Tuesday, February 28, 2012
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,
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
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 firstname.lastname@example.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,
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
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…
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
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.