Four seminarians from St. Joseph’s House of Formation enrolled at Newman University this fall: Florence Barles, Richard Olsen, Zach Kelsey and Sam Schmidt.
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 two years of college who are on their journey into priesthood.
Newman Chaplain Father Adam Grelinger recently accepted a role from Most Rev. Bishop Carl A. Kemme to serve as the House of Formation’s director of field apostolates. Father Adam will continue to serve as university chaplain and teach one class at Newman through the semester, but will also help place and evaluate prospective seminarians in their training to become priests.
“I’m still working out the balance between the roles but so far it has gone well,” Father Adam said. “It is a real blessing to be able to serve at Newman and at the House of Formation.”
Getting to know the Newman seminarians
Schmidt, a Wichita native through and through, has a simple answer for why he felt called to apply for seminary.
“The Lord asked me to and I felt called, so I did.”
Schmidt’s self-proclaimed stubbornness was the biggest reason for any delay in submitting his application, but he said following God’s call is a decision he has thoroughly enjoyed.
“The House of Formation is a lot different than just living at home for sure,” Schmidt said. “Any time you get the boys together, it’s pretty fun. We pray together, eat together, play games together. It’s just a really solid fraternity that is rooted in Christ, which is really refreshing.”
A few fun facts about Schmidt are that he enjoys art, is interested in getting involved in the writing community and is majoring in philosophy at Newman.
“Just because I think it’s funny, I also dislocated my shoulder while sleeping,” Schmidt added.
No matter what is in store for Schmidt’s journey, he said he looks forward to seeing how this year pans out.
“I am hoping and praying that it will be guided and fruitful,” he said.
Kelsey was living in a rental house with two roommates when he decided to get pre-approved to buy a house.
In the middle of his meeting with a loan agent, Kelsey was stopped by a single thought.
“I never even tried to reach out or get more info about the seminary,” he said.
Seminary had been a possible calling in Kelsey’s mind for quite a while, so as soon as his meeting concluded with the loan agent, he contacted the vocations office for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. With applications and interviews behind him, Kelsey now resides at St. Joseph’s House of Formation.
“It almost feels like living in the rental house, just with a lot more roommates,” Kelsey said. “All the guys here are wonderful and it has just been great to get to know them all and grow in our faith together.”
Kelsey is a first-year Newman student from Hutchinson, Kansas, and is studying philosophy and theological studies. He is an avid fan of all sports, but he particularly loves hockey and cheers on the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey team.
He added, “Go Avs!”
Barles was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, and his family is from the Philippines. He is a Bishop Carroll Catholic High School graduate and is majoring in philosophy.
Catholic faith and a strong family life have always been at the forefront of Barles’ world. Another focus that’s defined who he is is basketball.
“It’s something I’ve spent time playing my entire life and throughout all four years at Bishop Carroll,” Barles said. “Basketball is something that has challenged me, brought me lots of joy and has greatly influenced the way I communicate and connect with others around me.”
Barles was heavily involved in both basketball and academics during high school. He noticed that as his schedule grew busier, he started to fall into the trap of people-pleasing, comparing himself to others and feeling the need to “constantly prove himself,” he said.
Stress, anxiety and loneliness all piled up and resulted in a mindset shift that negatively affected him, Barles said.
“I began to believe I was defined by what I did and began to lose sight of my worth and value as a person,” Barles said. “I put on this mask. … I was trying to live up to everyone’s expectations of being that toughest, coolest, most popular person. And as a result, this would drain me of the joy and enthusiasm and energy I had in doing the things I loved most.”
A peaceful shift
Barles signed up for a summer service mission known as Prayer and Action, and suddenly felt he no longer had to prove himself. He encountered “a true community of people who showed and assured me in a personal way that I was truly seen, cared for and loved unconditionally for who I was.”
“They gave me the freedom to be myself and to be the person God was calling me to be,” Barles said. “I felt a deeper call to allow other individuals to know the Father’s love and freedom, to take off their masks and enjoy the freedom to be themselves.”
Since then, Barles says he has recognized that it’s through the pursuit of the priesthood that he is living out his greatest potential through service and charity to others.
“In living a lifestyle pretty separate and distinct from the rest of the world, it can be a little intimidating and a little lonely,” Barles said. “But having time set aside for prayer and to be present to God in the midst of the business of school life has given me the opportunity to learn to trust and put my hope and joy in him to fulfill me.”
Barles describes himself as “a sucker for sunsets” who loves spending time outdoors, stargazing, blasting music in the car with the windows down and spending quality time with friends.
“I pray and hope to always be a welcoming, kind and compassionate presence,” Barles said. “I hope my presence may always represent the love of the Father to everyone around me. I hope to live in and make the most of every moment, to be present and to enjoy the little things.”
Olsen hails from Wichita, where he attended school at St. Anne Catholic Church and graduated from Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. His favorite pastimes include being outdoors, camping, fishing and biking.
The priesthood is a calling that Olsen has had on his mind for most of his life, but the idea became even clearer at the age of nine.
“I really saw the beauty of the priesthood when I was going into fourth grade,” Olsen said. “After that I became stronger and more serious about being a Catholic. Starting junior year of high school, I began to really pray on the idea of where I was going, and the priesthood was what I felt God was calling me to do.”
Olsen submitted his application for seminary during his senior year of high school. He is now living at the House of Formation, which was a “big change” from being the only one of his siblings living at home to suddenly having 14 male roommates.
“It has been amazing and the other guys have been a joy to live with,” Olsen said.
Olsen is majoring in philosophy and theological studies at Newman and is involved with Campus Ministry.
“I hope to be a positive or helpful person to anyone on campus,” he added.
Five men with ties to Newman University ordained as Catholic priests
Nearly 2,000 people filled the Church of the Magdalen on May 27, 2017, to celebrate 10 newly ordained priests for the Diocese — five of whom have ties to Newman University.