Monday, August 31, 2009

Welcoming the New Guys!

This year I was appointed to be co-chair for New Student Orientation. Practically speaking this meant that I was in charge of overseeing the move-in and orientation for the twenty new seminarians at St. Mary's. The job itself was quite complicated, but thanks to the help of twenty volunteers it has gone as smooth as can be humanly expected.

Thursday of last week twenty new guys arrived at the seminary. Some of them arrived for their first time ever in the seminary. Some of the guys went to college seminaries and simply arrived at St. Mary's for Major seminary. Thinking back to this time last year I remember how nervous I was to be beginning such an adventure. I vividly remember pulling up the imposing building, wondering why on earth I was here. I contemplated turning around and never coming back. I felt called, yet foolish at the same time. I knew God wanted me to be here, but I was unsure if I wanted to be there.

Luckily, the staff and students at St. Mary's welcomed us all in, one year ago.

When a seminarian arrives on the first day at St. Mary's, he is welcomed by a team of students who invite him into the chapel to pray. New seminarians are asked to kneel on the kneeler Pope John Paul II used in his visit to Baltimore in the 1990's. After a silent prayer one of the deacons offers a blessing. As the seminarian is praying, receiving a blessing and greeting his new "brothers," his things are being carried to his room by a team of volunteers. After a relaxing cup of coffee and some cookies he is brought to his new 8 x 10 home for the next few years. All of his things are waiting for him and the challenge of setting up is all that awaits. Following the setup period, guys attend prayers, meetings and socials. The fill the normal range of activities that one would expect.

This year we did add a few new things that seemed to be well received. After guys received the Deacon's blessing we brought them to be officially welcomed by our Rector and Vice Rector in their respective offices. This change allowed them to be officially received as a guest of honor by the powers at be. At the conclusion of our day's activities we invited all of the guys to a candlelight rosary at the Grotto to our Lady. The rosary was beautiful and really seemed to bring the community together. A week of marathon activities ended this evening with a Crabfeast and a student produced video, both of which were huge hits. I hope to have the video linked at some point if possible.

Below is a profile of our new class. I hope you enjoy it.

*** A Profile of Our 20 New Seminarians***
- 13 under the age of 25
- 4 between the ages of 26-30
- 4 31 or older

- 11 with previous Seminary training (major seminary, college seminary or high school seminary)

- 2 converts
- 7 foreign born
- 11 dioceses represented


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My first week back at the Seminary this year has been action packed and exciting to say the least. Sunday evening I arrived at the Seminary at 9:00pm, after a long day’s drive and lots of traffic. As the Seminary is still on summer break the campus was a ghost town. The only people on campus were a few priests and my fellow orientation co-chair and diocesan brother, Alan Tremblay. Alan arrived earlier in the day on Sunday so I did not need to be worried about being let in, or so I thought. Unfortunately for me Alan left his phone in his car by mistake and I was left outside the seminary with no way to get in. After frantic searches for life and a growing temptation to through a small rock against the Rector’s window to get his assistance, Alan finally realized his mistake when he looked at his watch and wondered why I had not arrived 45 minutes early like he thought I would. I did arrive, but he missed my calls. As soon as he figured out his mistake Alan bolted down the stairs and out the door to help me move back in. After a late night (2:30am), my room was cleaned and ready to go for a new year.

Monday and Tuesday of this week have been dedicated to organizing for the orientation program which includes everything from “full bellhop service,” to meals, excursions and mentoring. Thankfully we have a wonderful group of guys who have really stepped in to make things happen. Tomorrow promises to be a stressful day as all last minute preparations must be completed so that we are ready for Thursday morning and the 22 new men.

