Monday, December 17, 2012

"Let Me Walk Lord, by Your Side"

Last Friday, as I was beginning to work on a paper for Christian Anthropology, I got a 'hankering' for some bluegrass tunes. I went to Pandora and found the bluegrass station. About three songs into my longing for Kentucky, this particular song from Ralph Stanley was delivered to me. Since that first listen, I have really grown to love the song.

The title of the song is: "Let Me Walk Lord by Your Side."
Here is the YouTube Link if you would like to listen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEyPNjKZzf4

The entire song has struck a chord with my spiritual journey as of late. It is not that I felt unwelcome in any church that I have ever attended; it is more to the fact that I never allowed myself to feel welcome there. It has taken many years to come to the realization that--- I, me, myself---am truly loved by the Lord, for exactly the way that he created me. That fact needs to be recognized by each one of us in our relationship with the Lord and, by extension, with each of our neighbors. Then, "in our Church house Sunday morning," we will all be able to stand together and praise the Lord for all His continuing gifts to us.

Without writing about the entire song, I am just going to quickly reflect on the refrain of the song (which by the idea spark of the Holy Spirit I am also using to structure my paper) which I think is becoming a great prayer for me:

"Steer me on the righteous pathway"

Each of us needs to be pushed back onto the narrow path. We get lost from time to time. Reconciliation helps to return to the Lord, to get our heart clean, and wash the sin from our blood-stained wool.

"Help me humbly to abide"

Once we are clean, our practice of vigilance and virtue begins to be rebuilt. No one is saying that it is easy, because our tendency to sin can return. We must ask the Lord for grace and assistance to continue building towards full righteousness.

"Hold me to your precious bosom"

The Lord loves us, even more than we can ever dream or imagine. I see some Christmas stamps on my desk that depict Mary holding Jesus ever so close to her bosom. Our friend Jesus holds us in that same embrace and loves us, even in our repeated brokenness.

"Let me walk lord by your side"

In the pope's encyclical letter on Hope from 2007, he reminds us of Bernard of Clarivaux's saying that "God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with." The Lord walks with us in our trials and tribulations. Our walk is never easy, but when the Lord is at our side, the path is more straight, less hilly, more smooth, and less steep.

Amen.



Picture Credit: http://www.last.fm/music/Ralph+Stanley/Ralph+Stanley



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gears of Faith

For the past several days, the intersection outside of my Seminary in Washington DC has been complete gridlock in the afternoon. Just down the street, they are working on some trees, electric poles, and some other major construction that has the road reduced to one lane. As we were praying evening prayer the past two days, the multiple car horns of frustration could be heard.

This lead me to consider an analogy that relates to my own current faith journey "rest stop" so to speak. There have been many things on my mind concerning faith and my engagement with it. When the street mess collided with my own thoughts, I began to picture my faith journey as an automobile.

Am I in "Park"? Have I been idling or is the car even on? I see this part of the faith journey as just following the rules with little to no risk. Conversely, this also means there is little to no reward. As Christians, we may have to "park" for a brief time but we are asked to do something with Faith.

Am I in "Reverse"? Am I traveling away from God? Sometimes I can find myself in a cycle of self-doubt and even self-hatred. Can God really forgive for the faults of my life? Those thoughts can be very overwhelming and make you feel as I you are all alone. This can be a torturous time. If you find yourself here, talk about it with someone. It could be the source of a great faith renewal.

Am I in "Neutral"? Just revving the engine? My faith engine can sound really good if I say the right things and appear to do the right things. However, in Neutral, you are not really going anywhere. The appearance of doing good can lead you to judge others, lead to boasting, or even using the gifts of God in a negative manner. Why waste all that energy sitting in neutral?

"Drive", Faith Engaged. Go forth with the Lord, trusting in Him for all your needs, worries, and concerns. Look for the signs of faith along the way to be sure that you are going in the right direction. You can take a retreat and rest for a time, all saints-in-training do that to regain their strength. But, keep your faith-car pointing towards the Lord in the direction towards heaven. This journey will be easier once you are pointed on the Way of the Lord. AMEN



Monday, November 26, 2012

Desires

For Thanksgiving, I traveled to South Carolina to spend the holiday with them. I met six of my 3rd cousins for the first time. I had a great time visiting with them and eating two (2) Thanksgiving dinners!

On the journey to their house, I listened to a couple of homilies of Monsignor Charles Pope. Father Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St Cyprian about 10 blocks east of the Capitol Building.

His homily entitled "Give me Jesus" was one that I would like to share with you. Here is the link to his entire homily, if my summary leaves you HUNGRY:

http://frpope.com/audio/18%20B%202012.mp3

The main thrust of the homily is our human desires. Each one of us has many desires for many things. Most of these desires are necessary for our own survival. In fact, Fr. Pope points out that all of our desires are good. But, here comes the unfortunate news.......our desires are misguided because of sin.

The example that stuck with me so much was the one for hunger. Every time that we eat, that hunger comes back again; and usually that hunger comes back very quickly Even when I ate two Thanksgiving dinners and three rounds of dessert, the hunger did return. Our hunger is never satisfied with anything on Earth.

"Our desires are never satisfied; they are limitless."

"Never be satisfied with our earthly existence."

Our hunger for food, material things, clothing, electronics, automobiles, etc will never be satisfied. There is only One that can satisfy and even overwhelm our human desires with Heavenly Blessings. May God continue to bless you and your family.





Monday, November 19, 2012

This Place Runs on Faith...

For several weeks, a constant theme has been running through my head that I need to share after hearing the Saturday Nov 10 reading from St. Paul Addressed to the Philippians. The entire reading was Philippians 4: 10-19, but in particular here are the verses 16 and 17 that most resonated with my thoughts and reminded me of you:

“For even when I was at Thessalonica you sent me something for my needs, not only once but more than once. It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather, I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account.”

Because of your generosity and faith, my seminary is able to operate and function. Because of your faith, I am able to go to school, purchase books, and put gas in my car. Because of your conviction, me and all of my seminarian brothers are able to be well fed, turn on the lights, live in a place of prayer, reflection, and learning.

This seminary and every seminary we use runs on the faith of you, the People of God in the Archdiocese of Louisville. I am so thankful for that faith. I am so humbled by that faith you show which inspires me to grow more in holiness and faith. It gives me the strength and encouragement to continue on this journey that you and the LORD have entrusted in me.

From Philipians 4:18:

“I have received full payment and I abound. I am very well supplied because of what I received from you through Epaphroditus, ‘a fragrant aroma,’ an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

I think that I can speak on behalf of all the Louisville Seminarians in saying that we are so Thankful for each one of you, for your prayers, kindness, and generosity. I thank God for the great gifts HE continues to bestows on each of us. May we continue to use the Gifts of God for the Glory of His Kingdom and the help of His children. Amen.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reflections...


In each of the priest's Liturgy of the Hours books, there is a poetry section that allows for reflection on the word of God in multiple ways. I have to admit that I have not used many of the poems in the back for prayer and reflection. But, the other day before evening prayer, I was compelled to go to that section. I turned to the following poem by Joseph Mary Plunkett which has provided me with a couple thoughts that I would like to share:


I Saw the Sun at Midnight, Rising Red

I saw the Sun at Midnight, rising red,
Deep-hued yet glowing, heavy with the stain
Of blood-compassion, and I saw it gain
Swiftly in size and growing till It spread
Over the stars; the heavens bowed their head
As from Its heart slow dripped a crimson rain,
Then a great tremor shook It, as of pain---
The night fell, moaning, as It hung there dead.

