Some fifty seminarians are gathered in Des Moines today through the weekend. Their annual convocation brings together seminary students from all parts of the state, and Father John Acrea vocation director for the diocese of Des Moines, says it’s a break to renew friendships and spend some time off from their study for the priesthood. Father Acrea says it’s a heavy academic preparation. It takes four years of college with basically a major in philosophy, then four years of grad school in theology, and then they’re ordained. Father Acrea says the seminarians range from those just entering college to graduate-school students in their final years of preparation. And while they study college courses, they also have “outside” jobs.One of the students washed trucks this summer, he says, one worked at a Dairy Queen and one was a lifeguard. There’s also intense study, preparing them for a life leading in an Iowa Catholic congregation. When they’re finished with college, Acrea says they’ll spend ten weeks of spirituality training at Creighton University in Omaha, a summer in Guadalajara, Mexico, studying Spanish, the next summer they do hospital work and the summer after that they’re likely serving as deacons in a parish. Father Acrea says any young man who thinks he’s called to the priesthood these days is rigorously checked out. They have 8 hours of psychological testing and interview teams and a “whole battery of things they have to do” though he says one thing that’s different is the older people studying for the priesthood, men who’ve already had one career, like this year’s class which includes one with a degree in economics. This gathering is an annual event. He explains how Iowa’s divided into four diocese and each year one hosts the get-together. This year their education topic is the history of the Catholic Church in Iowa, from the pioneer days of the missionaries to Bishop Loras, the first Bishop of Dubuque.