ST. BENEDICT, La. -- The path to priesthood has always been about more than just the message at Sunday Mass, but a new program at the St. Joseph Seminary College on the Northshore is bringing new meaning to shepherding a flock.
Jake Blaszak is saddling up the horse Maggie.
"A little big, and he's a little flamboyant at times," said instructor Elizabeth Simmons.
Simmons is describing the horse Gibson.
What seems like a typical equestrian riding session is actually the last day of the horsemanship class at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington.
And the lessons have been far from simply taking care of an animal.
"This is something we wanted to go beyond what was mandated, to see other creative ways in which we can challenge the men to grow, especially in the area of human formation," said Fr. Gregory Boquet, president rector of Seminary College.
Essentially, creating their personality as a priest. Training the horses taught the students how to adapt to a person's struggles, quirks and needs. Caring for the animals taught humility. Riding the horses taught obedience and confidence.
The students say those lessons all add up to becoming a good leader of people.
"As a priest, that we're going towards, we need to be able to interact with these people and help them in any way that we can to get them motivated," said Jake Blaszak
Students say the experience isn't just teaching them how to manage a parish, it's also reaffirming that the path to priesthood is the right one for them.
"Using horses as the tool or medium by which they find out about themselves."
It's a chance program proving effective not only in creating a new crop of quality Catholic men, but in shaping the soul of church leadership in the future.