Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A Big Weekend
My words from the dedication this weekend:
On December 22nd, 1877, Father Michael McGivney was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Assumption here in Baltimore. As his family eagerly awaited his return to serve the Church in Connecticut, the community here at St. Mary’s Seminary and University celebrated the great occasion. Seminarians from across the country studying under the watchful care of the Sulpician Fathers, and within the walls of the nation’s oldest Catholic seminary, raised their glasses to honor the gift of priesthood and a man filled with spirit and hope. One hundred and thirty-two years later another group of seminarians, united by the bonds of brotherhood, and same fraternal spirit that Father McGivney experienced during his time in Baltimore, gather again to honor a humble Irish priest and the brotherhood of Catholic gentlemen he inspired.
Earlier this past fall, when we returned to Saint Mary's for another year of seminary studies conversations spontaneously began in our hallways, classrooms, and across the dining room tables. As seminarians studying for the priesthood in this Year for Priests, we began to reflect upon our own journeys to answer God’s call. After sharing stories and memories, something incredible happened. Despite the various paths that brought each of us here to the seminary, one thing remained constant: the prayers and support of our brother Knights. Whether from the mountains of West Virginia or the northern reaches of Maine, Knights of Columbus Councils, large and small alike, were a major part of our vocations and an indispensable source of support. With our rector’s blessing and encouragement, we decided to commission, and fund a life-sized bronze bust of Father Michael McGivney, brother Knight and graduate of our seminary. Our intention in undertaking this project has always been simple, to honor the Knights of Columbus for their unwavering support and defense of the Church, her priests and seminarians during this Year for Priests.
As seminarians and future priests, our mission is to bring Christ to the world, to Go forth and Teach all nations. Today more than ever that mission is needed and today the challenge is great. Filled with hope thousands of men have walked these halls, and thousands have gone forth to preach the good news to a world thirsting for light and hope. As America’s oldest seminary we at St. Mary’s have a rich history, we have a history filled with great and ordinary men, like Michael McGivney. Men who arrived at St. Mary’s filled with hope in a world of uncertainty, and men who went on to humbly serve the Church with great love and compassion. Today this celebration is not about a piece of art to adorn this hall. It is about a man much like any of us. A man who heard and followed God’s call, a man who struggled through classes, faced great challenges, wrestled with his vocation, but in the end found that God’s call was for him to be a humble servant to the Church and her people. Today and in the future as we walk these halls let us always remember the witness of this man, let us remember that he was a seminarian much like all of us and that he was able to leave his mark profoundly upon the Church and the world. Most of all let us never forget that Father Michael McGivney was first and always a priest and shepherd of his people.
When one reads his biography one discovers that Father McGivney was simply an ordinary priest who served and lived with great love. He never rose through the ranks; he never became a Cardinal, bishop or Monsignor, just a priest, just a servant. He was extraordinary in his ordinariness.
Each time we sit in this great hall may we be reminded of that. May we be reminded of the dream that began in the basement of another St. Mary’s, a small parish in New Haven, Connecticut, which was rooted in love and compassion. The Knights of Columbus’ origins were and always will be the humble service of the Church and her people, much like that of an Irish priest from Connecticut who graduated 132 years ago.
Brother Knights today we thank and honor you. Your witness and example are profound and they are a constant reminder of what it means to serve God and His Church. Without your prayers, support and friendship we would not be here today. Your countless hours of service to the poor, and those in need are a testament not only to your character but also to your faith.
One thing I learned quickly upon entering the seminary was that seminarians are notoriously frugal. Whether it is scrounging through a junk yard for a new car door, attending every free food event in the parish or figuring a way to scam the faculty into treating for a few drinks, seminarians have written the book on penny pinching. However, when we began this project, and approached the guys in the house, and told them it was to honor all of you, the Knights of Columbus, the answer was never I can’t help; it was always how much do you need? In just over a month the men of St. Mary’s pledged over $6,000 to make this day possible, not because they had money laying around or because they had to. Instead anonymously one by one they stepped up and gave from the heart because it is exactly what all of you, brother knights, do each and every day.
This afternoon another group of St. Mary’s men gather to raise a glass and offer a prayer in honor of Father Michael McGivney, much like the men of St. Mary’s did 132 years ago.
I now invite my brother seminarians to stand and join me in offering together a traditional Irish toast, in honor of Father McGivney and his Knights
May the strength of God pilot you;
May the wisdom of God instruct you,
May the hand of God protect you,
May the word of God direct you.
And May he be always yours, this day and for evermore.
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