On a lighter note we took Charlie Pawlowski, a NH seminarian, out for his 33rd birthday to the local Red Robin Restaurant. We all enjoyed a wonderful meal of burgers and fries, and most importantly each other’s company. I was very disappointed that my request to have the Red Robin Mascot visit our table, and sing Charlie the Red Robin Birthday song, was denied. Although it might have been just as well as it would have surely resulted in an embarrassing YouTube clip in which a disgruntled birthday boy angrily wrestles a man in a large red bird costume. It would have been great never-the-less, here is to next year!

p.s. Say a prayer a 3:00pm today, I have an important meeting about the secret project I have been working on. Should it go well, I will be able to share it with you here tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Return Trip

Sorry for the delay in posting, it has been an insane week. I arrived back at the seminary late tonight after a long drive down. As for now I am off to bed, will post properly tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Party, A Punch Bowl and the Future of the Church

Today my next door neighbor celebrated his 90th birthday. Jack, as he is called, is a brilliant man who has travelled the world as a leading engineer. He oversaw captured Nazi submarines after the war, designed bridges, owned a mill and has read almost every book known to man kind. Jack is a real Renaissance man who astounds me with the depths of his knowledge every time we meet. At ninety he has not slowed down a bit, and still spends most of his day cutting down trees, working in his shop and creating things with his hands. Undoubtedly when I roll out of bed tomorrow morning, I will look out the window to see him hard at work.

The neighborhood had a little party for him and most everyone turned out to celebrate with him. Somewhere between the punchbowl and the chocolate cake I got into a wonderful conversation with another neighbor about the future of the Church. As we discussed the challenges the Church has faced with the recent scandals and the changing culture we live in, I began to share with him the story of the Missionary Servants of the Word (photos seen in my last post). As I spoke with him about my brief time with the sisters and the enthusiastic zeal for the Gospel, his eyes began to light up. In a world filled with darkness, he was being reminded of the light. The Missionary Servants of the Word have a simple mission, to evangelize laypeople to evangelize with laypeople. Their entire focus is on evangelizing the world, not a small task. However, after meeting the incredible sisters from the order I am not convinced they will not do it. They are determined to go out and reach the people. So each day they gather with others and go door to door in the streets, inviting people to return to their faith or to discover it for the first time. Their joy is their most powerful weapon as it disarms the most hardened heart. Undeterred by any circumstances they willingly walk into the lion's den to share the Word and love of Christ.

Looking at the world today one cannot help but to see the growing secular trend that mocks all that we hold sacred. As Church attendance drops so does religious identification and the struggle for the future continues. While many priests, religious brothers and sisters and laypeople bemoan the state of faith in the world today, a small courageous group of women marches confidently forward reassured by a strong belief that all things are possible with God. I think too often that many of us, myself included, lose sight of this fact and fail to trust fully in God. It is easy for the cooperate mindset to creep in and for the numbers game to dominate the day. While others worry, the sisters trust. While others mourn the death of faith, the sisters resurrect it one soul at a time. While others wonder where all the people who used to fill the pews went, the sisters go bring them back. The Missionary Servants of the Word embody the missionary zeal that allowed the Catholic faith to reach every corner of the world. I am confident that with their help, a bright day awaits the future of the Church in this country.

Side Note:

In the Missionary Servants of the Word there are currently

95 Sisters (Perpetual vows)
126 Sisters (Temporary vows)
61 Novices
25 Postulants

48 Priests
5 Deacons
125 Seminarians

7 Brothers
33 Novices
42 Postulants .

Website Links!

Spanish Site (Very extensive)

English Site (In the building process-be sure to check out the links page!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Joy of Christ

Earlier today I had the privilege to enjoy lunch with an amazing group of Sisters from Mexico. Throughout my entire time with them I was overwhelmed by their utter joy in all things. Always smiling and laughing the Sisters demonstrated a real sense of Christian community and spread the joy of Christ as only they knew. They prepared a feast for my fellow seminarian and friend Charlie, as well as the pastor of St. Patrick's in Nashua, Father Martin Kelley.

The community of Sisters main mission is to evangelize the people of God. In order to do so they go door to door around the city, inviting people to return to their faith or to discover it for the first time. I will post more on them in the morning, but it is off to bed now (12:51am)....In the meantime I hope you enjoy the photos....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


One of the most wonderful parts about being a seminarian is meeting incredible and holy people. Whether it be a wicked awesome family from the North Country, a faithful parishioner from St. Kathryn's in Hudson or a charming woman named June, the people I have met along the path to priesthood have strengthened my vocation in innumerable ways. Today I will introduce you to one of the many who are part of my journey. I hope to share with you others along the way.

