Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why do you feel called to be a priest? How will your academic and pastoral work make you a better priest?

These two questions confronted me earlier today as I turned in my Pastoral Theology Class. After an incredibly busy week I am looking forward to the weekend! There is much to catch up on including: catching up with my cousin, a rat the size of a cat, Noah's Ark and a killer test! Hopefully tomorrow afternoon I will be able to share all of that with in the meantime I must devote my time to preparing for the killer test!

Below you will find the short two page reflection I turned on my call to priesthood and the academic and pastoral components that accompany the preparation process. It represents my thoughts as best I could organize during this crazy week. Please share your thoughts!

- Andrew

Today the Church is in great need of holy men and women who are willing to surrender all that they have, and all that they are, in order to serve God and His people. In a world so often filled with despair, we need authentic witness of the hope that is found only in Christ. As I reflect upon my own call to priesthood, I become increasingly aware of its beauty and power every day. For me the draw to priesthood is not about fully surrendering one’s life to God and the Church, serving the people, preaching the Gospel through one’s life, or living a life of prayer and holiness, since I sought to do all of these things well before I began seminary life. The draw to priesthood for me is about a response to a soft and beautiful whisper emanating from deep within my heart. I am drawn to priesthood not because I am worthy, or because the work of the priest is compatible to my loves and joys, but because God continually calls me to follow him in a special way. I do wish that words could communicate the power and beauty of this draw, but I know that they cannot. It is my profound hope that my life will.
The life of the seminarian is interesting and sometimes chaotic. Among classes, formational responsibilities, pastoral work, diocesan obligations, community life and prayer are many opportunities to grow and to be challenged. The beauty of the seminary is that it prepares one for life as a pastor. Whether balancing many hats, responding to brothers in need, or becoming a part of a community of faith, the seminary is a learning parish for each of us. While many guys are tempted to look only to the future and how things will be “one day” in “their parish,” the seminary offers the ability to begin that work today. Our pastoral formation and work begin just outside our door as a life lived in, for, and with Christ. The seminary does not form us to work as priests, but to be pastors, Fathers, and men of God. The seminary affords the ability to journey together, to integrate the knowledge of the mind with the call of the heart, and to witness authentically all that we are and all that we strive to become.
Academically the seminary challenges us to grow in our knowledge of the faith. Without proper academic and theological formation we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed and unprepared. Theological training is essential in laying the groundwork for our pastoral formation and cannot be understood apart from it. In the same manner our pastoral formation is vital to the application and living out of our faith and all of the theological knowledge we have acquired. I often see Theological and Pastoral Formation as the mind and heart of the seminarian. We cannot live without our hearts or our minds. The mind tells the heart to pump, but it is the heart that fills the mind with life. As priest I will need to be able to communicate the truths of the faith to the lives of the people. It is true that homilies will be one way this can be accomplished; however, an even more powerful tool will be how I communicate the truths of the faith by how I live and how I interact with the people of God. The pastoral formation element of seminary life is one of living out faith and communicating the love of Christ to all who are encountered. As a priest I represent not only the Church but also the love, mercy, and joy of Christ. My ability to do this rests not only on my theological knowledge but also on my ability to communicate effectively the compassionate face of Christ and the radical call of conversion He has for us all.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Vianney Cup

Yesterday was a long and hard fought day! Participating in the first annual Vianney Cup, the men of St. Mary's fought hard against Mt. St. Mary's, St. Charles and Theological College seminaries.

In our first round of play we faced Mount St. Mary's, the undisputed champion of seminary soccer tournaments for all of recent history. The Mount is the largest seminary in the region. They are like a well oiled machine. They are undefeated and are lead by a former professional soccer player. At St. Mary's Roland Park we are a bunch of guys who love soccer, have a great heart and spirit. We worked hard, practiced and gave it all our and came up just shy.

