From the Charlotte News and Observer: 

The seminarians walk along a hallway lined with photos of classes of priests who came before them. Some are pious alumni who have become their teachers and mentors; others climbed the Catholic hierarchy to be revered as bishops and cardinals.

But there are others: Raymond Leneweaver, Class of 1962, subject of at least 14 victims’ reports of abuse, who even made matching T-shirts for those he raped and molested. And Edward Avery, Class of 1970, who pleaded guilty to molesting a 10-year-old altar boy in a church sacristy. And Francis Trauger, Class of 1972, who admitted to molesting a boy in a seminary shower, according to grand jurors.

The 156 young men who call St. Charles Borromeo Seminary home are deeply aware of both the sacred and the profane. They appear unflinchingly optimistic, reverent and committed, yet they prepare to enter ministry at a time when scandals have driven the faithful from pews, shaken the church’s highest tiers and cast doubt on the motivations of those who say they’re answering a call to serve.

“If anything, it probably made the desire to respond to God’s call even more urgent,” says Tucker Brown, a 27-year-old seminarian for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who finished medical school but felt drawn to the priesthood when it came time to apply to residencies. “It was really a desire to be what a priest is supposed to be, to be a spiritual father and really a source of healing.”

Classmates repeat similar sentiments around the bucolic campus of St. Charles, where buildings are dotted with paintings of Bible scenes and reminders of papal visits and chapels vibrate with blasts of the organ. Though the sins of the church may be more muted at this 188-year-old seminary, those preparing to lead Catholicism through its next chapter know they’ll be charged with inspiring those wary of putting trust in the clergy again.

“In a strange and demanding and convicting way, it’s almost like a challenge to be the priest that other priests weren’t for the people,” says Daniel Rice, a 24-year-old seminarian for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, who is expected to be ordained in 2022. “I want to step up and be the priest that the people actually need.”

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