From the moment I arrived in Omaha this summer, she was there. At first I did not know she existed, but she knew about me. In fact, she began and ended each day saying my name. Before arriving in Nebraska the word June only meant one of two things, a beautiful month or a nasty beetle. June Schweiger is a beautiful person, but not a nasty beetle. Everyday this past summer June served as my "spiritual mom" at the IPF program. She prayed for me, and for God to enliven my heart and soul. During the long days of summer and when I was struggling through readings, she quietly sat in her West Omaha home, asking God to help and guide me. The power of prayer was not lost on June and I am witness to its effects.

A couple days before leaving Omaha I was able to meet up with June and enjoy a wonderful dinner and even some Stone Cold Ice Cream. June shared with me the story of her beautiful and amazing family. It was quite evident that she raised them well and with great love. Everything about her was a living witness to the power of God, faith and our call to share His love with the world. In my short time out west June did just this for me. Before leaving I was assured that she would continue praying for me each and every day. I am hoping to one day return to Omaha and continue our friendship (and to return to Cold Spring).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Can You Say Awkward!

Thursday afternoon, on the way home from the retreat, five of the Manchester seminarians and myself decided to make a detour to Enfield, CT to visit an old friend. Sister Mary Lawrence, the former principal of St. Casimir School in Manchester, retired this past summer. She had returned home to the Provincial House of the Felician order.

After making all of the necessary arrangements the six of us arrived shortly after lunch. Sister Mary Lawrence enthusiastically welcomed us into her home and gave us the grand tour. For over an hour we saw firsthand their expansive compound, beautiful chapel and even their museum. It was wonderful to see Sister again and to get a peak into the life of the Sisters. Seemingly everywhere we went on the tour included the introduction of more and more sisters. Little sisters were popping out of everywhere. They were adorable as most were in their eighties and older. Every time Sister Mary Lawrence proudly announced us as her guests, and as seminarians, they were filled with joy. I guess in the world of nuns seminarians are like superstars. Little do they know they are the real superstars as they have given so much with their lives!

After touring the entire grounds we settled in the kitchen area for some Dr. Pepper and a few moments rest. Luckily for us we also were able to see Sister Antonia, another sister who served at St. Casimir until this past summer. She had been a teacher for 54 years.

After our rest and after receiving the gift of amazing Polish bread (babki?) we made our way to see the sisters side of the chapel. The main chapel at the convent is divided into two sections. There is the traditional area, like all churches, where the people sit. Behind the altar there is a giant grate and a separate section were the sisters sit, many of them are cloistered and separated from the world. It is because they are cloistered that they do not sit/interact with the people. Now it is important to note that not all the sisters are cloistered or they could not teach at schools, etc... However, many of them are and more importantly what is cloistered for them all is their living quarters and chapel.

Sister was very kind to share with us their side of the chapel, which was beautiful to say the least! After we left the cloistered portion of the chapel we made our way through the residence to an elevator. Sister took the stairs to run up and grab the convent dog to introduce to us. We were told to push the down button and return to the kitchen area. Once Sister left, and before we could close the elevator doors one of my fellow seminarians decided he really, really needed to use the bathroom. So he exited the elevator while we waited and discovered a "bathroom" right next to us. He quickly went in and did what he needed to do. As he was in the bathroom a sweet 96 year old nun started to head down the hallway, walker and all. Sister was no more than four foot nine and like something out of a movie. As she moved down the hallway it started to get awkward as I knew she would see us. My fellow seminarian was still in the bathroom when I looked out of the elevator and noticed, to my horror , that she was turning her walker right that way.

Like a car accident seen from afar, there was not much I could do. A sweet 96 year old nun who lived her whole live in a cloister with other nuns was about to run straight into a 6 ft goofy guy from NH, in the women's restroom. The five of us in the elevator all shut our eyes and prepared for the most uncomfortable moment in the world, luckily for us we were spectators and not participants.......

