiness and virtue. I think that’s awesome.

Andrew Meyer (Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Wichita)

“I have always had an inkling that God may be calling me to the priesthood, and during my senior year, I came to realize that it wouldn’t make sense not to give God the chance to show me if his plan for my life is the priesthood,” Meyer said. “I do not yet know if that is my calling, but I’m here to find out.”

Andrew Meyer

As a philosophy for theological studies student, Meyer loves the Campus Ministry team on Newman’s campus and enjoys hanging out in their office. 

As a seminarian, “I am beyond excited to see how much deeper God is inviting me to go in my understanding of His love and of myself, as well as one day helping other amazing people do the same.” 

Thomas Schawe (Church of the Holy Cross, Hutchinson)

Thomas Schawe

Schawe felt a calling to the priesthood as he graduated from high school. He decided to enter seminary to discern further whether he was called to holy orders or not. 

“I simply felt that God was calling me to this, and I know that wherever God wants me is where I’ll be happiest,” he said. “I am looking forward to learning more and growing in my relationship with God as I discern his will for me.”

Aidan Schroeder (St. John, Clonmel)

When Schroeder was thinking about his next steps after high school, he recalled fighting with God about what to do. 

Aidan Schroeder

“He gave me a strong push toward the seminary,” Schroeder said. “I currently have no idea what my calling is. The reason I am at seminary is to discern whether God is calling me to be a priest or not.”

So far at Newman, Schroeder enjoys the teachers and relationships he’s built. 

“I am most excited to find out where God is calling me and to make new friends,” he said of seminary. 

William Alex Veith (St. Francis of Assisi, Wichita) 

Veith, who’s working toward a bachelor’s degree in philosophy for theological studies, began discerning the priesthood when he started attending Catholic retreats. 

William Alex Veith

“These retreats helped convince me to take my Catholic faith seriously,” he shared. “I began to pray and really consider what God wants me to do with my life. I firmly believe that God has a plan for everyone and that He gives us talents and gifts to fulfill that plan. I love teaching others about my faith. I also love to serve and help other people. I’m not sure that God is calling me to be a Catholic priest, but I think it is a possibility.”

Outside of his studies, Veith enjoys reading, playing chess and sports, and doing carpentry.

So far at Newman, Veith likes the Campus Ministry office. 

“I really like the community and all the people that are there,” he said. 

As for being a seminarian, “I am excited to continue to grow as a man of God. I’m excited to continue to learn how to better pray. Most of all, I am excited for the friendships and the brotherhood that I hope is to come from living with all of the other seminarians.”

Jack Wingate (Church of the Magdalen, Wichita)

After years of prayer and careful consideration, Wingate chose to discern into the seminary. 

Jack Wingate

“I believe God is calling me to diocesean priesthood,” he said. “There are many reasons for this. I have found that imitation of the priestly life has been essential in my formation. By this I mean attending daily Mass, praying the liturgy of the hours, having religious conversations with others, abstaining from relationships and trying to live simply.”

As he’s tried to do these things, the realization that Wingate could be very happy doing them for the rest of his life began to grow. 

“I can see myself being very happy as a priest, and I believe that God has given me this desire for the priesthood to help me to choose in accordance with His will,” he said. “No one may be a priest, or a seminarian, unless God calls him first.”

He added, “I’m excited to be able to grow closer to Christ through the seminary.”

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