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Catholic Schools Week special for seminarian

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

He said he barely can remember writing letters to seminarians as a student at St. Joseph Elementary School in Oakley during Catholic Schools Week, although he is sure he did.

Now, Shawn Kuhlman will be the recipient of some of those well wishes from youngsters at St. Joseph -- and all across the Diocese of Salina -- during CSW 2013, which is this week.

Kuhlman, studying to become a Roman Catholic priest, is in his third year of attending St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. He said he always enjoys hearing from people back home.

"It's good to hear from back in that area," Kuhlman said. "People are very conscious of us (seminarians); they are very thoughtful."

The building administrator at St. Joseph these days is Kuhlman's first cousin, Mike Kuhlman, and they are in contact with each other often.

Mike Kuhlman is in his third year in charge at St. Joseph, and in the past he has taken his fifth-graders -- St. Joseph serves students in preschool through fifth grade -- to Denver for an end-of-the-year trip.

Of course, one of their stops is St. John Vianney Seminary.

"Shawn is a great tour guide," his older cousin said.

Students at St. Joseph write letters of appreciation each year to some group during Catholic Schools Week, and this year they chose to thank their fellow parishioners with notes in the parish bulletin.

While he might not be hearing from the St. Joseph students right now, Shawn Kuhlman will get notes from at least one diocesan school sometime next week.

Thursday is "vocations appreciation day" at St. Mary School in Ellis, and its principal is Jim Moeder, who knows both the Kuhlman cousins well.

As head of two small Catholic grade schools in western Kansas, Moeder and Mike Kuhlman work together frequently. And Moeder lived in Oakley while Shawn Kuhlman was growing up and was a classmate of Moeder's oldest son.

"We like to keep in touch with the seminarians," Moeder said. "And this week is a good chance to do that."

Mike Kuhlman grew up in Sharon Springs and wasn't able to attend Catholic schools.

A former teacher in public schools in western Kansas and Colorado, Kuhlman said he likes what a Catholic school can bring to a community.

"You can tie a lot of curriculum and issues in society into religion and how God wants us to treat others," he said. "And not just see what secular society says about it."

Moeder agreed.

"It's a well-rounded education with God as a focus," Moeder said. "We're able to do cross-curricular things. Kids see that it's not just something we learn in a book; it's what we live and breathe."