Last night along with my classmates I participated in the diaconate oath signing ceremony. The ceremony is composed of two parts in which we first make a profession of faith and secondly an oath to uphold the office of deacon which will be entrusted to us shortly. While short and relatively simple, the seminary has always done a great job making this into a beautiful moment. I remember the impact it had on me my first year as I watched the fourth year men call out their names one-by-one. This is the first of a series of events that will be taking place over the next few weeks surrounding diaconate ordination. The experience of signing the profession and oath really made it all sink in, that after five years in seminary, and more importantly, 26 years of life, this is really happening, and it’s happening now. What a great blessing and grace-filled time. Please keep me in your prayers during these next few weeks. Of course, here are some photos of me from the oath signing, for more photos click here.
Yesterday I finally returned to Rome after spending most of my summer back in Missouri. As always with travel, it was a long day. However, while still very tired, it has been wonderful to see so many friends again and catch up on life. This coming week we will be workshops on the celebration of the Sacraments. This workshop is not a theological explanation of the sacraments but rather how to celebrate them according to the norms and rituals of the Church.
The following week we will be doing a workshop on the process of marriage preparation. At the end of the two weeks of workshops we will head off on our canonical retreat before diaconate ordination. I am very excited that the particular retreat center we will be using for this important retreat is run by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who as you might have guessed by reading other posts on this site, are dear friends of mine and who have had a great impact on my life and vocation.
Once we return from the retreat we will begin the week known around here as “Diaconate Week,” a week full of fun activities with family and friends all built around the diaconate ordination itself on Thursday morning.
Please keep me and my classmates in your prayers during these important last days leading up to ordination.
It’s been a while since I posted. Mea culpa. My last post marked then end of my third year of theological studies in Rome and the finishing of my S.T.B.
After I was done with my last exam I immediately flew to Boston to attend an academic conference, which lasted all week. At the end of the week I was able to get together with my cousin who lives in Boston and watch one of Ecuador’s world cup matches.
Following Boston I made a quick pit stop of sorts in New Jersey before making my way to Missouri for the summer.
I spent most of the summer working in two parishes in Missouri. Both parishes are located on the Lake of the Ozarks which is a beautiful lake and vacation area in Missouri. I lived in one parish, St. Patrick’s on the North side of the lake. There I participated in as many of the parish actives as possible. I also helped out on the southern side of the Lake in Camdenton. There my work was more specialized as I only engaged in Hispanic Ministry.
There are lots of crazy stories and adventures, hopefully when I get time I will share some of the specifics. I should have found time to post more stories as they actually took place.
I can say for now that my favorite part of the summer has been being able to get together with so many old friends. It has been wonderful catching up with so many different people from different parts of my life.
Today I finished my last final exam of the year, and with it, the entire S.T.B. It feels good to finally be done with this degree. I’ve learned and grown a lot, but now I’m looking forward to the S.T.L. Today I’m off to Boston to attend the Lonergan Workshop for the rest of the week. Next week I head to New Jersey and then Missouri to begin my summer assignment. Now that I’m done with exams and more importantly, studying for exams, I might be able to share a few more posts. The last two weeks there wasn’t too much to share as my time was spent studying and taking exams.
Today was a big day for many of my classmates and I, we finished our classes for the so-called “first cycle” of theology which grants one a pontifical degree known as the S.T.B. Next year I will begin another degree for “second cycle,” which leads to an S.T.L.
Many of my classmates who came here from over 40 countries will not be returning. Many of them will be returning to their home countries or sent out on mission to begin new apostolates and ministries, sharing what they’ve learned here in Rome. Today was the day to say our goodbyes. We might run into each other during exams, but today was our last day all together after three years.
Of course, I have a theory, that for those who give their lives in service to the Church, there is no such thing as “goodbye,” only “see you later.” I don’t know when I’ll see some of my classmates again, but with all of the events that take place in the Church, you never know when you might just run into someone again. Even if it’s 30 years from now, it’s still, “later.”
That still didn’t make certain parts of today somewhat sad and difficult in saying “see you later,” to so many good friends whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know these past few years. When people ask me what I like most about studying in Rome, my first response is always my classmates at the university and the seminary.
Here’s a photo of the group of us after one of our classes this morning.
There are over 250 seminarians at the North American College. It’s a great blessing, yet with so many guys it can be hard to get to know everyone. Within the 250 there are many smaller groups created which form more of a family environment. One of those groups is formed by the people you live with, your corridor or hall. There are four residential floors in the building, each floor divided into three wings or halls. For all three years I have lived in the same room on the hallway known officially as, “3rd Hospital” and affectionately as, “3rd Carnivore.”
Once a semester each of the individual the halls get together to have dinner. Tonight was that night for the men of 3rd Carnivore. Naturally, in order to fulfill and maintain our hall’s namesake, I fired up the smoker and cooked some chicken. Other guys helped contribute with homemade breads and desserts.
Before we all leave our home of 3rd Carnivore to return to our homes in the United States, Canada and Australia, it was nice to gather as a group and finish the year with a good meal and good company.