During our match against the Mount we held them to 2-2 at the half. It was wonderful to see the shock and panic in their faces as the underdog went toe to toe against the big dogs. In the second half they got two quick goals as we were slow out of the gate and a bit jumpy. They responded and by the time we got back into it five minutes later it was too late, with a 5-3 loss. The great part was that our guys played unbelievable well and that in one year we have turned our team around from the Bad News Bears to a Tour de Force! A figure it was a great sign when they had to keep their entire starting line up in for the entire game.

After lunch and a break it was back to game two where we beat Theological College 2-0.

Enjoy these pictures. I am off to Mass.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Game Day

Saturday is the big game day as St. Mary's Seminary faces our rivals, Mt. St. Mary's Seminary (Emmitsburg, MD), Theological College (D.C.) and St. Charles (Philly). After weeks of preparation, new uniforms, practices, pasta dinners and all the rest we are finally down to the big day and the big tournament. It was exciting to see that our tournament was picked up by a national Catholic Newspaper as well. Click here for the link

Since we leave at 7:15 tomorrow morning I will check out for the night.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy 40th Birthday!

A Special Happy Birthday to Trinity High School in Manchester, NH. You have touched the lives of so many. May God grant you 40 more years!

I am excited to be heading back to NH to celebrate this Birthday and the 40th Birthday Banquet this evening!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brilliant Op Ed on Pope Benedict's Visit to Great Britain

Today the New York Times ran a brilliant op ed piece by Ross Douthat. Douthat captures the complexities of the Pope's visit to England, Wales and Scotland and the clash of cultures in a way like few others.

The Pope and the Crowds

All in all, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain over the weekend must have been a disappointment to his legions of detractors. Their bold promises notwithstanding, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens didn’t manage to clap the pope in irons and haul him off to jail. The protests against Benedict’s presence proved a sideshow to the visit, rather than the main event. And the threat (happily empty, it turned out) of an assassination plot provided a reminder of what real religious extremism looks like — as opposed to the gentle scholar, swathed in white, urging secular Britons to look with fresh eyes at their island’s ancient faith.

And the crowds came out, as they always do for papal visits — 85,000 for a prayer vigil in London, 125,000 lining Edinburgh’s streets, 50,000 in Birmingham to see Benedict beatify John Henry Newman, the famous Victorian convert from Anglicanism. Even at a time of Catholic scandal, even amid a pontificate that’s stumbled from one public-relations debacle to another, Benedict still managed to draw a warm and enthusiastic audience.

No doubt most of Britain’s five million Catholics do not believe exactly what Benedict believes and teaches. No doubt most of them are appalled at the Catholic hierarchy’s record on priestly child abuse, and disappointed that many of the scandal’s enablers still hold high office in the church.

But in turning out for their beleaguered pope, Britain’s Catholics acknowledged something essential about their faith that many of the Vatican’s critics, secular and religious alike, persistently fail to understand. They weren’t there to voice agreement with Benedict, necessarily. They were there to show their respect — for the pontiff, for his office, and for the role it has played in sustaining Catholicism for 2,000 years.

Conventional wisdom holds that such respect is increasingly misplaced, and that the papacy is increasingly a millstone around Roman Catholicism’s neck. If it weren’t for the reactionaries in the Vatican, the argument runs, priests might have been permitted to marry, forestalling the sex abuse crisis. Birth control, gay relationships, divorce and remarriage might have been blessed, bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Theological dissent would have been allowed to flourish, creating a more welcoming environment for religious seekers.

And yet none of these assumptions have any real evidence to back them up. Yes, sex abuse has been devastating to the church. But as Newsweek noted earlier this year, there’s no data suggesting that celibate priests commit abuse at higher rates than the population as a whole, or that married men are less prone to pedophilia. (The real problem was the hierarchy’s fear of scandal, which led to endless cover-ups and enabled serial predation.)

And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.

