Thousands gather in St. Peter's
“Youth must be placed at the service of great ideals. Do you think so? Do you agree? Ask Jesus what he wants of you and be courageous! Be courageous! Ask him! Behind and prior to every vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated life there is always someone’s powerful and intense prayer: a grandmother’s, a grandfather’s, a mother’s, a father’s, a community’s; This is why Jesus said: “Pray to the Lord of the harvest,” that is, God the Father, “that he might send workers for the harvest!”
Pope Francis, Vatican City, April 21, 2013, Vocation Sunday, in St. Peter’s
I would like to offer a thought on the 3 disciplines of Lent (Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving) as a way of self-donation:
1. Prayer – a handing over of oneself to God in prayer. Growth in prayer and a relationship with Christ comes through honesty with God about your life. Reveal the content of your heart to God in prayer. Bring what is on the “altar of your heart” to the altar at mass.
2. Fasting is a self-donation of the body. It is a giving over of the self to hunger, opening yourself to what ultimately fills you: Christ
3. Almsgiving: A handing over of possessions, freely. They are given to others in need. We begin to realize, in gratitude, what the saints realized: All is gift.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving become a cooperation with Christ who gives himself to you and through you. At its best, it is the reason why St. Paul says: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Pope Benedict XVI to resign to the surprise of many. Read his statement here.
Newly Ordained priests often spend their first few weeks after ordination traveling to offer Thanksgiving Masses, special Masses with family or friends in places that have been important to them. I spent two summers learning Spanish in Mexico as a seminarian, and wanted to return to share the joy of my ordination with my friends that I met during my time there.
After my ordination, I spent eight days in Morelia and San Luis Potosí, visiting friends and my “adopted family.” I even had a chance to celebrate a double Quinceañera! It was a blessing to strengthen these bonds of friendship with people who helped me so much to learn a second language.
Take the next step. Attend Exploring Priesthood Weekend January 11-13, 2013. Contact Fr. Brian Welter at 312-534-8298 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer breaks are great opportunities for seminarians to invest some time in their particular interests. Be it language immersion programs, parish work or campus work, traveling or family time, it is always an opportunity to reflect back on your path into priesthood and also to make new friendships.
This summer I have been blessed with being able to work in a part-time position at the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago while residing in my home parish St. Alphonsus of Liguri in Lake View. At Catholic Charities I have been assigned as an intern to the Department of Special Program for Health Care with Kate Mulvany, probably because my career background in Medicine. I also get to help out in the Office of Latino affairs.
My project for the summer has been to help coordinate and organize the exam-based health fairs that Catholic Charities offers in conjunction with local parishes. Summer is important time for this event: as schools are getting ready to start, children need basic physicals and immunizations. Moreover, too often our poorer neighborhood communities lack the resources for medical attention especially in the areas of preventive medicine and primary care.
Friends, let me tell you ...... GOD IS GOOD ...... ALL THE TIME. That simple phrase pretty much sums up these past few months for me.
As many of you may know, 2nd Year Theologians at Mundelein Seminary participate in the Pastoral Internship Quarter, in which they are assigned to full time ministry at a parish in their respective Archdiocese or Diocese. Well for this Seminarian, that meant being assigned to the amazing faith community of Ss. Faith, Hope and Charity in Winnetka.
Now, you may think, why is he talking about that, this article is what he is doing this summer. Well, in order for you to understand my summer, you have to understand that since February I have been falling in love with this parish. The greatest majority of my time was spent in school teaching in the Junior High 4 days a week. I was Mr. Brad, Mr. Z, Seminarian Brad, or my favorite, Brother Brad.
I thought I was teaching these kids something, but what I learned was that they were teaching me so much more. GOD IS GOOD ..... ALL THE TIME, was our phrase, and it was with that phrase that we explored the goodness of God in all the different facets of our faith.
The one way in which I connected with the kids was through music. For those that know me, music is what I love, there is always a song in my heart and in my soul and I want to share that. The kids and I would gather for religion class and usually I would teach them a song, and some gestures that go along with it. For our 5th Graders it was “We Are One Body,” for our 6th Graders “Lean on Me,” for our 7th Graders “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” and for our 8th Graders, “Awesome God.”
It was through these simple songs, that the kids began to fall in love with their faith. It was not because these songs convey some deep theological meaning, or because of anything special I said, but because they could relate to the simple lyrics and see those lyrics being played out and lived at home, school and at Church.
Now, after all of that, what am I doing this summer? I have decided to continue my time at Faith, Hope. Yes, school is out for the summer, but I am sticking around to assist the parish and my awesome Pastor. In addition to just some regular parish activities, like Daily Mass and Prayer, and meetings, the main thing the Pastor has asked me to do this summer is to come up with some youth events. So in a few weeks we go off to Great America at an event sponsored our Office of Catechesis and Youth Ministry, and then in early August we will go down and do some service work in the city.
These are simple ways that we can keep the fire that the Holy Spirit has ignited in our youth people here at Faith, Hope alive this summer.
GOD IS GOOD ..... ALL THE TIME!!!
