Sunday, July 24, 2011

Congratulations Bishop Hying!

This Wednesday I was given the tremendous honor of being able to attend Bishop Donald J. Hying's Ordination as the new Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee! After all, it isn't everyday that you see an Ordination of a Bishop, not to mention that of a close friend.

My Mom, Dad, and my friend Jerry and I were lucky to be a part of the 700 invited guests at this wonderful occasion. We were also able to get great seats, close to the front so we could see all the action up close. It was very cool to see the hundreds of priests, the 18 Bishops from both our Archdiocese and neighboring diocese, and the seminarians and seminary summer campers all present.

One of the things that really stood out for me on that great day was Bishop Hying's personality and attitude. Having a special celebration in your honor can be overwhelming. You can be sucked into pride; feeling like your on top of the world! I for one would probably feel this way. Bishop Hying was the complete opposite however. Throughout that entire day, and the days leading up to his ordination, Bishop Hying remained humbled, full of humility. He often stated to Archbishop Listecki, in a joking manner of course that "he was probably the most unqualified person to ever be ordained a Bishop." This is one of the special traits and characteristics that he possesses; total self-abandonment to God and perfect submission to His will.

To be an Auxiliary Bishop means to serve the Archbishop, priests, and the whole church community to the best of his ability. Bishop Hying will indeed have his work cut out for him as he will travel across the Archdiocese ministering to each and every person he meets.

To me, Bishop Hying is a role model for me during my own discernment. If I do indeed become a priest I should look to him as a mentor as to how I should serve others with the same love, care, and humility that he does each and every day. Bishop Hying truly inspires me and reminds me through his episcopal motto, that even throughout hardships and trials during my life, "Love Never Fails."

Thank you Bishop Hying, for teaching me how to love and care for the church through simple acts of kindness and compassion, which you demonstrate day in and day out. I want to thank you for everything that you have done for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee both now and in the future.

May God bless you always!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seminary Camp Reflection "What is "Your" plan for me?" Part 2

The ride down the tree lined drive of St. Francis De Sales Seminary usually gives me a sense of peace and tranquility, but on this day, the day of the fourth seminary summer camp things were different. I was still feeling upset about my grades, about my ACT test and how that all played into my future. For me there is nothing I want more than to serve God as a priest. I am sure that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life, but those marks on the college entrance tests left me feeling down.

On the the way to the seminary, my mom suggested that I talk to Father Peter Berger, the Vocations Director, and Deacon Ryan Pruess who will be ordained a priest in May of next year, about what I should do. Could this really be a sign that I am not meant for the priesthood? Talking to them was probably the best thing that I could have ever done. As it turns out, Deacon Ryan attended a two year technical college and then transferred his credits he earned over to Cardinal Stritch University for his final two years of college. This path that lead him to the Seminary allowed him to avoid the ACT tests needed to enter into many colleges. Deacon Ryan is one of the smartest and friendliest people I know.

Father Peter Berger also provided words of wisdom and strength. Father Peter reminded me that God is in control and if he has a plan for me He will make it happen, regardless of what obstacles I face. Father Peter also told me that I should take the ACT test at least one more time, and advised me to pray and don't worry.

These meetings and talks with Father Peter and Deacon Ryan were definitely what I needed that day. Their words of wisdom kept my doubts at bay and gave me new hope for the future and what the Lord has in store for me. I am so happy to have such great friends and mentors who have been through everything that I am experiencing and can give me advice.

My time at the camp this year was just as relaxing and enjoyable as they had been in the years past. It certainly gave me the opportunity to continue to reflect on God's will for me and my vocation. Thank you Father Peter, Deacon Ryan and all who have kept me in their prayers each and every day. Know that you all in my prayers as well!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seminary Reflection- " What is "Your" plan for me? Part 1

The next few posts that will be uploaded are my own reflections on my past seminary summer camp. They contain thoughts that crossed my mind and things that I struggled with while there. These posts have been divided into parts, each part being posted on a different day to create suspense, allow time for reflection and prayer for those who are also going through some of the same things I am currently undertaking, such as being in high school and also discerning a call to the priesthood. I hope that you enjoy each and every part of this story and share it with others who are dealing with similar feelings and thoughts in their own discernment processes.

Discernment processes for those thinking of certain vocations, particularly the Catholic Priesthood, provide an opportunity to grow in your faith in God, to expand your love for our Mother Church whom you will ultimately give your entire life to and lastly, to learn how to trust one another. You also learn how to help and guide one another on your own individual journeys.

Despite all of the positive influences and opportunities that you gain while discerning a possible vocation to the Catholic priesthood; There are in fact a few things that apply unneeded pressure and negative impacts for someone discerning. Lately there has been a one thing that has been pressuring me, my current education.

One of the things that I have learned in discussions and talks at my local seminary is that education is extremely important. You need four years of college and at least a philosophy major and theology degree. This is my final year of high school coming up, so my life is busy with researching colleges and programs, taking ACT tests and working full time to save money for tuition. I'm realizing real quick that life is hard.