O Sun, O Christ, O bleeding Heart of flame!
Thou giv'st Thine agony as our life's worth,
And mak'st infinite, lest we have dearth
Of nights wherewith to call upon thy Name;
Thou pawnest Heaven as a pledge for Earth,
And for our glory sufferest all shame.

(1) blood-compassion: The compassion that Jesus has for us is beyond any human comprehension. That compassion was shown for us in the gift of the Incarnation, Jesus coming to us...us....me and you....to release us from the sins of our own choices and return us back to the Heavenly Kingdom

(2) heavens bowed their head: I imagine all the host of Heaven in agony but knowing the the plan of God will prevail.

(3) our life's worth: God treats us as His children, his very own. He restores and gives our life such immense worth that He sends His own Son to reform our nature.

(4) a great tremor shook: All of creation moaned and groaned at the crucifixion. One might think of this moaning as terrible and a loss. But, it could be creation moaning at the fact that the great pain is now reversed and life begins again in Christ

(5) of nights to call upon your name: Not one of us knows how many nights and days that we have remaining in our Earthly journey. Whatever ones we have left should try to remember the great gift of Jesus Christ.

I have returned to this poem several times this week and have seen things from many different angles. Something different hits me each time and in a different way. May the Lord continue to bless each one of us and lead us on our own journey. May we be granted more courage to follow. Amen.



Picture Credit: http://www.rc.net/wcc/ireland/plunkt10.htm

Monday, November 5, 2012

No Religion

Almost a month ago now, the PEW Foundation (pewresearch.org) released a recent study proclaiming that one out of five adults do not have any religious affiliation. After the release of that study on October 9, every media outlet that I check regularly was featuring that heading prominently. Even several days after that, the headline was still featured as a 'most popular' link on one website.

The reason I bring this up is because of the impeccable timing of the Holy Spirit. Two days after this research study was released began the "Year of Faith" declared by Pope Benedict XVI. Over the next 13 months, the pope is calling upon Catholics to renew their own faith and continue (or begin) to allow our lives to speak to the words of Christ. The Holy Spirit, or us for that matter, did not require an extensive research study that people are choosing to allow God to drift out of their lives.

As baptized Christians, we can see the research study as a "call to action." The things we agree on as baptized Christians monumentally outweighs the disagreements that exist. Jesus Christ came to redeem our sins and save us from material, human choices that turn us away. Our communities of faith, hope, and charity are so crucial to us; Let us not fail to spread that message to all that surround us....... because......

Because, in another study by PEW and PBS, they found that 68% of adults who considered themselves 'unaffiliated with religion DO BELIEVE IN GOD. They just need to see how Christ can fully change their lives.

Joel 2:12-13 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.

The entire text of the Pew Research Document can be found on the
pewresearch.org website.



Picture Credit: www.usccb.org

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Severe Spiritual Storm Warning

We have become so familiar with the image of thunderstorms approaching Louisville. Because of great advancements in computer modeling and radar imagery, we receive many of these warning several days in advance of threatening weather. We are given so much time to prepare for the arrival to protect our families.

This week, I have found myself digging out of a Spiritual Thunderstorm. The interesting connection is that I didn't receive any advance warning and did not realize the storm until I finally realized what was happening and asked the LORD for help and assistance. But, however, I have noticed that I am beginning to realize the storminess much more quickly.

Before this year, I would have found myself trying to do everything to get MYSELF back on track. I thought that I could always do something to get MYSELF back on track. Right there is the source of my difficulty. I had failed to ask the LORD for the help to return to him.

I am reminded of the apostles being afraid and waking up Jesus as they are on the stormy sea. (Mark 4:38). The apostles, while their faith was weak, still had some confidence that Jesus could help them, if only they ask. We should always ask for assistance the instant that we realize that our Spiritual Storm is approaching or is upon us. Jesus is always there and with us, waiting to assist and be with us at our most trying times.

I was so touched by the Third Antiphon from the Saturday Week 3 Daytime prayer which reminded me and comforted me: "When you heart is torn with grief, the LORD is near you." May the LORD continue to be near to you. Praise him in the good times and ask for strength in the difficult times. Amen.



Picture Credit: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/iHMAMj2SQ90/0.jpg

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Visit

My parents came to Washington DC to visit for Columbus Day weekend. My dad just retired at the end of September, so it was also sort of a celebration trip. They were able to stay at the seminary in our upstairs guest rooms. It was so great to have them come and stay with me.

On Saturday, we toured the Mt. Vernon Mansion and Grounds (Home of President George Washington).In addition, we went on the National Treasure Tour. We found out that the tunnel was the creation of "Hollywood." We were able to go into the basement and see where the inspiration for the movie came from. (I won'tspoil it in case you decide to come and visit me!!)

On Sunday, we visited the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, which is about a mile from my seminary. They feature replicas of many altars and churches that can be seen in the Holy Land. In fact, one set of steps leading to statues of the crucifixion are the actual height of Mt. Calvary. The Harris' found that very cool!! We also walked through the National Cathedral.

It was so great for my folks to visit and see where I go to school and how we live in the seminary. It was such a blessing. Now I have some homework to do to catch up, but it was worth it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Let us pray": More Than an Instruction

One day last June, when I was praying Morning Prayer, I came across this simple three word phrase, "Let us pray."  I have to admit that at first I was angry at the phrase.  I said out loud, "I was just praying. Why is there a command for 'Let us pray'?"  Then, that same week at church before the opening and closing prayer, the priest announces, "Let us pray" and the same thought came to mind, "We are already supposed to be praying, it's Mass."

Now that I have taken the time to think about this seemingly little phrase, the Holy Spirit has blessed me with two new reasons for this small, yet powerful phrase.  The first thing that changed my heart about this phrase was the ideas of the faithful asking permission to continue praying.  After all, everything in our being and even the ability to take our next breath comes from the gracious gift of the LORD. Recognizing that all is a gift, we should ask again to pray and the LORD will allow us to be in relationship with Him once again.

The other thing that changed my thinking was that we are never really praying alone.  Even if we are in our interior room and praising the LORD, we are always surrounded by saints, angels, Mary and the LORD.  That phrase reminds us that we are always accompanied on this journey of faith, even in the deepest, darkest periods of our life.  We are praying with and for the entire universal church.

I am sure that there are more aspects to this phrase that I have not thought about or been inspired to think about.  Maybe more will come.  Maybe you will think of one.

May God continue to bless you and your family.  You are in my prayers.







Friday, September 28, 2012

Basketball and the Spiritual Life

Since June, I have been pondering about an idea concerning my own spiritual journey. Last night, I had the notion to watch the movie “Hoosiers” starring Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey which helped me to recall my spiritual journey thoughts from June.

While shooting baskets on retreat, I was imagining some teammates that might be playing with me. Except, I was not thinking of basketball greats that you might be thinking of at this point like Peyton Siva or Michael Jordan. I immediately made a connection to my spiritual life and my own team. This is no ordinary team and by no means is it a dream. Rather, it is reality. So, I am announcing the line-up to my spiritual team.

Point Guard: Jason Harris – Because of God’s great gift of free will, I must call the plays based on the will and desire of the Coach.

Guard: St. James – first hand witness to the transfiguration and the healing of Jairus’ daughter and known as one of the Sons of Thunder.

Small Forwards: St. Anthony – when there is trouble or hope is lost he can help find and restore things.

