Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dinner with the Bishops!

This week all of the Bishops in the United States are in Baltimore for the Annual meeting of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. This means times are busy at the Seminary as many of the guys in the house are called down to serve Masses, etc... We are also hitting that time of the semester where everything is due at the same exact time, crunch time as they say.

One silver lining to the Bishops conference is that most of the guys get a chance to go out to eat with their bishop. This of course means a meal out, a free meal out, and a good restaurant for a change!

On Monday night the Manchester Seminarians studying in Baltimore were treated to a wonderful night out with our new bishop, Bishop Peter Libasci, as well as our auxiliary, Bishop Christian. Together all seven of us went to Little Italy for an evening of great food and most importantly great fellowship.

We met the bishops at the hotel where the conference meets and made our way to Little Italy for a gourmet feast. Before we arrived at the hotel all of us seminarians were a bit nervous, after all it was our first meeting with the new bishop, someone who will have a profound impact on our lives and future ministry. On the car ride down we had many laughs as we tried to release all of our nervous energy by discussing what would be the worst possible first impressions one could accidently give.

When we arrived at the hotel Bishops Libasci and Christian were waiting for us in the lobby. Once we met Bishop Libasci we were instantly comfortable and made to feel welcome. Luckily we did not give any of those worst possible first impressions we had discussed as well.

After a few minutes talking we made our way to the Restaurant and our first time together. As luck would have it I had been asked to make one small adjustment to the restaurant reservation earlier in the day, so I was able to insist upon us sitting at a round table instead of the usual rectangular one. Looking back this was a great move as we all were part of the conversation fully, which was important and a true gift to us all.

Over the course of the evening the Bishop went to great lengths to get to know each of us, to hear our stories, and our hopes. It was quite obvious he wanted to know us as people and that gave me a wonderful sense of peace. As social outings go the bishop certainly could have filled the time with small talk of little importance, but he didn't, instead he had us share, he shared and together we experienced the fellowship, hope and joy our Church needs. Bishop Libasci inquired about our studies, asked about families, shared his passion for the important place teaching the faith plays, and demonstrated very clearly he was a man of great prayer. After the evening concluded we went our separate ways, the Bishops back to the conference and all of us seminarians back to the seminary where our brother seminarians eagerly awaited news of our evening. It was such a feeling of peace and joy to be able to answer the many questions that awaited us on our return with a smile and a sense of great hope.

Bishop Libasci and Bishop Christian, thank you for a wonderful evening of fellowship, fraternity and hope. Bishop Libasci I look with great joy to your Installation Mass on December 8th, in the meantime time to hit the books again!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Shaunti Althoff!

I just wanted to post a special shout to an amazing person, Miss Shaunti Althoff. Shaunti and I have been great friends for the past 11 years, since we taught together as part of the Alliance for Catholic Education Program. We were stationed together for our first two years teaching in Biloxi, Mississippi, when we were fresh out of college and had no idea what we were doing. We had lots of fun, were challenged to no end, and shared many great memories.

My favorite, although not hers, was when I changed the School's sign to say "Congratulations Mr. Nelson National A.C.E. Teacher of the Year." Shaunti and I were both in the A.C.E. Program. The National Teacher of the Year Award did not exist. Needless to say the sign stayed up and I began getting congratulated by parents, flowers were sent to the school, I was stopped in the supermarket and everywhere I went and it was pretty crazy. People came up to me and said "I am so proud to have my daughter in the best A.C.E. teacher in the country's classroom" or "what an honor to know you." What started as prank ended up taking on a life of its own and it was beyond crazy!

Often Shaunti and I would head to sporting events together to watch our students play and parents would come running up to congratulate me for being the 'best teacher' and then suddenly they would realize she was there next to me and that "she lost." We shared many laughs about and I eventually had to fess up.

Truth be told if there were a contest she would have one. My dear friend Shaunti is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She has a great spirit, a generous heart, and strong faith, and she always made me feel at home at Notre Dame as well as during my time in Biloxi.

The more I go on in life the more I realize just how important good friends are and just how much some people do to bring spirit, joy and enthusiasm to the world. Shaunti, if you happen to read this I want you to know that you are an amazing person who I respect more than you will ever know. You bring out the very best in people and have been a very powerful influence on my life. Never lose your spirit or your faith, for you have shared the Light of Christ with many, including this seminarian. Thank you for your prayers, your support and your friendship. Happy 34th Birthday, may this year bring you as many blessings as you have brought to your students, your friends and your family!

And Congratulations on Being A.C.E. Teacher of the Year

Special Guests!

This week we have been blessed to have five priests visiting from New Hampshire (Father Marcos Gonzalez, Father Steve Lepine, Father David Kneeland, Father Jeff Statz, and Father Paul Boudreau). They are down as part of a "new pastors" program being offered by the Seminary. It has been fun to catch up with the guys and to hear their stories of life as young priests. One of the things that I never heard much of before entering the Seminary was the importance of the fraternity of the priesthood. Watching firsthand and getting to know the guys it is powerful to see the special bond that is shared among each other.

Last night we went out for some food at a local restaurant and had lots of fun. It was a nice boost to spirits after a long few weeks. Tonight we spent much of the evening in the Donnelly Lounge, the Seminary's pub/social area. As I post this Father David is locked in a game of ping pong and holding his own. He is also sharing his good cheer and constant laughs with all those around.

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