By Melanie Sisinni

         The premier fundraiser of the St. Mark Seminary Auxiliary, sidelined since 2019 due to the pandemic, is coming back this year. Traditionally a sold-out event with hundreds of participants enjoying food, games and fellowship, it raises money in support of the seminarians at St. Mark Seminary, Erie. Reservations are already being accepted.

         The St. Mark Seminary Auxiliary was established almost 80 years ago to support the young men who joined the seminary and were studying to become priests in the Diocese of Erie. The auxiliary members meet with the seminarians and lend their support to the young men through prayer, friendship and a yearly fundraiser that is the highlight of the year.

         The group, open to both male and female parishioners of the Diocese of Erie, meets monthly, starting with Mass celebrated by the seminary rector and vice rector, Father Scott Jabo and Father David Renne, in the chapel at St. Mark Seminary. The seminarians join the group for the Mass and the meeting afterward.

         Kathy Holland, president of the St. Mark Seminary Auxiliary and mother to Father Kevin Holland, joined the group when Father Kevin was in minor seminary, the first years of formation before seminarians leave Erie for their final four years in major seminary. She said while the group isn’t widely known, its membership is expanding with people who want to support the seminarians.

         “It’s just amazing that this group of people has been here this whole time,” she said. “We really just embrace the seminarians. We’re there for them. Our numbers are growing, and it’s beautiful that people are ready to be there and want to support them.”

         Father David Whiteford, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Peace Church, Erie, was ordained in 2017. He caringly describes his memories of the auxiliary and their support of him and his fellow seminarians. He shared a nickname the seminarians gave the group.

         “For a long time, the auxiliary was affectionately known as ‘the artillery,’ meaning they just got things done. The relationship is one of respect from the seminarians. They do so much for us,” said Father Whiteford.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, St. Mark Seminary Auxiliary
hasn't hosted their annual card party fundraiser since 2019.
Prior to the pandemic, the annual card party was a sold-out

Photo/Anne-Marie Welsh

         He recalled the seminarians receiving gift cards to purchase necessities at the beginning of each school year.

         “It was this wonderful gift that most people wouldn’t have thought of, but the auxiliary members did. They really take care of the seminarians. The year after I left, the seminarians got new beds from the auxiliary,” said Father Whiteford. “They provide a lot of support with prayers, making sure there’s a lot of people praying for you and your vocation. In the long run, it’s the most important thing the auxiliary does for the seminarians.” 

         The auxiliary’s only fundraiser, the St. Mark Auxiliary Card Party, has been canceled since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This fundraiser allows the auxiliary to support the men of St. Mark Seminary and serves as a social event for parishioners to get to know the seminarians. The seminarians participate in the card party by selling raffle tickets, serving food and spending time with the people in attendance. Since the event hasn’t occurred in the last three years, none of the current seminarians have attended the card party. According to Father Jabo, the community is looking forward to the full experience coming back.

         “The past three years, they did an amazingly successful raffle to replace the card party and still raise funds. Now that the card party has come back, I think everyone is excited,” said Father Jabo. “People are just excited to get together. I’ve heard that it has been an enjoyable social event, and it’s also nice knowing that it’s going to a good cause.”

         The St. Mark Seminary Auxiliary Card Party will occur on Thursday, April 20, at the St. Mark Catholic Center Gym, 429 East Grandview Blvd, Erie. Admission is $10, and doors open at 5:00 pm for the 6:00 pm event. The evening includes a gift auction, raffles and a light meal. For reservations, call Betsy at 814-504-2720 by April 10.