On Patrol: A Night At St. Peter's

By Conor Hardy
First Pre-Theology
St. John Paul II Seminary
8 November 2016

I first discovered St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill one evening in an MPD cruiser while on patrol with the police radio rattling into my ear. I pulled over and parked in front of the Church and walked in. I turned the radio volume down low, yet its pitch still seemed to softly disturb the silence that permeated the peaceful atmosphere. Seeing the flickering candle beside the tabernacle signing to the presence of Our Lord, brought me a sense of refreshment. St. Peter’s became a place of recourse throughout my job as a cop. A few years after leaving the police department, I parked my civilian car at my old police station a few blocks away and scuffed the sidewalk up towards St. Peter’s for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Young Adult Mass and Discernment Dinner. 

Seated sporadically in the front pews were a handful of other men. I took my seat and joined the group. As Mass was celebrated and the evening continued, I reflected upon how this church serviced me in the past and now the present; here I was again in such a different circumstance. I thought of the times and places I had been, and pondered how Jesus was present with me throughout it all. I continued a plea that was on my heart, “What do You want from me, Lord? Help me to want what You want.” 

 What I remember to be a freeing experience while at the dinner was realizing that I was not the only man with this plea upon his heart. Listening to the vocation stories of the priest and seminarian, acknowledging the openness of the other discerners to the Will of God in their lives, provided a sense of support. I could see the visible response to the invisible promptings of God within the hearts of these men. I was shown that this desire of wanting to know how to make a gift of oneself––particularly the desire to make a gift of oneself as a priest––was shared by others. 

A year later, my adventure with the Lord brought me back to participate in the dinner at St. Peter’s as a seminarian. The most astonishing thing to me this time was not only a joyfulness that filled the rectory as it had done the year before, but was that discerning men filled it too. The room was packed! So many men surrounded me who were trying to decipher the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their hearts to discover their unique gift of self. 

I was funneled to the back of the room for a seat before the talk began. As stories were told, my eyes were continuously drawn to a painting of Jesus across from me. His eyes seemed to mirror his heart. Their pale red and hazel color appeared to be aflame and glistened as they gazed across the filled room. I felt a burning in my heart and could imagine well what the painting invoked: Our Lord’s eyes filled with a passion and excitement, a love and desire, a calling to adventure for each of His children, for each of those men, for me.   

 

Training the Team: Run for Vocations

By Stefan Yap
Second Theology, Archdiocese of Washington
Mount St. Mary's Seminary
25 October, 2017

On my first day of my summer assignment at St. Andrew Apostle in Silver Spring, the pastor, Fr. Dan Leary, had a meeting with the vocations rep, Maria Bailey, and me about organizing a team for the Run For Vocations that the Archdiocese does every year.  Fr. Dan wanted me to work with Maria to get the parish to join the team, organize fundraisers, and team events, such as training runs and team get-togethers.  Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about the idea of organizing and leading a team since it was my first big assignment in a parish. 

It took me a while, but after working together, Maria and I were able to organize a recruitment plan.  We had made a few posters, wrote announcements for the bulletin, I was to say a few things after each Mass, and have a signup table to go. The recruitment plan was a complete success and I then had to begin my work reaching out to those who had signed up. After some failed attempts, I finally got a handle of things, and a team slowly began to form! 

Now that I had a team of runners it was time to organize a parish fundraiser.  Maria and I bounced around a few ideas and we finally agreed on having a parish car wash.  My first attempt at organizing this failed and we had to reschedule, but the second time around we were able to get it off the ground.  I don’t think anyone of us could have ever imagined the kind of turn out we got for the car wash and the money we were able to raise.  Quoting one of our volunteers, “I honestly had my doubts because car washes are so played out.”  I honestly had my doubts as well, but the Lord provided and broke through our doubts making this a very successful fundraiser.  Since going back to seminary, it has been difficult, but we were able to come together as team to train and have time to bond as a team on a couple of weekends.

I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for all 19 of our runners from St. Andrew Apostle.  I have personally learned so much from this project Fr. Dan handed to me on my first day at the parish.  The biggest take away is the importance of community and providing these opportunities for communities to grow and develop. Through the Run For Vocations, a small community has been formed around vocations to the priesthood and praying for seminarians.  The goal of the priest is to do the same thing on a grand scale in the parish, to provide opportunities for the community and families in the parish to come together in Christ, leading them to salvation.  That is what a shepherd does for his flock, what a priest does for his parish, and what I tried to help do for my team by preparing them to run for vocations! 

To see how you can support vocations please click here.

 

Encountering Friendship: UMD Retreat

By Martin Begley
Fourth College, Archdiocese of Washington
St. John Paul II Seminary
25 October, 2017

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the retreat for the Catholic Student Center (CSC) from the University of Maryland.  It was an awesome experience with over a hundred students from the University of Maryland and other schools, including Howard University, as well as seminarians representing Capuchin College in DC, Mount St Mary’s seminary, and two of us from St John Paul II seminary.  Four of us seminarians on the retreat used to be students at the University of Maryland, and had attended this retreat as students when we were still at UMD.  