Before I even enter a college, I need to meet requirements. I need to match grade point average scales, ACT test scores and cumulative grade scores to the colleges that I am interested in. Lets just say that school has always been tough. To be honest, I am a horrible test taker. It certainly shows on my ACT scores, which were well below the requirement for a number of colleges I had wanted to attend. This has certainly made me start rethinking my vocation and filled me with doubt. After all I have taken the ACT test twice already, each time coming out feeling very confident, so sure that I had such a great score only to find out two weeks later that I had not met my expectations.

Thoughts began filling my head with, "How can I become a priest when I can't even get out of high school? What is wrong with me that no matter how hard I study, things just don't work in my favor? God does not want a dumb, uneducated man to become his priest! How can God lead me through all of these summer camps that I relish each and every summer while placing seminarians, priests and even bishops in front of me to inspire, teach and guide me, just so I can fall short of expectations and realize that the priesthood is no longer a possibility?" I became angry at God... What is "Your" plan for me?

-To be continued

Monday, July 11, 2011

Guest Post By Michael Lawinger "Go, take your faith! Ignite the World!"

This is the fourth guest post that has been sent to me by a fellow seminary summer camper. Michael Lawinger has attended the summer camps held at St. Francis De Sales Seminary all four years that it has been offered. I am so happy that he wrote a post on his overall review of the camp, showing how it has grown and truly shaped vocations in the many teens that have attended over the years. Thank you so much Michael and all that have written guest posts for my blog. Know that I am praying for each and everyone of you. No matter if we become priests or not, I am still so grateful for your friendship throughout these years. Michael's wonderful post is below.

This year was my fourth time at seminary camp, and I am proud to have made every camp to date. There was one thing you noticed when you saw the first camp four years ago; it was small. The junior high camp only had 5 campers, but even then I saw something I never thought I would realize. I was not the only one discerning the priesthood in the whole state of Wisconsin! It was a great thing to see that, and even greater was the sight of next year’s camp. Over tripling in size it was now at 16, and it swelled with new energy and personalities. Yet again the bond became stronger as the camaraderie grew, seeing and meeting new people, as well as catching back up with the group from the previous year.

I was very proud of the second year camp, as I dragged a friend, his brother, and my brother to camp that year, and I was not the only one who did. More and more the camp grew with people drawn in. The truth is attractive, and no matter how much the world and the devil want to change it, some men are called to become priests. I have always felt a gut feeling ever since I was about 6 that the man behind the altar should one day be me. The call grew and grew, and when Bishop Elect Hying, then just Fr. Don (at the camp we affectionately named him the late Fr. Don) asked if I wanted to go to the first camp I jumped at the chance. The camps have definitely deepened my outlook on the priesthood, and what a priest actually does. The camp also helped me understand the gravity of the priesthood, for no man without the aid of God can have such an impact on others lives.

The spiritual camaraderie was astounding. We all understood there was something that made us feel we would be happy in the vocation of priesthood, and this common bond resonated throughout the camp. From playing monopoly till 2 in the morning, or deriving a logical proof from scientific evidence that God exists, we knew we were one in the same.

God looks out for us, Deus providebit, God will provide; He just asks we trust him. Not even the deepest dark can put out a candle, and every single person that attended seminary camp is a candle, and it is their choice to light others. Putting all 21 candles together this year only made us burn brighter, and created a holy bonfire. You could almost visibly see the holiness jumping from person to person giving energy and light to any situation.

From mass to confession, the sacraments were fuel to the flame, and during adoration we were scorched with the true presence of God. We knew we all had the same goal. Priesthood or not we were alive with the fire of the Holy Spirit and nothing was going to stop us. For we are the burning ones and we will not be contained!
Go, take your faith. Ignite the world!

Michael Lawinger

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Totus Tuus "Totally Yours"

I am very pleased to announce that this is newest guest post that I have received from one of my fellow campers from the Seminary Summer Camps at St. Francis De Sales Seminary this year, Jay Egan. This past Seminary Summer Camp was Jay's first! Hopefully it will not be his last. It was so fun having Jay as a roommate and to be able to talk and pray with him. God bless you Jay and may He continue to guide you on your path of discernment. Know that I am praying for you each and everyday! You can read Jay's awe-inspiring post below.

