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Runners support Arlington seminarians in Marine Corps Marathon

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As Mary Acosta ran the 26.2 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 22, she wrote the names of individuals and groups on her arm. She ran as part of the Race for Seminarians, an annual fundraiser for diocesan seminarians.

“I look to those names for motivation as I progress through the course,” Acosta said. “It helps to remind me that I am running for someone. I am running for a greater purpose.”

Acosta has run three Marine Corps Marathons and one 10K. She grew up in the diocese and has many priest and religious friends. “This is a way I can show my support (for) their vocations, as well as reflect on how important it is to pray for our priests,” she said.

“It was great to be able to offer the pain of the race for our seminarians so they can become holy priests,” said James Schlosser, who ran the full marathon. “It was an awesome experience to a part of this cause.”

“The Race for Seminarians helps showcase vocations in a way that you don’t normally expect it,” said Anne-Marie Minnis, Office of Vocations event coordinator. “When you hear someone talk about why they are running for vocations or seminarians you start to think about vocations in a different way. Or they might be talking to people in their workplace who never think about why we need priests or seminarians.”

This year 49 runners, including five seminarians and Father Edward R. Horkan, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Church in Luray, participated in the Race for Seminarians.

“We started out as an official charity for the Marine Corps Marathon,” said Minnis, but the office does not buy spots in the marathon anymore.

Those who still want to support the Race for Seminarians can run other races and get sponsored. These include the Nov. 12 Veterans' Day 10K and 2-mile walk and the Nov. 12 Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon, the Nov. 23 Alexandria Turkey Trot 5-miler, the Dec. 10 Jingle all the Way 5K and 15K in Washington, the Dec. 16 Jingle Bell Rock and Run 1K, 5K, 10K in Ashburn and the Jan. 1 New Year’s Day 5K in Ashburn.

The money goes to the Msgr. Roeltgen Fund, which covers expenses for seminarians. The Race for Seminarians has raised $150,000 since it began in 2011. More than $18,000 has been raised so far this year.

Seminarian Robert Renner runs two to three times a week and was urged by fellow seminarian Nick Blank to run the 10K. Renner appreciates the support from people involved with the race. “It is awesome because although we don't personally know the people we will be serving as priests,” he said, “we know that they are supporting us and making yet another sacrifice for us.”

Renner carries a rosary while he is running, not to focus on the exertion and pain of running, but rather to focus “on higher, more perfect things,” he said.

For Sarah Greiner, who coordinated the four runners from St. Rita Church in Alexandria, running is a sacrifice. “It used to be easy and pleasurable but it is rather painful,” she said. “I pray instead of counting miles. I’ve always thought of the sacrifice seminarians make for us.”

Elizabeth Spoth, a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, ran the 10K in support of two seminarians from her parish — Mike Lewis and Joe Flaherty. She prays the rosary on each of her training runs.

“The Race for Seminarians inspires me to pray in thanksgiving for their positive response to the call to the priesthood,” she said. “I pray that they will be encouraged by the Holy Spirit to persevere in their studies and formation, and that they will simply feel loved and appreciated for their hard work.”

Cathy Stelluto was motivated to run after honoring her father’s dying wish for her to return to the church. “The more exposure I had to the faith, the more I realized just how much priests and religious sacrifice in their lives for us,” she said. “I wanted to give something back to the ones (who) give us so much. I couldn’t think of a better way than to support those studying to become priests. I believe that the more of them we have, the better off we will all be.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017