Chas Canfield, a seminarian and Knight of Columbus, is getting his first behind-the-scenes look this summer at what life as a parish priest is like.
“In seminary, we don’t really live out a parish life,” Canfield said. “We’re living as a community. Going into a parish, it’s interesting to realize and see what it will be like to live as a priest.”
Canfield currently attends Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., studying theology. Like most schools across the United States, the seminary saw its spring semester ending early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most students went home, but Canfield requested to finish the academic year in a parish.
“I asked my diocese if I could be put in a parish,” he said, explaining that he thought it would be easier to experience “the normal seminary schedule along with another priest in the Diocese of Grand Island.”
His request was granted, and he is now at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in North Platte, Neb., trying to take in everything that he can. Despite the limitations in parish activities due to the coronavirus, Canfield still finds ways to learn.
“With all of this going on, it’s interesting to see how decisions are made in the parish during times like this where you have to either weigh in or make a good decision right away, and balance all of those actions,” Canfield said.
His opportunity to serve in a parish setting — assisting the pastor at Masses, weddings and more — may have been impossible without the support of numerous people, including Knights of Columbus. Councils from around the Diocese of Grand Island have provided financial as well as spiritual support throughout his time in seminary.
“There are a lot of councils out here that really know how to support their seminarians well, and we’re grateful for it,” Canfield said.
The Knights of Columbus has a history of providing moral, financial and spiritual support for seminarians and all those discerning a religious vocation. Through Faith In Action‘s Refund Support Vocations program (RSVP), councils and parish families raise funds to support seminarians in their area. Councils are also called to provide their “adopted” seminarian(s) with moral support and prayers.
Canfield joined the Conception Seminary College Council 13750 when he attended Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., nearly four years ago. He held numerous officer positions, including deputy grand knight and grand knight. Even though the Knights have been ever-present in his life — his father is also a Knight — he still finds the Order as unique because it provides an avenue for men to be involved in parish life.
“I think that’s been something that’s very much been lacking in the Church, just involvement for men,” he said, adding that the Knights of Columbus’ acts of service for the parish are “almost counter-cultural.”
Since arriving at St. Patrick’s, Canfield has become acquainted with the Knights in St. Patrick Council 1211, particularly during this past Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Knights assisted with the Corpus Christi celebrations, including carrying the canopy over the monstrance during a procession around the parish parking lot and nearby neighborhood.
“It was kind of cool to do something with them finally since this was really the first event that they were capable of having since COVID-19,” Canfield said.
As for his continued seminarian studies, Canfield hopes classes will resume as scheduled in the Fall. He will take his experience from the parish — an experience impossible without the support of the Knights — with him as he continues his studies.
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s archives, click here.
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