Pope St. John XXIII launches podcast for men discerning priesthood

WESTON -- Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary is trying a new way to reach their demographic. Capitalizing on the popularity of podcasts, the seminary has launched its own podcast to discuss different aspects of discernment and priestly formation for men who discover their vocation to the priesthood later in life.

The podcast, titled Never Too Late at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, is recorded and edited by seminarians. It is hosted by faculty member Msgr. William Fay, who teaches courses in philosophy, theology, bioethics, and Catholic social teaching. Each episode is about 15 to 18 minutes in length, and features Msgr. Fay interviewing a seminarian about his vocation journey as well as a topic of his choice.

"It's mainly for men contemplating the priesthood, but it also is ordered (and) geared toward people who want to be supportive of older vocations," Msgr. Fay said.

Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary was established to train men who discern a call to the priesthood later in life. Most of the seminarians there are between 30 and 60 years old. Many have left behind substantial careers, and some have even been married and had children and grandchildren. Because they have more life experience and responsibilities, discerning the priesthood during this phase of life carries different concerns than in young adulthood.

Speaking to The Pilot on Aug. 5, Msgr. Fay said that they have been "very active" in looking for ways "to try to help older men realize that we exist, (and) that they should not be surprised that they might discover a vocation at work in their lives." One way they have done this is by livestreaming their Adoration on First Fridays, and then having a Zoom meeting so men interested in the priesthood can talk to Msgr. Fay and some of the seminarians.

While considering how they might better use social media, the idea of making a podcast came up, since podcasts are such a popular medium these days.

Never Too Late launched in June, with an episode released on the 23rd day of each month in honor of the seminary's namesake, Pope St. John XXIII. The topics covered will include discernment, family, "a day in the life" at the seminary, and the joys and challenges of formation to the priesthood.

"It's an opportunity for men thinking about the priesthood to realize that the kind of questions they probably have in their minds are the kind of questions that these guys have in theirs," Msgr. Fay said.

His first interviewees were deacons at the time of the podcast recording but have since been ordained priests in their respective dioceses. One of them was married, has two daughters, and had been a permanent deacon. He talked about his return to faith, his annulment, and how his being a parent has enabled him to relate to families in parishes. Another guest spoke about his experience doing prison ministry after a career in the military and law enforcement.

Msgr. Fay said that he has enjoyed making the podcast so far and is looking forward to recording more episodes later this year.

"I knew that I probably would enjoy it, but I didn't know I'd enjoy it as much as I'm doing," he said.

He said he is "interested to see how this develops," and that he can envision the podcast taking on a more catechetical component, "helping people understand their faith through the experience of these seminarians."

Msgr. Fay spoke about the wide diversity of the seminarians, who come from different dioceses and whose previous jobs include being mechanics, florists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.

"What's so interesting about this place and hearing these guys tell their stories is these are men who, because of the great differences they have, probably would not have had any kind of relationship in life before the seminary, and they come here and they end up being best friends for the rest of their lives. As a faculty member, it's an amazing thing to see how well they do with each other and how much they want each other to succeed," Msgr. Fay said.

He said he is always encouraging people to talk about the priesthood with older men who are active in their parish.

"If you think that they'd make a good priest, say something to them. That might be the one thing that they need to hear that would unlock the door that would let them walk into the possibility of being a priest," Msgr. Fay said.

Never Too Late at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary is available on all podcast platforms and at www.grexly.com/nevertoolate.