Power Forward: St. Francis – when the game gets tough he helps to bring peace and sense of beauty back to the situation.

Center: St. Michael the Archangel – when there are lots of ‘missed shots’ Michael gets the rebounds and helps to put the team back into play

Head Coach: Jesus – always turn to the coach for a reminder of the game plan and the support that you need

Assistant Coach: Mary – works with the team when the strength is lacking

Trainer/Manager: St. Joseph – provides the materials and extra support needed to be effective and to move the team to the next location.

This team always plays zone because there is no way that any of the team can do it alone. Particularly, when we are playing a daily match with the forces of evil, the game cannot be played alone. Just like in the movie ‘Hoosiers’, Coach Norm modifies and teaches the team a new mentality of playing and working together. Coach talks with the team and finds some motivation to keep them playing. Jesus does the same thing for us by finding ways to encourage us, but we have to TALK and LISTEN to the coach.

Who is on your team? The team is ready to play. Are YOU on your team? Don’t forget to go to practice this week.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Taking time to reflect...

Each semester at my school, we spend one Friday Evening and a Friday Evening through Saturday morning in a period of reflection or mini-retreat. These miniature retreats give the seminary community a chance to pray together in silence with the Lord and take a break from the busy schedule. I must admit that many times I have found myself thinking "I have so much reading to get done, that I don't have time to reflect." After the period of reflection though, I always find a peace and a new nugget of faith that sustains. It always pays great dividends to spend time with the Lord and allow him to dialogue with us in prayer.

This past Friday night was one such opportunity. Fr. McKnight, who works for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, gave us a great reflection upon this upcoming "Year of Faith" which Pope Benedict has announced. For one particular part of the reflections, Father made reference to the "Elijah and the Broom Tree" story (see 1 Kings 19:1-8). Elijah is depicted as laying under this tree in utter despair of his life troubles. He asks the Lord to take his life and be done with him. An Angel of the Lord comes to Elijah not once, not twice, but three times to nourish him for the next part of his journey.

You know that we have all heard this story many, many times. But, we are continually nourished and enriched by the same story countless times because we are never the same person. We are constantly changing and growing. I believe that is what this story is speaking to me. We are on a continuous journey and God continues to nourish and feed us for the next part of the journey. Many times, we all have said "Enough Lord, Enough." If we are patient and faithful, the LORD will always answer that plea with whatever is needed so that we might continue on to our heavenly destiny.

Picture Credit: http://catholicexchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/elijah-under-broom-tree.jpg

Friday, September 21, 2012

Parish Family

Today I am thinking again about what I left off with in my introductory letter to you last time: Parish Family. The cause of this reflection comes from my visit to the parish that I have worked with for the past 30 months. The parish, St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Washington DC near the Capitol Building, has served the downtown Washington area for the past 152 years. After a confluence of issues, the Jesuits felt they could no longer adequately serve this small, remnant parish community. This Sunday was their final mass before the parish merger with a neighboring parish community.

One of the themes that the pastor, Fr. Clifford, highlighted during the mass was the witness of Saints and how we witness, through our lives, as Saints on the Journey. Father pointed out how important it was to come together and support each other on this journey. Children also need this good witness of Christians surrounding. I believe this applies to all of our faith communities. Our Christian-Catholic Brothers and Sisters surround us each Sunday as great witnesses of the faith, even in all our brokenness. Parish families become the only family for many people when they are miles and miles away from home or are the only surviving member of their kinfolk. I know that I have received great blessings and support from all the Saints around me in my blood family and my parish families.

The other amazing point that really hit me today was the church building and what really makes up church. For the Aloysius Parish, they continue to mourn the loss of their sacred worship space. In a town hall meeting earlier this year, many people pointed to the front of the church and said “I was baptized right there twenty years ago” or “My wife and I introduced ourselves to each other for the first time in that pew.” The space does hold such great meaning for us. But, we can never fail to remember that it We, the People of God, that make up the church. Buildings are great and give glory to God, but we give greater glory and can show our faith everywhere we travel.

The closing song for today’s final Aloysius mass had a magnificent line that serves for all of us to recall and remember this week: “You ought to tell somebody. Go and be a witness for the Lord.” We are Christian-Catholics 24 - 7 - 365 and not just on the 52 Sundays of the year. May the Peace of Christ be with you and your family today and always. Amen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bringing Christ to Others

video
On September 14 2012, over 480 youth, adult sponsors, youth ministers, parish staff people, pastors and members of religious communities gathered at St. Gabriel Catholic Church for our annual event, "Dinner with the Archbishop." It was a night of prayer, friendship and exploring how God calls each of us.  As part of the evening, the Vocation Office, with the support of Spalding Hurst, Sr. Nancy Gerth and the SCN family put together a video focusing on our CSA theme of "Bringing Christ to Others."  We asked clergy, religious and lay ecclesial ministers just how they bring Christ to others. We are deeply thankful for the gifts and talents that they share with our Archdiocese.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meet Our Fall Blogger...


"But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." (James 1:22)

The first step in any adventure is to receive the necessary instructions that ensure your trip will be safe, exciting, and fun.  St. James reminds us that the Lord offers us the necessary instructions for our life adventure.  But, we can never just be satisfied with receiving the instructions.  The Lord expects us to take the graciously given gifts and become who God intended for our lives. "Behold what you are, become what you receive." (St. Augustine)

My name is Jason Harris, seminarian for our Archdiocese of Louisville.  I am privileged to be the seminarian author of the blog for this semester. Thanks for following along on my journey as I begin 2nd Theology (which is my 4th year of Seminary school).  This year has already gotten off to a remarkably fast start.  It is truly amazing how God continues to work in each of our lives, so long as we slow down a second to see his awesome work. I hope to share some of His awesome work in my life with you this semester.

As I mentioned earlier, I am beginning my fourth year of Theology Study at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.  Before entering seminary, I taught Henry County (Kentucky) middle schools students in the areas of math and science for nine years.  I cherish the experience of teaching my students, living and growing with them. Now, I watch as they start families and careers which make me continue to marvel at the work of God.

 I am originally from Grandview Indiana, which is a small town near Owensboro (Kentucky). My parents, Jim and Judith Harris, along with my Grandmother Bernice and her husband Red, still reside in my hometown. My sister, Jill, now lives in Louisville and just purchased a new house in the Highlands.

My home parishes are the Church of the Annunciation in Shelbyville, Kentucky and St. John Chrysostom in Eminence, Kentucky.  The rebirth of my Catholic faith started there amongst my parish families.  My faith journey has also been nurtured by my other parish families of St. Michael (Jeffersontown), Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Christ the King (Louisville).

 I look forward to sharing with you throughout the semester.  I have always wanted to be a journal writer and recording my thoughts over an extended period of time.  But, I have never persisted.  I am so anxious to look back at Christmas time and see this semester's journey in its entirety.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you and your families.

Peace in Christ,
Jason Harris

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Welcome to Our New Seminarians

The Archdiocese of Louisville is proud to announce four new seminarians:  Kirby Rust, Robert Barnell, Brandon DeToma and Daniel Ross.

My name is Kirby Rust and I am 19 years old. I was raised in the small town of Boston, Kentucky with my two parents and four siblings. There I worked in the family business during my school holiday breaks. I attended St. Catherine of Alexandria Academy in New Haven, Kentucky for all of my elementary and middle school years then attended Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Kentucky. After high school I then attended the University of Louisville for one year, which brings me to today.