The Vatican of Benedict and John Paul II, by contrast, has striven to maintain continuity with Christian tradition, even at the risk of seeming reactionary and out of touch. This has cost the church its once-privileged place in the Western establishment, and earned it the scorn of fashionable opinion. But continuity, not swift and perhaps foolhardy adaptation, has always been the papacy’s purpose, and the secret of its lasting strength.

Catholics do not — should not, must not — look to the Vatican to supply the church with all its saints and visionaries and prophets. (Indeed, many of Catholicism’s greatest figures have had fraught relationships with the Holy See — including John Henry Newman, the man beatified on Sunday.) They look to Rome instead to safeguard what those visionaries achieved, to guard Catholicism’s inheritance, and provide a symbol of unity for a far-flung, billion-member church. They look to Rome for the long view: for the wisdom that not all change is for the better, and that some revolutions are better outlasted than accepted.

On Saturday, Benedict addressed Britain’s politicians in the very hall where Sir Thomas More, the great Catholic martyr, was condemned to death for opposing the reformation of Henry VIII. It was an extraordinary moment, and a reminder of the resilience of Catholicism, across a gulf of years that’s consumed thrones, nations, entire civilizations.

This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.

Great work Russ and kudos to the New York Times for printing it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bocce Ball Tournament

Yesterday we held our annual Bocce Ball Tournament. It was a great way to end two full weeks of classes. This year as Community Life Chairman I was in charge of organizing the event. In the end we fielded 32 teams of Bocce Players and the Tournament included almost the entire house. This year I was able to introduce a 8 x 8 leaders board/bracket and fun Yankee swap style prize distribution system. After 4 1/2 hours of play we were able to crown a champion team.

The Tournament included a BBQ (prepared by NH's own Charles Pawlowski) and a live Band. I was in charge of updating the giant players bracket and giving out prizes. In the end it was a wonderful night, enjoyed by all.

Fr. Michael Barre, my mentor at the Seminary. A brilliant and kind hearted priest!

N.H.'s Charlie Pawlowski tending the BBQ. (It is one of his specialties)

Diocese of Wilmington Seminarian Chris Coffiey, a great friend who I shared a parish assignment with last year

The Dean of Men, Father Ed Griswold (Fr. Ed is a priest from the Diocese of Trenton- he is also incredibly kind and very real)

My good friends Dan Quinn (left) and Jason Hage (right)- Dan was my co-chair for orientation and works with me on all house activities. Jason made the Camino pilgrimage with me this past summer and is one of my closest friends.

Jhon Madrid and House President Brian Capuano

Two new seminarians studying for dioceses in NJ. Jean (left) is originally from Hati and Marcin (right) is from Poland.

Father Hy, my Christology teacher who gives great homilies. A Father Hy homily is very short, but sticks with you for a long time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hospital Visits

During each of our years at the Seminary we are assigned a different ministry. This can include such things as working with the homeless, prison ministry, parish work and hospitals. As a Second Year Theologian I am assigned to visit a hospital every Wednesday for the entire year. I am going to be completely upfront with you, hospitals make me a bit nervous.

I remember one time speaking with a good friend who told me she didn't visit a close family member who was dying in the hospital. When I inquired why, she told me that she hated hospitals. It really rubbed me the wrong way because I knew that her family member longed to see her. Sure we all hate hospitals, but not as much as those who are forced to stay in them. I imagine it is the sick who hate the hospitals most of all.

All of this being said I am nervous to begin hospital ministry. Between encountering, severe illnesses, suffering and death, and the complete uncertainty one confronts at every turn, hospital ministry is daunting at the very least. However, as daunting as the task at hand is, it is also a critical part of ministry and bringing hope and comfort to those in need.

Due to the confidential nature of hospital ministry there is little I will be able to share beyond my own feelings. Nevertheless, I will do my best to keep you posted on my personal progress.

