When the school year started in August of 2017, seven men from the Diocese of San Jose arrived at Mundelein, the first seminarians from their diocese to ever study here. The men attended new student orientation with mostly Pre-Theology and Theology I seminarians, but quickly made friendships while settling in to life on campus. The seminarians were spread out in various classes, from Manuel Barrios in Pre-Theology to John Hoang, Victor Trinidad and Robain Lamba in Theology to Deacon Wilberto Piczon, Deacon Francis (Neil) Kalaw, and Deacon Edgar Elamparo in Theology IV, their final year of formation.
Father John Kartje, our rector, recognized the impact of the three deacons’ residence at Mundelein, saying, “Deacons Francis, Edgar, and Wilberto have shown great generosity in their willingness to transfer seminaries in their final year. In a short time, they established themselves as important leaders among the men and have provided a powerful witness of how a priest’s heart should always be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, even when he acts in unexpected ways.”
Elamparo echoed those sentiments, saying, “Even though we spent only a year here in Mundelein Seminary, I felt at home because of the warmth, love, and tremendous hospitality of this community of faith and service, not to mention the quality of formation. I pray that God will continue to bless, guide, and protect Mundelein Seminary, and continue to carry out its mission to form good and holy priests.”
The seminarians at Mundelein all learn to be at least conversationally and liturgically bilingual before they graduate. There are language immersion programs and various language-inspired choirs and prayer groups on campus, with San Jose seminarians joining the Schola, Spanish, and Asian Choirs. Many of the seminarians for San Jose were born outside of the U.S., and their presence on campus adds to the cultural diversity at Mundelein, with so many dioceses and countries sending men to study here.
“They bring a new perspective from their home diocese on critical Catholic concerns such as the pronounced and growing multi-cultural identity of the American Church and our responsibility to be attentive to the needs of immigrants.We’ve been blessed by the addition of the San Jose seminarians to our Mundelein community,” said Father Kartje.
Kalaw garnered a spot on a Mundelein basketball team that finished second in the Fr. Patrick O’Malley Tournament. He then recruited some of his brother seminarians to travel to San Jose after the school year for the annual “Revs. vs. Sems” Basketball Challenge, which shines a spotlight on vocations for the diocese in a far-reaching, relatable way.
The three deacons – Francis Kalaw, Edgar Elamparo, and Wilberto Piczon – were ordained as priests on June 2, 2018. These new priests have the distinction of being the first from their diocese to ever graduate from Mundelein.
“As one of the first three seminarians of the Diocese of San Jose to graduate from Mundelein, I consider this school year – our first and last year here – a unique and blessed experience. In the relatively short time that we had, the Lord really made use of our stay to expand our horizons and give us an opportunity to learn a new way of seminary formation, and help us build and deepen our friendships with the people inside and outside the seminary. This experience surely made an impact in my formation, and for that, I am thankful to the Lord for the bringing us here,” said Father Wilberto Piczon.
We are thankful to Bishop Patrick J. McGrath for entrusting our faculty to form the parish priests of his diocese in spiritual, academic, human and pastoral excellence.
Father John Kartje endorsed the three new priests and their diocesan brothers, saying, “The people of the Diocese of San Jose will be well served by their new priests. I am excited by the prospect of what the returning and new San Jose seminarians will share with us in the fall and all of us at Mundelein look forward to welcoming them.”