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Hilger enters seminary

Christopher Hilger

By The Register

Salina — It was the steadfast example of faith by his parents that led Christopher Hilger to consider formally discerning a vocation to the priesthood for the Salina Diocese. “My mother led my First Communion class and my father led my confirmation classes,” he said. “I’ve been raised in a very Catholic household. My parents shared a very beautiful marriage. I think that’s a lot of the reason I’m’ where I’m at — the example they sent for me.” Hilger, 23, is a December graduate of the University of Kansas in Lawrence with a degree in geology. He is the son of Patrick Hilger and the late Elaine Hilger and grew up at St. Mary, Queen of Angels Parish in Russell. He began his studies at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind. in January. “I’ve had people encouraging me to think about the priesthood ever since I was a little kid, whether it was my pastor Father Charles Steier or the ladies at church,” Hilger said. “I’ve had the encouragement to think about it my whole life.”
An active member of his CYO during high school with a solid faith foundation, Hilger said his faith deepened during his college years. “I took everything to a whole new level once I got to college because i encountered Christ in a deeper way once I went to a SEEK conference my freshman year,” he said.

The faith experience led to more involvement at the St. Lawrence Center, the Catholic student center, where he developed Christ-centered friendships. “It’s hard to be holy yourself if you’re not surrounding yourself with people striving for that same goal,” Hilger said. “My community there through St. Lawrence were constantly pushing me to be a holier person. But not just the men, the women as well. “I had some guys who took me under their wing and treated me as their brother — they were a true example of Christ. They inspired me that living for God can be cool.” He attended some seminary visits, and considered entering the formal seminarian discernment process following his junior year. “But after talking to my father and spiritual director and Father Gale (Hammerschmidt), we decided it made sense for me to finish (college at) KU,” Hilger said. “I was at a lot of peace with that decision. It came through a lot of prayer.”

Entering the seminary is a new and exciting chapter in life. “I knew I wanted to give God everything,” Hilger said. “Whether it was to the priesthood or as a working man that got married. I wanted to give him everything.” With the inner pull to enter the seminary, the vocational discernment process will be a bit more formal. “I had so many friends already in the seminary and I’m close with a lot of priests,” Hilger said. “Getting to devote my whole life to Christ right now. It’s exciting getting to truly form myself in a life of prayer, getting to form myself as a man, with a whole bunch of other guys who that’s their No. 1 goal. “It’s really amazing learning about myself and learning how much more there is to the priesthood than I thought I knew.”

Four in Salina Diocese are trained as spiritual mentors

The Register
 
A simple question posed to Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann on a trip to Rome in 2009 planted the seed for what has become the Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program, one of the Archdiocese of Kansas City’s leading faith formation and evangelization programs. The most recent cohort, or group, to be certified included three individuals from the Salina Diocese who are now ready to serve their parishes and diocesan community as Spiritual Mentors. Katie Allen and Anita Horeneck, parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish in Colby, and Jim Schartz, parishioner of St. Andrew parish in Abilene completed the two-year long program offered through the Holy Family School of Faith. They received their certificates from Archbishop Naumann in January. Jim’s wife Lisa is also a certified Spiritual Mentor, having completed the program in 2017.
 
According to Cari Hillyer, the Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program Director, the program serves multiple purposes. “It’s more than just formation,” she said. “The program is a call to your baptismal vow to evangelize. We equip people to walk with others on their faith journey.” Hillyer said the program also can help alleviate some of the overflow needs of priests who are sought out for ongoing spiritual support but who may be stretched thin with other responsibilities. “Upon completion of the program, we send the participants back to their parishes and we send a packet of information to their pastors stating, ‘these people are ready to be of service,’ ” Hillyer added. Participants of the program come from a variety of backgrounds and different levels of education. During the two-year process, each cohort attends four in-residence week-long sessions, designed as intensive retreats. Each of those sessions covers a different topic: prayer, liturgy and the sacraments, virtue and the moral life, and discernment and practicum. Between each in-residence session, participants complete two distance learning courses as well as homework that brings all the session elements together.

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