Before entering my seventh grade year at St. Catherine of Alexandria I didn't have much of a religious or spiritual life. Of course I went to Holy Mass every Sunday, but other than that my faith was nearly nonexistent. Nevertheless, that summer before my seventh grade year a new pastor arrived. Within a few months of his arrival I began seriously considering the possibility of the priesthood in my life. I began serving at Mass, going to scripture study, and practicing weekly confessions and holy hours. With this new found Faith in Jesus Christ present most intimately in the Blessed Sacrament I decided to contact the Vocation Director my senior year of high school. With a year of college under my belt I will be, God willing, attending Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in August to pursue a deeper love and understanding of God in my life and to which vocation He is calling me. I have always felt that there would be no greater reward in life than bringing a soul home to Christ.


My name is Robert Barnell. I am twenty-four years old and was born in Louisville. My parents are from Indiana but now live in Kentucky. I have an older sister and an older brother, who both live out of town. We were all raised Catholic. I went to St. Margaret Mary grade school, St. Xavier High School, and Indiana University, where I majored in Spanish and geography. I then moved to Indianapolis to work at the Catholic Charities Refugee Program. I love maps and languages. During college I spent a semester on the Mexican border, and last fall I spent two months with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, India.

I was interested in the priesthood since early high school, when I would feel joy during mass when I'd think about being a priest. I started attending some discernment events, but I didn't consider going to seminary right away. By late college, I still felt a desire to go to seminary but didn't feel ready to pursue the vocation, so I started a job. The next winter I went on a discernment retreat, and I felt very excited. A while later I finally decided to quit my job and move back to my home diocese, where I later started the application process. I had fears and doubts about God's will for my life, and I kept waiting for more clarity, but I eventually decided to go forward and apply, trusting that God is good and will ultimately lead me to and equip me for whatever He wants me to do. I will be attending Mount Saint Mary's of the West.


My name is Brandon DeToma and I will be entering St. Meinrad School of Theology this August in the Philosophy program.

A lifelong resident of Louisville, I attended Ascension for grade school, Trinity for high school and Transylvania University for college where I majored in History and minored in Religion.

Following college I entered the United States Army in the Intelligence Corps where I was stationed in Fort Lewis, WA. I traveled to many parts of the world including Guam, Korea, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). Most recently I was employed by the Kentucky Court of Justice working at the downtown Louisville Metro courthouse.

The attraction of the priesthood was there in my child and high school years. At the time I did think about the priesthood but I would always bury that attraction with everyday life and chose not to act or explore it further. It was during my time in the Army that I began to actively ponder and explore the possible call to the priesthood and God’s Church with guidance by the Society of Jesus and Catholic Chaplains. When I moved back to Louisville, I contacted the Vocation Office and have been on a discernment journey ever since.

My name is Daniel Ross and I will be attending Bishop Simon Brute this fall. The first thing you should know about me is that I come from a big family; I am the second oldest of seven children. I was homeschooled all my life. I was born in Washington D.C. and lived near there in Maryland and then in Northern Virginia until I was eight years old. In August of 2002 my family and I moved to Kentucky, which was a big change for us not just geographically, but culturally as well.

We bought a farm in Kentucky and wanted to farm for a living. Although farming didn’t work out for us as we thought it would, I learned a lot about animals, the land, and how to grow food. I have developed an enjoyment of being outdoors partly due to farming, though I do not hunt or fish, I like to walk in the woods or fields and see the beauty of God’s good earth. We also met many good friends and neighbors through farming. I have been to several different states in this country and I always find that the people in Kentucky are among the warmest, kindest, and most charitable people I know.

I was thirteen when I first seriously felt God calling me to a vocation to the priesthood. I became an altar server in Lent of 2007, and I loved serving at Mass. I truly felt a sense of belonging while being at church and participating in activities at our parish. During the past five years the idea of being a priest has never left me. As I have gotten older my understanding of who a priest is and what a priest does has grown, and this is a process that I expect will continue as I go through formation in seminary. I ask for your prayers for me as I continue on this journey of discernment; please know that you will be in mine.





Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Adventures on the Holy Hill: My Summer at Saint Meinrad

                        
Living in a seminary building with nineteen other completely random college students, having a monk as your boss, and gaining the rare skill of sleeping through the 5:30am toll of the Archabbey bells. This is only a little of what I experienced over six weeks as a college intern for Saint Meinrad’s One Bread, One Cup Liturgical Leadership Conferences. I not only worked a lot, but I learned a lot this year as an intern for OBOC—so much so that writing a simple blog post almost seems insufficient. But, here it goes!

Quite a few people have been wondering exactly what I did for six weeks on the Holy Hill. Well, while it’s hard to explain, it is at least worthy of an attempt. Essentially, myself along with nineteen other college students from across the country spent six weeks together running three youth conferences that teach youth to become leaders in the Church and empower them to live out what they learn on the Hill. The conferences are made up of what I see to be three key components: Liturgical Formation, Theological Reflection, and Catechesis. In Liturgical Formation, the youth gain skills necessary to become leaders in several areas, including topics such as Proclamation of the Word, Chant for the Liturgy of the Hours, Liturgical Arts, and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, among several others. These classes are taught by interns, monks, seminarians, or other guest catechists. In Theological Reflection, the youth are led by an intern who helps them reflect on the activities on the day, and discover how God is working in their lives. Finally, there is catechesis. OBOC is based upon the “Word, Sacrament, Mission” model. In other words, the youth are taught how they encounter the Word of God, they discover what a Sacrament is and why we have them, and finally learn the importance of spreading the Gospel. In addition, there are also catechetical sessions on topics such as Lectio Divina.

All of this happens specifically during the conferences. On the “off weeks,” the interns are in the classroom learning about several different topics. The topics I learned about included Benedictine Values, Spirituality, Boundaries, Theological Reflection, Lectio Divina, and Benedictine Integration, among several others. To put it simply, when the interns aren’t working the conferences, they are busy gaining the wisdom and formation that comes with the rich history of the Benedictine tradition.

One valuable lesson that I learned this summer is that we as a Church need to put more trust in our youth. They know more than we think they do! I always hear people saying that the youth are the future of our Church. In my opinion, that is wrong, because the youth ARE the Church. They are an integral part of the Body of Christ, and my experiences at OBOC can do nothing but prove this point.

In all, thanks to Saint Meinrad and OBOC, I’ve had a summer full of fun, memories, prayer, and blessings!

For more information on One Bread, One Cup, visit http://www.oboc.saintmeinrad.edu/

(Photo:  Louisville seminarian Tony Cecil is on the far right.  With him are a conference participant, Novice Anushka and Br. John Mark Falkenhain, OSB.  Photo courtesy of St. Meinrad)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where is Everyone?

Summer is a busy time for the seminarians. It's hard to keep up with everyone! Here's where our seminarians are for the summer:

Deacon Nick Brown--St. James, Elizabethtown
Deacon Chris Lubecke--St. Albert the Great
Deacon Steve Henriksen--Holy Trinity, Louisville
Adam Carrico--residing at Holy Trinity, Louisville and completing CPE at Baptist Hospital East
Peter Bucalo--Institute for Priestly Formation, (IPF), Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska
Jason Harris--Immaculate Heart of Mary
Sean McKinley--also at IPF in Omaha
Sean Raley--St. Bernadette
David Farrell--St. Margaret Mary
Casey Sanders--St. Michael
Willy Fernandez--in Bolivia, visiting family
Michael Martin--Sacred Heart Seminary in studies
Tony Cecil--"One Bread, One Cup" at St. Meinrad and assisiting in various programs around the Archdiocese

When the seminarians are stationed in parishes, they assist with pastoral duties of parish life: assisting at Masses, calls to hospitals and nursing facilities, Vacation Bible School, summer educational programs, RCIA, parish picnics...the list is endless! Our seminarians in educational programs experience aspects of counseling, prayer and spirituality amongst many other topics. In the next few weeks, we'll have some seminarians blog about their summer experiences.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Welcoming Our New Blogger....

