By Ray Nielsen
William Burmester, a 2007 graduate of St. Joseph High School who received his college degree from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in May, has decided to go to a seminary and ultimately become a Catholic priest.
"I decided to enter the seminary for the Diocese of Little Rock this past November," Burmester said. "Since entering college I have always felt that I might be called to be a priest. During college I stayed connected to the church through the Catholic Campus Ministry (C.C.M.). After much prayer and discernment I made the decision to enter the seminary."
Burmester will be attending the St. Meinrad Seminary near Evansville, Indiana. That’s where the Diocese sends all pre-theology seminarians who need education in philosophy. For students out of high school it would normally take eight years before ordination. Since he’s a college graduate, Burmester should be ordained in six years. He’ll be taking courses in philosophy and theology. "Entering the seminary doesn’t make me a priest," he cautioned. "I always have the option to say ‘no’ and discern another way of life. It takes great courage to say "yes" to the possibility of the religious life, but it provides great rewards."
Burmester’s decision was influenced by many people. Past and present priests at St. Joseph Church have been a great source of counsel for him. They include Fathers Tom Byrne, James Melnick, and John Marconi. Two other St. Joseph School graduates, Kyle Zinno and Travis Gunther, have also provided inspiration. They’re seminarians in the Salesian order and are about to begin their novice training at a formation house near Los Angeles, California.
It’s much too early to tell what kind of work Burmester might eventually do, but he says he’d love to work with a campus ministry after ordination. He worked with C.C.M. for four years and recently went on a mission trip with the group to the Latin American country of Belize. "In seminary I’ll work in all the forms of ministry that the Church has to offer," he said. "Then I’ll see which one I’m called to do." Richard and Theresa Burmester of Conway, who recently moved to Huntsville, AL., are very supportive of their son. "They are excited about the choice I’ve made, and I know they are proud of me," he said. Father Marconi, the current pastor at St. Joseph Church, also thinks highly of him. "When I heard William speak with the college students, my first reaction was he would be a great priest," he said. "After being around him and knowing that he was a young man of prayer, spent time reading the bible, and helped with scripture and faith classes, my initial impression was confirmed. I have no doubt he has all the gifts and talents needed." Father Melnick, St. Joseph’s associate pastor, echoed those sentiments. "William is a prayerful man who is on fire with God’s love," he said. "His devotion was ignited by St. Joseph’s and fostered at UCA’s Catholic Campus Ministry. His decision reflects the great love and selflessness that the community has for God."
Burmester has advice for high school and college students contemplating career choices. "You need to be open to any vocation that God wants you to follow," he said. "I was always scared that being a priest would be too hard and lonely. I’m starting to figure out that God is not going to call me to a vocation that is too hard for me. No matter what you do in your life, stay constant in prayer and connect yourself to God because He makes life much easier and makes the future brighter."