Being a former UMD student myself, this was the first full retreat with the CSC I had been on since I transferred to seminary a year and a half ago.  It was wonderful to go back, to see old friends and meet new ones, and to witness as well as experience the many graces flowing from Our Lord on the retreat.  There were wonderful talks, lots of opportunities for prayer, and everyone had the opportunity to go to confession. There was also plenty of time for recreation, with almost every sport represented.

For me, however, the highlight of the retreat was all-night Eucharistic adoration on Saturday night.  Earlier in the day a sign-up sheet for half hour slots was passed around to ensure that Our Lord was never left alone. It always amazes me how quickly this sheet fills up.  There are never enough slots for everyone, yet even those who do not sign up still find a time to go, sometimes late before bed, or early in the morning––sometimes both. The evening itself is kicked off with a healing service, and finishes with a Eucharistic procession.  It is so powerful to see Fr. Rob, the chaplain, carry Our Lord in the monstrance to individually bless each person in the room, and to witness the stream of people who file out of the building following Our Lord in the procession. 

It was also amazing how Our Lord seemed to permeate the night even after the official healing and procession were over.  We all stayed up with a bonfire and games, and every now and again a student would disappear for half an hour or more, going to their slot in adoration.  Many of the students stayed up for this purpose, to ensure they went to their slot on time. It is amazing how, in a concrete way, you could see Our Lord effecting the entire evening––even the fun and play.   

It is not often you can go from a sing-along at a bonfire to spend time with Our Lord in the Eucharist.  There is a beauty in leaving a great time with friends to visit Christ, the friend who colors and makes every other friendship possible.  In my own experience, those encounters with Our Lord are the most memorable moments of any retreat. In short, my time with friends on this retreat was only enhanced and brought to life because of the time I got to spend with Jesus who gives life and makes it possible to love the other. 

 

Reflections from Rome: Feast of St. John Paul II

By Patrick Agustin
Second Theology, Archdiocese of Washington
Pontifical North American College
October 23, 2017

On October 21, the alumni of Saint John Paul II Seminary now studying at the North American College in Rome gathered together to commemorate and celebrate the life of a great saint and the patron of our diocesan seminary, whose feast day was on October 22.

We began our day of celebration with Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Polish Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa.  Not surprisingly, the Chapel of St. Sebastian, where the tomb of our beloved patron rests, was booked all day, so we were unable to have Mass there.  In a providential way, however, it was as if Saint John Paul II was pointing us towards and leading us to Our Blessed Mother instead, just as he did during his pontificate.  Mass was celebrated by Fr. Wojciech Giertych, OP, a papal theologian and professor of moral theology at the Angelicum, the university where many of us receive our intellectual formation.  Fr. Giertych was joined by Fr. Robert Kilner, one of the Archdiocese of Washington’s newly ordained priests and a member of the inaugural class of JPII.

At the end of the day, we proudly donned our burgundy JPII polo shirts to pray Evening Prayer together and shared in a delicious dinner prepared by some of our more “culinarily-inclined” alumni.  The dinner included some traditional Polish dishes, such as golumpki, a stuffed cabbage roll in tomato sauce, as well as Polish sausages.  Over the meal, we reminisced about some of our favorite memories from our time at JPII, including the way we would sing “Happy Birthday” at dinner (perhaps “scream” would be the more appropriate term) and unfortunate encounters with ghost peppers.  It was an unforgettable evening, and we look forward to continuing this tradition in the years to come.

We give thanks to God for the gift of this great shepherd who by his life gave witness to the Gospel and has given us seminarians an example of a holy and joyful priesthood.  We also give thanks to God for the gift of Saint John Paul II Seminary, our home away from Rome.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

 

Phase III: A Symbol of Hope

By Thomas Showalter
Second College, Archdiocese of Washington
St. John Paul II Seminary
29 September, 2017

Last year, as a new seminarian, I was full of anticipation and excitement for pursuing God’s will in my life. I was ready to begin my first year and follow the Lord wherever he wanted to lead me. As I was starting my time in seminary, I was asked to write for the blog on the parallels between the start of the construction of the new wing and my entrance into seminary (click here to read that blog).

While everyone here was anxiously awaiting the opening of the new wing, I was anxiously awaiting the surprises to come in seminary as I began my preparation for priesthood. My entire first year I experienced a strong visual parallel in the building of the new wing, and the process of God’s construction in my own heart as I began my formation. When we left for the summer, the new wing was almost complete, but I had much more to go.

Upon our arrival back this year, the new edition was ready to finally hold life! Now, the seminary feels complete and is able to hold the most seminarians it ever has. Fifty-one of us share this wonderful house, and are enjoying all the benefits of the bigger refectory and the Comstock Conference Room. 

The seminary was buzzing with excitement the day Cardinal Wuerl came to open the newest edition. We were all excited and ready for the opening Mass, dedication, and dinner to follow. Having the new and bigger refectory has given us the ability to host more people at the seminary and the new conference room is equipped with all the necessary features for our formation. It will be the home of many formation nights, conferences, workshops, and study sessions for my remaining years, and for many years to come. It truly completes the house at St. John Paul II Seminary. 

For me though, the completion of the new wing is a strong symbol of hope that God will bring to fulfillment the work he has begun in me (Philippians 1:6). 

 

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