The Vocation Office staff is extrememly grateful to Deacon Steve Henriksen for sharing the last few months blogging with us. It was great hearing about his studies and life at Sacred Heart Seminary and the days leading up to his ordination as a deacon. Deacon Steve now gets an earned "blogging vacation" and we all get to hear the blogging voice of our seminarian, Sean McKinley.

Sean McKinley is a long time parishioner of St. James Catholic Church in Elizabethtown, KY which he still calls home along with his parents and his brother's family. He graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Computer Information Systems in 2004 and was a web developer for UPS. After graduating from college, he lived and worked for five years in Huntsville, AL where he developed web applications for government contracts.

He has spent many years serving the Church in youth ministry and going on to becoming a youth minister at parishes in the Louisville and Huntsville areas. He has also been taught religion education classes for various ages including for confirmation and RCIA for children. He currently is attending Theological College at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. for seminary studies. He has complete two years of formation and will be going into his first year of theology studies in the fall. His previous pastoral assignments have been at Peace Meal and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Washington and at St. Michael's Parish in Louisville. This summer he is attending the Institute of Priestly Formation in Omaha, NE at Creighton University with 170 other seminarians from all over the country.

We look forward to hearing from Sean and his experiences at Creighton in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Joy!


“Joy” is the only word I can use to describe my ordination as a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Louisville on April 28. Part of that joy certainly was a result of having worked for and attained a milestone along what sometimes has seemed a long tour of duty as a seminarian. And, yes, the knowledge that being a deacon afforded a unique opportunity to serve the People of God was a part of that same joyfulness. However, it was in the faces---the smiles and the tears as well as the nods and winks of encouragement---of those who have supported this journey that a true sense of joy for yours truly was engendered. Words somehow seem inadequate in conveying my deep appreciation to all those who participated---both in person and in spirit---in the service as well as the celebration which occurred on the 28th of April. Stated simply: the Lord be with you!

The conclusion of the seminary year and ordination as a deacon brings yet another chance to serve: this time with Holy Trinity parish in east Louisville. Holy Trinity is a wonderfully vibrant parish with over 4,200 parishioners, a school which serves over 700 (K-8), and a pastor who is a role model and mentor, Father Mark Spalding. I began my work on May 15 and between already-scheduled opportunities to preach, to assist at Mass and to work with a number of meaningful special projects. I am confident that this will be a full and service-filled summer.

The beginning of my assignment as a transitional deacon with Holy Trinity also marks the conclusion of my particular task as a blogger for the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office site. It has been a privilege for me to share some of my seminarian experiences with you over these past five months. After my Holy Trinity parish assignment, I will be returning to Sacred Heart School of Theology for my final semester of studies which should provide additional fodder for reflection and musings.

As I pass the blogging baton to another of my diocesan brothers, I am mindful of the words of St. Francis: proclaim the Gospel; use words, if necessary.

Remaining in His Word,

I am,

Deacon Steven Henriksen

(Photo of Steve courtesy of Marnie McAllister, THE RECORD)


Monday, April 30, 2012

On Tuesday, April 24, I made “deacon promises.” This set of public professions is preparatory to the rite of ordination as a deacon. The three oaths or affirmations in which I will engage are: 1) an Oath of Freedom and Knowledge; 2) an Oath of Fidelity; and 3) a Profession of Faith.

Service is the essential feature of the role of a deacon, either permanent or transitional. This responsibility is, of course, not unique to deacons. All of the baptized are called to ministry of performing works of mercy and charity.

It seems to me that a servant heart is formed in many ways but, most especially, through the continuous process of interior change (conversion) to which God calls all of us. My own ongoing development of a servant heart has been an integral part of this journey as a seminarian. For the permanent deacon, that servant heart may be played out in roles as a father, husband, worker or neighbor. For myself, the quest for a servant heart will extend, God willing, through ordination and service as a priest: a father to others; a spouse of the Church; and a worker for Christ.

A deacon connects the gifts of the altar with the service of others, particularly the poor. My own servant heart-in-process is overflowing with great joy in anticipating the Rite of Ordination as a Deacon on Saturday, April 28 at St. Barnabas Church in Louisville.

My next and final blog entry will recap reflections resulting from the events of April 28. At that time, I will also officially “hand off” my duties as your friendly local seminarian blogger to another man (to be announced---drum roll, please!). Until then...

Peace,

Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goodbyes


This time of year, at least within a seminary, is marked by the reality of “good-bye’s.” Sixteen of my seminarian brothers will be graduating at the end of this semester. From U.S. dioceses as far west as Portland and as far south and north as Forth Worth and Milwaukee, respectively, the geography to be served by these graduates is truly an expansive one. Best wishes and God speed to all: may the Spirit continue to guide each in serving the People of God!

The President-Rector for Sacred Heart, Father Jan de Jong, SCJ will also be retiring on July 1. Father de Jong’s tenure as Rector extended over a four year period and was marked by many achievements. Hearty congratulations go to Father de Jong as he transitions to the next stage in his life’s journey.

We, too, are transitioning into a new season, that of Easter, a period which extends for 50 days. As the readings over this period indicate, it is a time for joyful celebration of the reality and meaning of Our Lord’s Resurrection! Some of the followers of Jesus are, in a sense, saying “good-bye” to Him as Ascension approaches (celebrated in the Church on May 17). These grace-filled moments were surely times of revelation (see Luke 24:13-35), commissioning (Mark 16:14-18) and nourishment, both spiritual and physical (John 21:1-14). It has been my experience that “how” one leaves, or says good-bye, is often remembered more than many of the events prior to the departure.

For my brother seminarians and the President-Rector, the time for good-byes is rapidly approaching. For the followers of Jesus, the seemingly final good-bye of the Cross turned, instead, to his post-resurrection appearances, His continuing presence in the life of the early Church and His love and involvement with our own lives today. Happy Easter Season!

Peace,
Steven Henriksen

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pastel Shades of Red and Blue: The Easter Season and Looking Ahead

He is Risen! This message of joy concluded our observance of the events during the Triduum.

I spent the Triduum here in Wisconsin participating in services at St. Gregory the Great (Milwaukee) and at St. Mary’s (Hales Corners). Easter brunch plans were changed from the Polonez to Mader’s, a German restaurant in Milwaukee, which featured delicious and bountiful food as well as great fellowship. Tuesday, April 11 marked a return to classes following conclusion of the seminary’s Easter break, with a “full-court press” now underway to conclude the semester.

And, speaking of full-court presses, congratulations to Big Blue Nation! The tourney was followed closely by my fellow Commonwealth brethren (at this and other seminaries) and myself who, despite any Red/Blue divides, joined together on April 2 in cheering for a Cats victory. If only our country’s political Blue/Red divisions could be settled in such an amicable manner?!