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Retreat Day #2

After a short meeting with the vocations director earlier today, it looks as if the plan is for me to be home in New Hampshire next summer. Earlier in the year it looked as if I would be involved in a Spanish immersion program outside of the United States. However, after further consideration it looks as if the plan is for me to be home during the summer months of 2010. I am most excited about this prospect and the many opportunities it will provide. As with all things it is not cast in stone. I am however excited that the draft of the plan includes this possibility.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Almost Home!

After three days of driving I made it back to Vermont where I spent a day and half with my sisters. Following my visit I returned to NH for an appointment with the diocese, and then got back in the car to make the three hour drive to Willimantic, CT for a three day retreat. The retreat is for all the seminarians in the diocese.

I am sure the three day retreat will be amazing. After the first few hours I am very hopeful. I will admit however, that I am a little anxious to get home and spend a few days on vacation before the summer ends as quickly as it began. Being in Nebraska was a wonderful opportunity, however having pretty much straight at since September, I am ready for a break. My break will be less than two weeks so I have decided to keep a really low profile and take some time for myself.

Beginning tomorrow afternoon each of the seminarians will have a series of private meetings in which our next year's work is mapped out. I am most excited and anxious for my meeting. I am not expecting any surprises, however one never knows. One thing I am curious of is whether or not I am still scheduled to learn Spanish next summer. If I am expected to take part in a Spanish immersion program the follow-up question will be where.

Keep me in your prayers. Until my update tomorrow...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Driving is for the Insane

I officially wish to declare my hatred of driving. There was a moment in my life in which I loved driving, but it has passed. After spending three days in the car I have decided I want a divorce from my car.

My return trip was rather uneventful, below you will find the highlights:

Welcome to Iowa
Ahhh Need Caffeine!
Welcome to Illinois
Power Lines
Urban Sprawl
Power Lines
Is it legal to drive like that?
I wonder why they are pointing to the sky?
Welcome to Indiana
Notre Dame
Lit Candle for Everyone at Grotto
Notre Dame is Beautiful
Sight of Hotel Room Bed, more beautiful

I hate my alarm!
Welcome to the free Continental Breakfast
Are those eggs plastic
Don't touch that muffin, that's my muffin, don't take the last muffin
Don't make me come over there and take my muffin back
Maybe the car will be more comfortable today, than yesterday
No, definitely not!
More Caffeine
Welcome to Ohio
Thud! That's going to leave a mark
Welcome to Pennsylvania
Gas pumped by overly enthusiastic gas attendant
Welcome to New York
I think they want to run me off the road
Am I already in Boston, nope just nasty aggressive NY drivers
Sweet radio station
Seminarian singing along and holding a hip hop dance party in his car
Fields, Beautiful Rolling Hills and not so beautiful country music
Syracuse New York here we come
Dinner with Nancy and Dennis Lessard (formerly of the THS Faculty)
Dinner was at Irish Restaurant, wicked cool, even had Leprechaun Door....
"Nancy and Dennis thanks so much for letting me stay at your house, the guest room is perfect, let me just sit on this couch for a moment, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

Ah, beautiful car, how I loathe thee
Oh GPS, why must though discuss times and distances
No good music stations
might go crazy
Welcome to West Rupert, VT- home of my sister!
Chat, Chat, Chat
Oh my it is 1:00am

"I'll get you uncle Andrew" followed by a leaping seven year old
(maybe if I shut my eyes everyone will go away and I can go back to sleep)
Fun day visiting with sisters and family
4 wheeling at full speed- sweet!
Blogging from Vermont
Not looking forward to 4.5 hour drive to a Diocesan Appt and then a 3.5 hour drive to a Diocesan Retreat in CT.

Anyone want to buy a Camry?

Upcoming Posts: Spiritual Moms, An angel from Hudson...

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Please note this blog will begin being regularly updated after August 21st (when I arrive in Baltimore).