This was my first time attending the 2011 seminary summer camp. I was really impressed, the whole experience was really illuminating. There were a couple of things that really stuck with me. First was the fact that I'm not alone. Satan likes to isolate and divide people, and build up a pride in their apparent uniqueness. This was an illusion that was instantly shattered. It was very easy to see that many of the boys there were very serious about discerning God's call, and genuinely desired to do the will of God, and the people there were equals. Second, the immense common bond and instant camaraderie shared by all the guys by virtue of their potential vocation. The community there felt like the Church Militant, and I got the sense that a number of boys were considering priesthood as a sort of zealous rebellion against the devil, the flesh, and the world. Most of the guys all seemed to be altar boy geeks like me. I expected something watered down, which is usually the fare teenagers get at things like this. This wasn't at all what I got. I had expected the talks to be basic, as if none of us had a regular prayer life. But the talks on prayer really addressed in many ways where I was at in my own spiritual life. We would talk about prayer, and it genuinely got you excited to pray (beyond just being emotionally enthused), and then we would go pray, and live out what we just talked about. It was all about living the theological truths we discussed. There was a great focus on hearing the voice of God and sitting in His presence. And then we would go pray before the Blessed Sacrament, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, go to Mass, and meet Him right there. It was a very contemplative experience for me, seeking silence to hear the voice of God and encounter His living reality and presence. I feel further convinced that His Majesty is calling me to serve Him as a priest, and the desire for this really takes my breath away. It's frustrating being unable to express one's gratitude to God, because He's so much bigger than anything you'd ever imagined. But I guess that's His will, to take your breath away and fill with silence and the breath of life – the Holy Spirit. This camp made be inexpressibly grateful for His goodness and the fullness of truth in His holy Church. One day I earnestly desire to say those infinitely precious and beautiful words: this is my body, this is my blood, and hold the fullness of truth Himself in my hands.

I was impressed by the service project, in which we helped the elderly and mentally disabled. I think I really was able to glimpse a manifestation of God's being there among the mentally disabled. They seemed really just so human. I could really feel God present there among them, amused and delighted by His creations simply enjoying themselves, even if they themselves might have been absolutely oblivious to His existence.

In this camp, Our Lord continued to open my up to the desire to do His will, and to abandon myself more deeply into His hands. Meeting the people there and growing closer to them impressed on me a lot of hope for the future of the Church and the world. His Majesty has a perfect plan, and the fulfillment of that plan is absolutely fantastic. One of the first things mentioned in the first of the talks was the literal translation for “fiat”, Our Lady's response to the message of Gabriel: do it. I guess this is the essence of sanctity. Abandon yourself to God, freely surrender everything you've got to His will, and let Him do it. In the words of the motto of Bl. John Paul II: totus tuus. Totally yours.

Deus tecum,

Jay Egan

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"The Least of His Brethren; A Conversation with God" By: Kenny Urlakis

This is the second guest post that I had promised to upload, once again about the Seminary Summer Camp that I attended. This guest post is written by a good friend of mine, Kenny Urlakis, who has also attended past summer camps. Kenny is a wonderful writer and even maintains his own blog! To visit it please click here. Thank you Kenny for writing this wonderful masterpiece and also for your continued friendship. Kenny's post is below-

Hello. My name is Ken. I was one of the campers who attended “Is it I, Lord?”- the camp/retreat at St. Francis De Sales Seminary. I have attended this camp for two years in a row and plan to attend in the future as long as they keep up this awesome experience.
My most fond experience at “Is it I, Lord?” this year was the service project at the St. Ann’s Center. When we departed from the Seminary, I must admit I did feel a little nervous. I had heard from the seminarians that we would be working with everybody-from the nursery and children’s day care to the mentally disabled and the elderly. A combination of my own human pride along with a sentiment of uncertainty left me feeling a little on edge. I kept this emotion in the back of my mind as I hiked along with the other guys, cracking jokes and doing other boy things (i.e. pulling little pranks, playing with sticks. . . you get the picture).
When we arrived at our destination, we were split up into small groups and sent to different units. I and two other guys were picked to go to the Alzheimer’s and dementia unit. As soon as I heard in what unit I would serve, the same emotion came over me. However this time, I decided to conquer it, and saying a quick prayer for humility, I fell in rank with the other two as we marched on to where we would serve. As we marched, I called to my memory my Grandma, who died of Alzheimer’s seven years ago. When we arrived at the unit, I found out that the patients were not as scary as my human pride had made them out to be. We all had a nice game of bingo while watching a movie. Then came the time to take the patients for a walk around the building.
I was paired up with a peaceful older man. He was tall and with his long with beard he looked like a Jewish Rabbi. He looked like God. God walking along with me in blue jeans and a white polo shirt. As we walked along he spoke almost nothing. Finally as we passed a sign that read “Aquatic Center,” he turned to me and said slowly with great difficulty, “I went swimming yesterday.” I, unsure of what to say, blurted out “really, was it fun?” Almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I thought of the stupidity of my response. However, he still continued the conversation by responding – again, slowly and with great difficulty - “Yes.” This was all he said to me. Yet, as I reflected, I realized that this was not just a conversation about a dip in the pool – no, this was a conversation with God. The Second Person of The Blessed Trinity says in Matthew 25:40: "Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me."
On our hike back to the Seminary, instead of cracking jokes, we talked about our experiences serving God in the "least of His Brethren."- Kenny Urlakis