Red and Blue affiliations will also come together when Nick Brown, Chris Lubecke, and myself are ordained as transitional deacons for the Archdiocese of Louisville on April 28 at St. Barnabas parish. Nick, Chris and I were selected as seminarians for the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2007, so, it is appropriate that the three of us approach the opportunity to serve as deacons at the same time. The three individuals scheduled to receive Holy Orders in May (Stuart Priddy and David Carr in 2007 and Christopher Rhodes in 2006) also began their Archdiocese-sponsored studies during the same time period.

Perhaps this recounting is a way of reminding myself---and, indeed, all of us---that vocational calls bear fruit when they are supported and nurtured. Father Bill Bowling, now with St. Augustine in Lebanon, was the Vocation Director for the Archdiocese when Nick, Chris, Stuart, David and I joined the program. Thank you, Father Bill, for seeing the promise in each of us and for your support through the challenges of seminary formation. And, of course, many thanks to Father Jeff Shooner, the Vocation Director since 2010 for your equally vital and affirming assistance!

With the reality of spring, and the approach of the Derby, comes the realization that “all things are possible.” Take some time today to enjoy the wonder of the outdoors---I will be doing the same in what (should be) the first in a series of snow-less months here in Wisconsin!

Peace,

Steven Henriksen

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Holy Week: A New Rector---A Joyful Liturgy---and a Polish Brunch

Last Wednesday, March 25, an announcement was made concerning the selection of a new President-Rector for Sacred Heart School of Theology: Monsignor Ross Schecterle. Monsignor Schecterle will become the seminary’s 19th rector on July 1 succeeding Father Jan de Jong who has served in that position since 2008. Monsignor Schecterle, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, most recently served as rector of the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Louvain, Belgium.

The appointment concludes an extensive search process which followed the decision of the United States Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ’s) to open the process to non-SCJ candidates. Best wishes to Monsignor Schecterle as he begins the transition process leading to his installation as the new Rector in the fall of this year.

While the President-Rector selection sweepstakes was closely watched by the seminary community, a far more important event took place a few days after the announcement: Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos). I joined with four of my seminarian brothers in participating in Palm Sunday services at St. Francis of Assisi parish in downtown Milwaukee. As mentioned in a previous post, the St. Francis of Assisi community has a special place in my heart especially for their joyful and passionate liturgical celebrations. And, Sunday, March 28 was no exception!

The children of the parish reenacted the last week of Jesus’ life in a presentation which featured bright colors, authentic costumes and enthusiastic voices. The Gospel was read by Francisco Diaz whose emotional and heartfelt identification with Jesus’ Passion and Death was so evident in his proclamation of the Word. The choir, comprised of Latino (a), African-American and European-American vocalists, rang out as did the harmonies of those of us gathered in the similarly multicultural assembly. If the truth be told (and it is in this post), more than a few eyes were wet with tears and even more big grins were in evidence throughout the service.

With Palm Sunday kicking off a busy week of Holy Week activities, the pace here at the seminary slows to a more contemplative pace. I will be spending Holy Week in the Milwaukee area with plans to attend Triduum events at St. Gregory the Great parish, the site of my pastoral formation placement last year.

Gathering with some of my brother seminarians for an Easter brunch at one of the city’s best Polish restaurants is also on the calendar. Folks: if you ever want to sample traditional Polish cuisine, may I suggest Polonez restaurant, one of the area’s best for pierogi, sausage and stuffed pork. As with all previous promotions, I don’t receive a commission here; so, order a platter or two and enjoy!

A blessed Easter to all! He is risen!

Peace,
Steven

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Making It?

“Making it” to and through seminary comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it is realized in having persisted through the diocesan screening/application process and then moving onto seminary. For others, “making it” is actualized in a journey of self-discovery which leads to other decisions: to vocations as a married person; as a committed lay minister; and to other life choices. “Making it” in seminary can mean persisting to the transitional diaconate and, then, onto priesthood.

At the risk of bursting a few bubbles, seminary is not always a transcendent series of events lived out in an idyllic locale populated by hyper-holy people. Cassocks and candles; solitude and study; piety and particular devotions are surely found in seminary. Jeans and GIRMs; noise and negativity; careful compliance and conflict are also found in seminary. Seminarians and the products of seminaries are human beings, after all, with the full range of warts, aspirations, gifts and limitations present among all of God’s People.

In my personal experience, I think there are three especially important factors which have enabled me to “make it” through seminary, to date. The first is found in relationships, particularly, in the creation of smaller groups of friends within the seminary community who end up serving to support and encourage you as well as to provide you with affirmation and the sometimes needed “kick in the pants.”

The second is found in prayer. I recall when I was accepted as a seminarian for Louisville that the late Archbishop Kelly told me to do one thing in seminary: pray! Wonderful and sage counsel, I believe.

The third is found in an openness to self-discovery. Even at my rather mature age, I still find myself learning about gifts which God has blessed me with as well as the limitations which I possess. A famous American politician once said, “I am not a perfect servant…as I develop and serve, be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet.” How true for all of us and maybe especially for those preparing for and engaged in ministry.

Oh yeah----and have fun! Noone likes an overly earnest seminarian or a priest with a smile which threatens to break his face. Next week: a review of recent events here at Sacred Heart School of Theology. Until then…

Peace,

Steven

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Hungry Among Us


The highlight of the past week was found in volunteer service with St. Benedict the Moor parish’s community meal program. St. Ben’s community meal as well as other outreach programs represent ministries sponsored by the local Capuchin Friars (Franciscans). Each week, over 2,000 guests are served at the meal (dinner) which operates from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The night upon which my eleven seminarian brothers and I served included 287 guests, many of them homeless, some chronically poor, and others among the working poor. Roughly two-thirds appeared to be single adults, female and male, with the remaining number being couples of whom many had brought along their children. As we busied ourselves “busing” tables, pouring drinks and carrying trays, we were all mindful that for many guests, this was the best, if not the only, meal of their day. (And the volume of food was quite substantial: pasta, green beans, salad, fruit and dessert.)

Somehow this experience, like so many other similar ones, left me both grateful as well as grace-filled. My gratitude originated in the certain knowledge that I would have access to three meals, a warm bed, and other material comforts on this and upcoming days. The grace-filled moments were found in the conversations, however brief, with those guests willing to share their own unique story.

Matthew 25:31-46 paints a portrait of the final judgment in which the Matthean Jesus urges his followers to feed the hungry; welcome the stranger; clothe the naked; and to visit the imprisoned. Being with the guests at St. Ben’s was an important reminder of my own Lenten adventure, a particular time of almsgiving, prayer and fasting...

Meanwhile, as I write this post, I am also reminded that two Commonwealth basketball teams, both a red- as well as a blue-painted one, are still prominently represented in the NCAA tournament. Best wishes to the fans of both Big Blue and Cardinal Red!

Peace,
Steven Henriksen

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It’s A Matter of Trust


Picking up on the question which concluded last week’s post, permit me to briefly share with you a couple of reflections on my experience in responding to God’s call to enter seminary.

There is no magic recipe to determine whether one is, or perhaps is not, responding to God’s call. The desire to enter seminary seems more than an expression of “mere” feeling, however, but far less than a mystical experience (don’t wait for an apparition, in other words). I think it is a combination of the intellect as well as the heart.

I have found that each seminarian brings to the process a set of differing life experiences, personality types; strengths as well as opportunities for growth. This is part of the reason why a seminary community is always interesting and, yet at the same time, a basis for conflicting points of view on individual and collective needs for formation.

