Family Men in Formation
Two of Conception Seminary College’s most vibrant – and, dare I say, popular – additions in the last three years are a pair of married Catholic laymen. Dr. Jonathan Fuqua teaches philosophy and Mr. Benjamin Darnell serves as the seminary’s first lay Human Formation advisor, and also teaches theology. Each considers it a privilege to help form future priests. Likewise, Fuqua and Darnell believe their vocations complement the Benedictine charism in this ministry.
There is a very personal stake in this for Dr. Fuqua: his family. “I have a strong desire for holy, virtuous, and wise priests,” he says. “They will be serving my family as well as the Church generally.” So as a married man tasked with shepherding his domestic church, he thinks about those pastoring the parochial family.
However, Jonathan’s motivation is not myopically utilitarian. “I have long felt that my own vocation was to call people to love God with their whole minds – as it says in Matthew 22:37, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” By extension, this kind of intellectual formation will convert the culture because, he asserts, “what we believe is based on how we think.”
For Ben Darnell, working at Conception was akin to coming home. As an alumnus, he was impressed by the intentional community and the supportive friendships he made in seminary modeled by the monks. Even more taken by this was his future wife, Alicia, whom he dragged to ordinations of classmates all across the Midwest. Observing these bonds, she said, “I want a community like that.” From the very beginning, the Darnells sought an intentional community, an authentically Catholic family. Eventually, that led them to join the lay association Heart of the Redeemer in the Kansas City area.
When asked why he thinks the seminarians took to him so quickly and enthusiastically in individual meetings, in the classroom, and even at the lunch table, Mr. Darnell sees it as a natural fascination. He states, “The seminarians want to see my family living out the fullness of Catholic life in holiness, in sexuality, et cetera. They strive to live it in preparation for their vocation. That’s appealing.” Mr. Darnell points to Pope St. John Paul II’s assertion that married persons and consecrated celibates complement one another.
While Mr. Darnell thinks his family is striving for an ideal, his 14 years of pastoral experience in seven dioceses under nine priests, gives him the realistic view that many families are often not quite in that place. “Part of my hope in working with these men, is helping them to be pastors who can shepherd families, less convinced of the centrality of the faith in their lives, to get to that next level.”
Of course, both married men admit that they gain much from being among Benedictine monks and diocesan seminarians. “Being here benefits me a lot! ‘Iron sharpens iron’ (Proverbs 27:17)!” Dr. Fuqua has sought spiritual direction from a monk, and Mr. Darnell can be seen making a daily Holy Hour. The stability of the monastic life may appear boring from the outside, but both men have learned that gifts multiply when allowed to focus within a tranquil environment. They admit that the zeal of the devout young men is a call for them to live their own vocations more fervently.
— Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB
Vice Rector & Dean of Students
Dr. Jonathan Fuqua
Originally from Palmyra, Missouri, he grew up in various Pentecostal and Evangelical Protestant communities. His philosophical education and journey to Catholicism grew alongside each other. In 2017, his entire family was received into the Church. He and his wife Angela have five children. He received his PhD from Purdue University and specializes in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion. Dr. Fuqua loves Aristotle and Aquinas, and in general is always prepared “to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason” for his hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). He has published four books and several articles and book reviews.
Mr. Benjamin Darnell
His father’s work took his family across the country, but he considers Springfield, Missouri his home town. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Conception Seminary College, and a Master of Divinity degree from Kenrick Theological Seminary in 2004. Mr. Darnell has completed two units of Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital ministry certification). His professional career has included youth and family ministry, and serving as a pastoral associate in charge of catechesis, marriage preparation, and directing volunteer ministries. Among his many accomplishments prior to joining Conception’s seminary formation team, he helped develop a program in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for forming intentional disciples in parishes, and published the article “Helping Teens in Crisis, a Pastoral Care Response and Resource for Parents” (2013). He and his wife have three children.