Today I was able to tour the hospital's many departments and floors. Seeing the enormity of the facility, and the full range of patients they see, (emergency room, trauma, icu, pediatrics, maternity,burn victims)I was struck by the full spectrum present. Hearing the specific details of what I might encounter and the conditions many patients suffer from, made me realize just how challenging an assignment this will be. Hearing how one's presence can bring comfort to those suffering, brings me great strength and a desire to get the most humanely possible from this experience. Happily the Pastoral Care Team is wonderful and ready to help me grow during this year.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First Week of Classes

This week marks the first official week of classes. The good news is we are finally getting things going again. The bad news is there is tons of reading, writing and lectures ahead. This semester I have five full time classes plus a pastoral internship.

My classes are as follows:

The Gospel of John- A class examining the Gospel of John taught by a brilliant priest
from the Philippines. The good news is he is brilliant, the bad news is he has high expectations and wants us to be brilliant too.

Prophetic Literature- A examination of the Prophetic books of the Old Testament. It is taught by a priest named Father Michael Barre. He is a world expert in ancient languages and my mentor. He is also brilliant, absolutely hysterical and a kind, generous and caring man.

Christology- This class explores our understanding of who Jesus is and how this understanding developed over the early Church. Christology is taught by a kind priest from Vietnam whose personal story is an incredible witness to faith.

Sexuality, Celibacy and Marriage- This class deals with many of the challenging topics facing the Church and the world today. The priest that is teaching is new to St. Mary's and seems incredibly reasonable as well as humorous (dry sense of humor).

Introduction to Pastoral Theology- This class focuses on how a priest interacts with people in pastoral and counseling situations. The priest teaching it will be requiring us to do a lot of role playing in front of the class.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

This past weekend I was in charge of Labor Day weekend activities. As Community Life Chairman I had a budget of $3,000 to plan fun things to do during the four free days we had. A free day in the Seminary means that one can go home; go away to visit friends or just escape from the confines of the Seminary. Since it is the beginning of the school year many guys choose to stick around and just relax. I decided that our weekend activities should reflect this face and be exciting, yet leisurely and relaxed.

On Friday we were scheduled to head to Annapolis for a harbor cruise and walking tour. However, the impending Hurricane cancelled any such plans and I was left to scramble. With a little luck I was able to find a great restaurant to take the guys to and 50 of us made our way to Andy Nelson's BBQ Pit for a feast. I was pretty excited to find a restaurant named after me, although I am not sure the owner shared my joy. I was very amused by the fact that we shared the same name. He seemed not to care so much. Whatever the case may be Andy Nelson's BBQ pit served amazing food and we enjoyed the evening relaxing over Beer, BBQ, Brats and Beans. After the dinner feast we headed to a Baltimore Orioles game. Tickets were $6 a piece and we were on the lower section, rather close to third base.

On Saturday we explored the Maryland Renaissance Festival. The festival is a Medieval themed fair that is built into the woods just outside of Annapolis. Thousands of re-enactors, merchants, etc... gather every year in a neat display of history and creativity. I was amazed by the fact that the Festival grounds were built into the forest much like a movie set or even as the real thing.

On Sunday we made our way to D.C. for United States Postal Services unveiling of the Mother Teresa Commemorative Stamp. The National Shrine in Washington held a special Mass in Mother Teresa's honor. Mass was followed by a formal USPS unveiling ceremony. The entire day was incredibly moving. Mother Teresa was an incredible woman who changed the world and her faith moved mountains. I am not sure if I was the only one, but I teared up at several occasions. I was particularly moved when the Missionaries of Charity from around the United States sang a haunting hymn set to Mother Teresa's words. The image of Mother Teresa's sisters, the National Shrine and the Stamp gave me great occasion for hope.

Finally today we took the afternoon to enjoy a picnic lunch at Fort McHenry.

The New Guys

This year at the Seminary we welcomed 25 new seminarians from around the country. The "new guys," as they will be called for the year, bring fresh energy and renewed hope to the Seminary and the Church. As Orientation Chair this year I have had a great time getting to know these future priests. The guys come from many walks of life and from varying backgrounds.

Important Blog News:

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