I think my own initial desire to enter seminary had a lot to do with trust; that He was moving me in the direction of service as an ordained minister. Believe me; I was pretty satisfied with my life before seminary! I had received and enjoyed the benefits of a good education; an upwardly mobile career; and the friendships and love of so many. Why did God seem to be bothering me with these thoughts of priesthood, I wondered?

I have found that God places people, events and challenges in our lives which enable us (me, too!) to respond to His call to be a seminarian. A wise priest once told me that I would “spend the first half of my time at seminary wondering how I got here---and the second half wondering how everyone else got there.” With only a semester left at seminary, I sometimes find myself bridging both “wonderings.”

I do believe that “getting to seminary” can be far easier than “making it through seminary.” In my next post, I will reflect upon the influences which have seemingly allowed me to persist in responding to God’s call. Until then…

Peace,

Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Retreat Reflections




The Third Sunday of Lent typically celebrates the First Scrutiny, a ritual preparing catechumens for Baptism and/or for other Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil. 465 individuals are reportedly preparing our Church, a number which surely represents the movement of the Spirit within the Archdiocese of Louisville. Let’s continue to hold up each of our sisters and brothers in prayer!

The past week marked the end of spring break, at the seminary, as well as of the conclusion of my retreat with the Franciscan Friars of Marytown (in Libertyville, IL). I had a great retreat: full of reflection, meditation and, yes, even a few naps! The Friars were wonderfully welcoming hosts and those responsible for culinary duties were particularly outstanding!

The upcoming week promises to be a busy one with many assignments due, meetings to be attended, and commitments to be met. Yet in the midst of all that activity, I pray to be even more mindful of Our Lord, who truly is the source of all mercies and blessings.

Perhaps it all starts with fasting; prayer; and almsgiving. Of course, these three Lenten “tools” are not ends in themselves, but rather means by which we prepare ourselves for an ongoing encounter with God’s love.

I must tell you: spending time with the Franciscans was certainly not a fasting experience, as my waistline would suggest. However, it was an opportunity to engage in prayer: private; before the Blessed Sacrament; as well as in traditional devotions. My spiritual director is fond of telling me to simply breathe; to take in the “Holy breath,” as he would say. Perhaps there is wisdom for all to be found in that reminder.

As for almsgiving, there is Operation Rice Bowl during Lent. This initiative supporting the important work of Catholic Relief Services gives us a chance to use our dimes and quarters in a way which makes an impact! The contributions which I make to my own Rice Bowl remind me of both the needs of others and of the blessings which I receive daily.

Over the course of my journey as a seminarian, I have received this question: so, Steve, tell us your call to priesthood. In appreciation for the graces of my retreat, I plan on tackling this question in next week’s blog entry. Stay tuned and….

Live in His Peace,

Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lent Begins


The Season of Lent is surely a time for reflection: upon ones journey in life; on the challenges which prevent us from meeting our commitments; and upon the many graces which God bestows on us every day. We are blessed to feel moved to engage our God in the triad of traditional Lenten practices: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And yes, we are conscious of our brokenness and of God’s healing power for us.

Ash Wednesday here at the seminary began as it did for many of you: with the receiving of ashes, serving as a visible reminder of our intention to avoid sin and to follow the Gospel. The community then attended a two part presentation given by the seminary’s own Father Charles Brown who led us in reflections on St. Paul, particularly the passage found in Philippians 2:6-11. As always, Father Brown was engaging and offered all a fresh perspective on Pauline wisdom! The day concluded with a closing prayer service in the chapel. Opportunities to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and a modest lunch were sandwiched (no pun intended) in between.


Lent is also a time marked by a healthy interest in food, the presence of a fishy sort and the absence (at least on Fridays) of the four-legged variety. I must confess that I miss being with you in the vortex of fried fish mania which is a feature of so many Friday nights in Louisville-area parishes during the Lenten season.

Here’s a secret, my friends: the folks up here simply don’t “do” fish the way it is done back home. And, so, from the land of dairy and sausage products here in Wisconsin, I can only say: eat a fried fish sandwich for me during this Lenten season. Extra tartar sauce, please!

Healthfulness of mind and soul begins with prayer. To accompany my own prayer during the first few weeks of this Lenten season, I have selected a seemingly unconventional book to peruse: “Between Heaven and Mirth” by the Jesuit priest, James Martin. Laughter, humor and joy strike me as being at the heart of healthy spirituality. In upcoming blog entries, I will relay (whatever worthy) insights occur a result of my reading this relatively short (200+ pages) book. And, like my prior recommendation of “Rescuing Regina” (see the February 7 post), I don’t receive any royalties here---so buy two copies of Father Martin’s book and give one to a friend.

May your Lenten journey be filled with many graces,

Peace,

Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creating A Culture for Vocations


Just as in the construction of villages, it takes a whole bunch of people to raise (or is it make?) a seminarian. Among those vocation builders are the Knights of Columbus and the Serra Club.

As many of you know, the Knights are engaged in so many different activities, from pro-life advocacy efforts to efforts to meet the needs of the poor. Some of the councils also sponsor a seminarian through the Refunds Support Vocations Program (RSVP). The $500 in RSVP funds to me over the last year certainly came in handy especially in meeting unanticipated expenses. I’ve found that unanticipated stuff continues to “happen” even while in seminary.

I am privileged to be sponsored by Council #14471 (Monsignor McKune), the council to which I also belong as a member and 3rd Degree Knight. In addition to providing financial support for my journey, Council members keep me apprised of their work and even allow me space in their monthly newsletter to offer reflections.


The Serra Club of Louisville is actively engaged in fostering vocations. Through a regular program of speakers, prayer and other work, Serra Club members serve an important role in the vast network of supporters which every seminarian needs and appreciates. I, for one, look forward to their annual hosting of a luncheon for seminarians and others, an event usually held in August. Seeing all of the new and not-so-new faces reminds of “where I have been and where I am going.” Plus, it always represents a chance to connect with former Congressman Ron Mazzoli, a Serra Club member, who surely is one of the biggest supporters of Louisville’s seminarians!

Creating a culture of vocations requires time, effort, and, most importantly, prayer. Louisville’s Vocation Office will be sponsoring an event for all of those interested in raising awareness about vocations on March 3 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Further information is available by calling 636-0296, ext. 1270 or by sending an email to cwilliamson@archlou.org.

On behalf of my brother seminarians, your support for vocations is appreciated. Meeting the ministerial needs of the Church requires all of our efforts.

Next week, with the season of Lent is upon us, I will discuss some of the ways in which seminarians respond to His call for repentance and continuing conversion.

Until next week,

Peace,

Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Milestones...


A seminarian’s life is marked by milestones. On February 8, seminary officials voted unanimously to recommend to Archbishop Kurtz that I be ordained as a Deacon. My diaconal ordination date had previously been set for Saturday, April 28, at St. Barnabas parish in Louisville. However, this vote of confidence from seminary officials, informed by counsel received from the formation team, was greeted with great joy by yours truly.

Having already announced Candidacy (for Holy Orders), the next milestone in the journey will occur during what is known as, as “Deacon Promises,” in seminary parlance. At that event, I will make ask three solemn pledges: a Profession of Faith; an Oath of Freedom and Knowledge and an Oath of Fidelity. The details associated with each of these commitments will be described in future blog entries. In brief, I am looking forward to making Deacon Promises!

