Wednesday, August 29, 2012

10 Days into Seminary Life

When I first decided to apply to St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago, the essence of community and brotherhood played a huge factor. I wanted to be around other guys headed toward the same goal. Now ten days into my seminary career, I have already begun to see it more clearly. On Move-In Day, returning seminarians helped move myself and other new seminarians into our rooms and introduced themselves. They were very glad that we were here. I'm glad I am too!

If it were not for my brother seminarians helping me and guiding me in the right direction, I would never have learned the things that I now know. Before coming to St. Joseph's, I knew that good liturgy was always important, but I never had been to a place where everyone is passionate about liturgy, liturgy that is flowing but yet has structure and body. Good timing and reverent movement is very essential when serving, lectoring and even while being an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist.

If it were not for my brother seminarians, I would not have been able to tie my own cincture and wear a collar with my cassock. I would not have know how to decorate an altar after it had been anointed during the Dedication of the Altar Mass that we just had the previous evening in our brand new chapel. So far, seminary has taught me how important it is to work with one another. Cooperation is very important.

In a way, my brother seminarians are my new family. We live, eat, pray, study, and play together. It really is what I needed. I needed to be around other guys who are determined to meet one goal, growing together in love and service, and God-willing,one day as priests! I have learned that nobody is ever alone. Everyone is here to help everyone else succeed. If there was such a thing, this would be the objective of the "No Seminarian Left Behind Act." Nobody should ever feel like they are alone in their discernment or their studies. We are here to encourage one another and grow ever more in love with Christ and His Church each day.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Supporting Vocations to the Priesthood

It feels so strange to say I will be moving out of my house and moving in to St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago in less than a week. I have been so blessed to meet so many great people over this summer and I am so grateful for their love, prayers and support. To know that I have the backing of my home parish, family, friends and complete strangers is an amazing feeling.

When I first started this blog, I had just got home from attending my second Seminary Summer Camp hosted by St. Francis De Sales Seminary in St. Francis, Wisconsin. I was on fire for the faith and wanted to share my experience with anyone who would listen. I was feeling confident that God was calling me to become a priest as I was entering into my sophomore year of high school. I began recording my thoughts, my prayers, my writings and the many events that I participated in. I became a team member of a major vocations website that had begun in England run by teens specifically for men thinking about the possibility of priesthood, writing prayers and reflections for the site. Because of the site, I had the opportunity to be interviewed on Relevant Radio about how I came into contact with the creator and founder of the website, John Howard who is now a seminarian in England.  It was a very exciting time in my life!

The biggest thing that I learned this summer is how important it really is to be involved in as many events as you can. Everything that you are able to participate in, gives you an opportunity to share your faith with others, network and meet new people as well as make great new friends. This summer I frequently visited a discernment house in Shorewood, WI which housed five young men who were discerning the priesthood. One of these men will be entering college seminary with me this Tuesday as a Junior. I got to know each of these men, prayed with them, shared my discernment story with them and let them know of my support. I felt it was only fair to offer not only my time, but also my prayers and support that I was so fortunate to receive as I was applying for seminary.

The point that I am trying to make in all of this is not to make myself look high and mighty, but to share with fellow seminarians and discerners that even after getting accepted to seminary our work is not done, but is only beginning. Besides going to classes and formation lessons, I feel it is so important to take the time to show discerning men how much you are praying for them and how much you support them as they continue discerning God's will for them. Having the support of seminarians and priests while I was discerning and even during applying to seminary gave me confidence and helped me to know that I had good friends that had confidence in me that I seemed capable of being a good priest. It is so important to pray for the future of our church and support them with our company and kindness.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Pilgrimage: 50 Miles to Holy Hill

Millions of people make religious pilgrimages each year. Whether it is making a trip to Lourdes, Fatima or Champion, Wisconsin, a religious pilgrimage is a time to step back from our day to day lives and begin a voyage, not only in a physical state but also in a spiritual sense. It is during these pilgrimages that we begin to draw deeper into our relationships with Christ, giving ourselves a chance to admire, as well as ponder, His wonderful deeds and His constant love for human kind.

A few weeks ago,  I was given the chance to embark on my first religious pilgrimage led by Archdiocesan Vocations Director Father Luke Strand. This pilgrimage was a 50 mile walk from St. Francis De Sales Seminary in St. Francis to Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin. Following Mass, we began our pilgrimage with a trip to visit Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying at his office at the Archbishop Cousins Center to wish him a happy one year anniversary to the episcopacy.

After congratulating our awesome Auxiliary Bishop, we made our way to various churches on the south side of Milwaukee such as: Immaculate Conception in Bay View, the Bascilica of St. Josaphat on 6th and Lincoln Avenue, St. Anthony's on 9th and Mitchell, as well as the St. Joan of Arc Chapel on the Marquette University Campus before going to Aurora Sinai Medical Center on Kilbourn Ave, where my Mom had planned a wonderful lunch for the starving pilgrims.

After filling our bellys with some amazing food, we continued to make our way  up Wisconsin Ave, picking up two Marquette students that chose to pilgrimage with us for the day. We stopped to pray in front of Planned Parenthood, tried with no avail to get a look at the new chapel that was built inside Marquette University High School and prayed inside the Schoenstatt Shrine on 55th and Wisconsin Ave. For dinner, we traveled to Christ King Parish in Wauwatosa and finally arrived at St. Mary's Visitation Parish in Elm Grove at 8:00 to spend the night. The next day began with 6:30 AM Mass. We were graciously invited to have breakfast at the home of Brian Magliocco and his wife, Melissa.  Brian is the coordinator of WYRE Ministries which produces wonderful events for the youth of Wisconsin with opportunities to grow closer to God, such as the Wisconsin Youth Rally that is held every year.

After breakfast, we made the trip to St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield to pray Morning Prayer and then to St. Dominic's Parish for lunch with Fr. David Reith, the Pastor, and newly ordained Fr. Brad Krawczyk, now the Associate Pastor. After breakfast it was straight walking all the way to Merton, Wisconsin. Relying solely on Divine Providence, we were amazed when a man stopped us on the side of the road with bottles of water and Hershey chocolate bars. It was even more amazing to us when he revealed to us that he was a Mormon. We stopped at Fr. Luke Strand's aunt's house for dinner and to spend the night. The first thing we all did was jump in the cold pool. Relaxing our tired bodies in the pool was awesome!

We woke up the next morning refreshed and energized, ready to conquer the final 10 miles to Holy Hill. We were a mile away from our destination when we decided to walk the rest of the way barefoot. It was just a small sacrifice, offering up our tired bare feet to Christ. I can't even imagine how He could walk the Via Dolorosa with so many lacerations on His body, His crown of thorns and His tired feet. All of these painful details with the addition of a heavy wooden cross in just incomprehensible! This small sacrifice that we gave, by walking the last mile to Holy Hill barefoot was our way of completing our pilgrimage, by uniting ourselves with Christ, and offering up our sore and tired bodies, so that He could transform them and use them for His glory. This was the purpose of our pilgrimage, to give witness to Christ by walking these 50 miles, carrying a Papal flag, carrying no food of our own with us, totally relying on God like we should be each and every day of our lives. 

Attending the 4:00 o'clock Mass at Holy Hill was such a fitting end to the pilgrimage, reminding us what our true purpose of this journey was. Pilgrimages are supposed to bring you closer to God and for us, this literally was true. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I hope to go on more pilgrimages in the future, continuing to move ever closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.