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Hundreds gather to support Blessed John XXIII National Seminary

Lawn Party chairs Scott and Mia Gieselman pictured with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley and Blessed John XXIII rector Father William Palardy at the seminary's annual Lawn Party Sept. 25. Pilot photo/courtesy John Gillooly, Professional Event Images

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WESTON -- Despite coming to his second vocation at the age of 58, seminarian Kevin Hickey said he approached it with the faith of a little child.

"What we want and what God wants of us is not always the same. Sometimes you've got to take that leap of faith. It's like the child standing on the pool's edge with the daddy in the water," he said. "Sometimes we have to have that same trust in God."

Hickey is one of five men studying at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston who will be ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston next spring. He spoke about his vocation at the seminary's annual Lawn Party Sept. 25. This year, the fundraising dinner attracted nearly 400 people, the most who have ever attended. Alumni came from as far away as Denver and Orlando.

"I'm so pleased to see so many people here to support this annual effort," former seminary rector Bishop Peter Uglietto told The Pilot. He said that he saw many people who have long supported the seminary as well as many new faces too.

Seminarian Hickey told the crowd that his first vocation was marriage, to his wife of 20 years. He spoke with obvious affection about her and her deep faith. Their first activity as a married couple was to attend Saturday Vigil Mass together after their wedding reception. They left for their honeymoon early the next day, and the first question his wife asked at the hotel when they arrived was where to find the nearest Catholic church. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 and passed away seven years later in 1999.

After she died, Hickey became more involved at his parish. He actually thought about entering the seminary, but said, "I thought my time had come and gone." His parish priest knew otherwise and approached Hickey about becoming a priest. Hickey applied to Blessed John and was accepted.

Hickey said that without Cardinal Richard Cushing's vision in founding the seminary and the support of people like the attendees at the Lawn Party, he and his fellow seminarians may never have found their delayed vocation and the Catholic Church would be poorer for it.

Blessed John is the only seminary in the United States administered by diocesan priests that trains men over 30 for the priesthood. The seminary has over 600 alumni and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.

The seminary's rector for the past four years, Father William Palardy, said that it is up to Blessed John's community to continue its good work for the next 50 years. The school recently began its first-ever capital campaign. The money will be used to renovate the chapel, build the endowment and create a new learning center. The center would include a new, upgraded library and would also allow the seminary to increase enrollment by making space for 12 new rooms for seminarians.

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