*Unrelated Note* – While cooking, a gentleman from Oklahoma was touring the college and when he saw me with the smoker, he asked, “Are you that guy from Lino’s show?” Sometimes it’s just a small and funny world.
Last weekend I participated in a fraternity weekend with my classmates of 3rd Theology. A fraternity weekend is not a retreat, but rather a weekend in which all the members of a particular class all take a trip together. We all packed on a bus on Friday and headed for the beach. There we had a hotel more or less to ourselves right on the beach. The weekend had a pretty light schedule, we had Mass in the middle of the day, but the rest was free. It provided a great time to just relax and hang out with classmates. We’ve all been here for three years together at this point. The weekend provided two opportunities for me. The first was just to relax and chat with some of my better friends. The second was to continue to get to know some of my other classmates who maybe don’t study at the same university or share an apostolate with me.
Right now we are in the “home stretch,” next Thursday is the last day of classes. Then I have four exams before returning to the USA for the summer. So it was nice to get away and not worry about all of the various tasks that face one this time of year.
It was truly a relaxing and fraternal weekend.
On Wednesday we took another field trip for my class on Catholic social doctrine. The last time, we visited the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice. This time we visited a center for helping refugees, known as, “Centro Astalli.” We received a tour of their facility and learned about their programs. They serve meals, teach Italian, and provide medical and legal assistance to refugees who find themselves in Rome. After visiting the facility that seeks to respond to the crisis of refugees on a local, pastoral level, we made our way to a classroom for a presentation. The presentation was on the work of the international organization, Jesuit Refugee Services. The organization seeks to respond to the crisis on an international level. They have facilities like the one we visited in Rome all over the world. They also help to get people out of dangerous situations and provide legal assistance. Lastly, they also seek to work against some of the root causes that have created the crisis. Given that the Jesuits were already over the world when Jesuit Refugee Services was founded, they were able to establish an international network. Different countries, including the USA, have other organizations associated with the nation’s episcopal conference. When I worked at CNS, in the USCCB building, I had the opportunity to meet many people who worked with Migration and Refugee Services at the USCCB.
This was not the first time I have attended a workshop/conference/presentation on refugees. However, this time there was a different feel to the experience. That difference was created by the crowd, my classmates. In the past when I attended presentations of this nature, in the USA, all or at least, the overwhelming majority, of those present came from America. This time it was very different, as I’ve mentioned before there are approximately 140 students in my class who come from around 40 different countries. The woman leading the presentation spoke of various situations in different countries around the world, whether they be countries dealing with conflict, or countries where refugees were arriving. All of these situations and conflicts touched all of us in very different ways. That is to say as she rattled off countries, there was often someone from those very places. It made conflicts and difficult situations that often seem so far away, much closer. Instead of several thousand miles away, they were just two rows in front or behind me. What a blessed learning experience indeed.
Last Tuesday I sat down for a half-hour interview with Lino Rulli of “The Catholic Guy” radio show on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel 129. All week-long Rulli stayed at the NAC while interviewing seminarians about our lives. In the pre-interivew meeting he said he didn’t want to necessarily sit around and talk about theology and Church issues, but rather about us and our lives as seminarians and our lives before entering seminary to show that we are in many respects just regular guys trying to live out our vocation, which just might be the priesthood.
My interview touched on quite a few topics from my life. As in the past, it was a little different being the one being questioned as opposed to the one asking questions. My experience in journalism was one of the things we discussed, in addition to Albania, seminary life, and of course, BBQ!
Since SiriusXM is a subscription service it is hard to find the interview, if you’re already a subscriber you can go to the SiriusXM web site and go through the on-line player to find the show from May 8, 2014. It is also possible to sign up for a free trial in order to hear the piece as well, at least, that’s what I had to do.
For more on some of the topics discussed in the interview see the following posts. If you can’t listen, reading these posts will in some instances give much more detail than in the half-hour interview.
Yesterday I had the great opportunity to attend the perpetual profession of four sisters from the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus (Suore Francescane Missionarie di Gesù Bambino). Two of the four are classmates of mine at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
In order to support them on the most important day of their lives, we organized a group of classmates to attend the beautiful ceremony.
A bunch of us left early in the morning to make a full day trip out of the experience since some had never been to Assisi. Given that I spent a summer living in the small medieval town, and was not one of the Franciscans busy making vows, I became the default tour guide.
The morning group was composed of two Ecuadorians, a Brazilian, an Italian and myself. Later we met up with a Peruvian, a Portuguese and two other Italians.
We had a great time visiting many of the different Churches in the upper part of Assisi. We stopped in each to pray for the sisters who would be making their vows that afternoon.
Of course there was a necessary stop for pizza before heading down the hill to Basilica di Santa Maria deli Angeli, home to the famous Porziuncola. There is quite literally a small Chapel inside of the larger basilica.
There we joined hundreds of family and friends for a beautiful liturgy celebrated by the recently named Cardinal Bassetti from nearby Perugia. During the Mass, the sisters each professed perpetual vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to the mother general of their order.
Unfortunately we only had a few minutes at the reception as we had to catch the last train back to Rome so we weren’t able to get any photos with the sisters at the reception. They had many other guests waiting to congratulate them as well.