Meanwhile…pastoral formation activity has been on my mind. Last week’s report of my choking incident surely gave you a sense of how ministry happens when one least expects (to receive) it!
At our best, seminarians support one another, in good times and in bad. I have been blessed to have guys around me who have kept me “real” during my time at Sacred Heart. For ultimately, I suspect, the People of God expects their priests to be transparent, authentic and, yes, real.
I was privileged to work with the community at St. Gregory the Great church in south Milwaukee in 2010-2011. The focal point of my service was catechesis, including assistance provided to the parish’s RCIA program. I came away from that experience renewed---grateful---and humbled by the response of parishioners to my service.
More recently, I have been a regular participant in Sunday liturgies held at St. Francis of Assisi parish in downtown Milwaukee. The lively worship, celebrated with great gusto by the parish’s multi-cultural community, consistently leaves me charged and ready to tackle the challenges of the coming week. Previous pastoral formation experiences at the Sister Visitor Center on the east side of Louisville as well as summer assignments spent with the St. Albert the Great; Good Shepherd; and Immaculate Conception (LaGrange) communities have also been instrumental in my continuing pastoral formation.
Seminarians are nurtured by those who pray and work for vocations. In my next entry, I will highlight the work of the Serra Club as well as that of the Knights of Columbus in supporting seminarians. Until then…
Peace,
Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Saint Blaise, pray for us...


As I mentioned in last week’s post, seminarians do spend a great deal of time in activities other than prayer and study. Sometimes that even includes participating in unexpected events!
On Thursday of this past week, I found myself gagging after having partially swallowed some chicken. Seeing me in distress, my brother seminarians rushed to my assistance and, after the Heimlich maneuver and other support, I was finally able to swallow.
The experience of choking is a terrible one, as some of you may have experienced, and I was lucky to have people around me who knew how to handle the situation. As for the aftermath, I have sworn off chicken, truly one of my (formerly) favorite foods, for quite awhile!
The incident also occurred the day before the Church commemorates Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, and the patron for healing of throat ailments. Be assured that I participated in the “blessing of the throats” sacramental on February 3 with a great sense of fervor!
In less dramatic news, the life of a seminarian also includes participating in community activities. For example, I serve on three committees within the seminary: the Peace and Justice as well as the Intellectual Formation Committees and as a representative on the Student Council.
This past week, the Peace and Justice Committee sponsored an evening presentation on the process of immigrating to the United States. Sister Josephe Marie Flynn, SSND, the author of “Rescuing Regina,” led the discussion which served as a means of raising the consciousness of the seminary community regarding issues surrounding immigration and particularly political asylum.
I highly recommend Sister Flynn’s book which is based upon the story of a Milwaukee couple, originally from the Congo, who endured years of hardship in navigating the immigration/asylum process. I don’t receive any royalties from promoting Sister Flynn’s book---so buy two and give one to a friend!
The Peace and Justice Committee is also in the preliminary stages of planning an event highlighting the significant problems with recently announced federal regulations forcing almost all employers, including Catholic employers, to offer sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception as part of their employees’ health coverage. Clearly this is matter representing a severe assault on religious liberty (see www.usccb.org/conscience for more information).
Being connected with events outside of the seminary is an important part of what keeps us balanced here. Next week’s post: experiences in pastoral formation.
Until then,
Peace,
Steven Henriksen

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classes and Other Fun


The challenges and opportunities of being disciples of Jesus Christ ended my last (as well as first!) contribution to this blog. Discipleship is founded on prayer. And, certainly the structure of a seminarian’s day makes prayer easier than it might be for other folks. After all, prayer is part of our job!

There are other dimensions of the seminarian experience. In Church-speak, these dimensions are often referred to as the “four pillars”: intellectual; human; spiritual; and pastoral.

A note or two on the “intellectual formation pillar.” At its most basic level, intellectual formation occurs in the classroom. One thing most people know about seminarians is that we go to class, hopefully regularly and with acceptable grades (!!!). The content and types of classes taken by all seminarians are governed by national norms. These norms serve to provide some assurance that all seminarians are being exposed to the same type of material.

This semester I am taking courses which focus upon subjects such as preaching; the “how to’s” of spiritual direction; canon law and marriage; and the spirituality of priesthood. This is pretty typical for guys at my point in their seminarian experience. Having grinded through philosophy and other more “head-y” subjects, the time has finally arrived for more “hands on” (applied) coursework.

Space does not permit me to explain all that I think I’ve learned in my classes. However, these lessons are certain. One, avoid lunches high in carbohydrates and sugar taken prior to “heavy” courses in the afternoons. Two, there IS a reason why every course is required---even if it is not readily apparent to (you or me as) seminarians! And, three, folks back home expect even seminarians to know a little something about theology---the key remains in our ability to relate the same to common human experiences.

Outside-class reading---conversations with folks within as well as outside the seminary community---and keeping up with developments in the larger world---are all important to the intellectual formation of seminarians. I try to engage in all of them---and to avoid big meals before my Friday afternoon classes! Next up: what else do seminarians do besides pray and study?

Until then…..

Peace!

Steven Henriksen

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seminary life...




With one week of classes under my proverbial belt, the spring semester is off and running! I chuckle when I hear the word, “spring”, applied to the semester. This is Wisconsin after all, and snow has been and will be a constant companion until well after spring’s official arrival in March!

With school officially underway, I am also reminded that there is a certain comfortable meditative rhythm which permeates the environment. Every morning, usually at 7am, the seminarian community gathers and recites the Morning Prayer section from the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning Prayer consists of excerpts from the Book of Psalms with Scriptural text, general intercessions and hymns weaved in between.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church; it represents a way in which the entire Catholic community, local and universal, stays connected. A similar prayer service known as Vespers occurs in the evening, right before dinner. Along with daily celebration of the Eucharist, these three opportunities for connecting with God serve as important milestones which frame the day of seminarians.

Sacred Heart, the seminary I attend, includes over 90 seminarians, representing dioceses and locales not only within the United States but across the world. From Seattle to Fort Worth and Honolulu to parts of the continents of Africa and Asia, the universality of the Church is evident in the faces, accents and perspectives of my brother seminarians. It sometimes feels a bit like living in the United Nations building although without views of the Manhattan skyline!

Within that diversity of community, there exists a common purpose: to be prepared as future priests. Prayer is the foundation of that formation; although that fact may seem a bit obscure as we move from one class to another; one gathering to the next and; one conversation to the other.

Over the next several weeks, I plan to share more about my experiences as a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Louisville at Sacred Heart seminary. Seminaries are interesting places: meditative and orderly; loud and earthy; full of laughter, frowns and even a little drama, from time to time. In other words, seminary life mirrors the complexity found in the lives of the People of God. Blessings to you as you navigate the complexities of being disciples over the coming week!
--Steve Henriksen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blog changes

Our blog has went without updates for awhile and for good reason. When Fr. Jeff Shooner started the blog, he was in a different position in the Vocation Office and was pastor of St. Lawrence parish. Since the last post, he has been appointed Vicar for Priests along with Vocation Director. He is also the Sacramental Moderator for St. Boniface. Changes were also made in the Vocation Office as administrative assistant Brenda Gaffney retired and the office experienced some reorganization. Current Vocation Office staff include Linda Banker as Associate Director for Formation and Carrie Williamson as Associate Director for Vocations.

All that being said, it's time to blow the dust off the blog. In the upcoming months, we will be featuring our seminarians as they blog about their lives and experiences in formation. We will also periodically talk about the happenings of the Vocation Office. We can also be followed at Facebook at www.facebook.com/vocation and on Twitter @ArchlouVocation.