Left to Right: Seminarians Jamie Mueller, Bob Regan and Matthew Litak in front of St. John’s Church, Creighton University, Omaha. Matt Litak offers his reflection on his summer assignment of attending the Institute for Priestly Formation Summer Program.
I’m at the Institute for Priestly Formation, which helps make seminarians into better, more faithful men of God, and teach them what it means spiritually to be diocesan priests. It gives a clear understanding of what the spiritual life of diocesan priesthood looks like and draws us closer to the Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. All of that makes it seem like it is primarily educational, and it is educational, but that doesn't do it justice. It really does bring you closer in your relationship with the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and with Mary, and Joseph.
I learned about IPF at the seminary. It has an outstanding reputation here. A friend of mine, also in seminary, said that it saved his vocation. The guys who went on it had a fire that can only come from relationship with God. I wanted to deepen my relationship. I wanted what I saw in them, because I knew that that kind of relationship is needed to be a good priest and I wanted to be a good priest. Everyone I talked to who had been on it could only say good things about it. Three weeks in, I tend to agree. It has been an outstanding program so far.
Fellow seminarians Bob Regan and Jamie Mueller are also here. I discerned on my own to go. I didn't know Bob and Jamie were applying. When I found out, I was glad to hear that they were both going. They are both good guys and I was excited to get to know them better.
IPF is at Creighton University in Omaha. There is a permanent staff at IPF who run the whole program. Then there are many priests (including our very own vocation director), psychologists, religious, and lay faculty who help out in various capacities at various times throughout the summer. Throughout the summer, the faculty and staff run classes for us on topics ranging from Christian Spirit and Sexuality, to Christian Prayer and Virtue, to the Spirit of Diocesan priesthood, to the Mystery of the Liturgy. The program also features an eight-day guided silent retreat. For the last six weeks we also are involved in apostolic service. I will be working at the Midlands Community Hospital doing pastoral work. The faculty and staff also provide spiritual direction, counseling, give talks and reflections.
The daily schedule during the week (outside of retreat) is, not unlike seminary, fairly regimented, though much more relaxed at the same time. There are classes, Mass, prayer times, meetings, and lectures which one is expected to attend. And there will be apostolic work to attend in the future. But there is some daily time to yourself, some quiet time, some time in which you have freedom. Your weekends are for the most part free and there is a surprising amount of stuff to do in Omaha.
I am enjoying most the development of my personal spiritual relationship with God. The silent retreat was of immense help in this point. It deeply impacted me on an emotional level and impacted how I pray and how I relate to God. It concretely grounded my relationship with God.
Periodically, we ask our Chicago seminarians to share their experiences from the seminary. Rodlin Rodrigue shares his summer assignment at St. Joseph Hospital.
This summer I am doing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Saint Joseph Hospital on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, which is part of Resurrection Healthcare. I have been assigned to two floors: the Headache Clinic and the Skilled Nursed. I chose this hospital because one of my brother seminarians who did his (CPE) last year at this hospital told me he had a great experience. So, I applied to the program so that I could taste the flavor of his great experience too. He was telling the truth.
Saint Joseph Hospital is located not too far from our Lady of Mount Carmel parish. Even though I am from Haiti, Chicago is now my home and Lady of Mount Carmel is my home parish. So, I can say I feel at home even though I am far away from family and friends.
When I was told that I was assigned to the Headache Clinic I was very happy because that rang a bell for me. It reminded of one of my classmates who suffers from constant migraine as well. I take that assignment seriously and with humility so that I can understand, in a deeper way through the patients I have been visiting, what my classmate has been going through.
I have to give my patients credit for their courage to endure the pain of that illness. They are my heroes, warriors and good fighters.
During my three weeks in the Hospital working as chaplain, I have grown both humanly and spiritually. I have learned a lot from many patients and hopefully they have learned from me as well. I have come to understand that ministry is a two-way street in the sense that you are giving but you are also receiving.
I have been performing almost everything that a priest does except celebrating the sacraments. I have been there to assist the patients in their spiritual, emotional and psychological needs. I have been proclaiming Scripture and distributing Holy Communion during Mass. So far, it has been a privilege and humbling experience. What I enjoy the most is being with patients and being attentive to different stories they want to share with me. From many of those stories, the light of the Spirit pierces through and open my heart and their hearts so that we can understand each other with respect and dignity.
May God continue bestowing His grace upon me so that this CPE program continues to be a fruitful and humbling experience.
Chicago Seminarian, Dave Brenner, shares his thoughts on his first year at Mundelein Seminary. Dave is currently in Pre-Theology. Prior to seminary, Dave worked for several years at P&G, and also completed an MBA at Northwestern University.
My First Year at Seminary
There are certain elements of the seminary system you can understand from the outside - what the schedule is like, which classes you’ll take, what you can expect from the spiritual and formational process and so on. The paradox is that no amount of research is able to adequately tell you what the seminary will be like in the most meaningful way, namely, how it will grab your soul, shape your desires, and provide you with the tools to be a bearer of Christ. Think of it like swimming – you can talk to expert swimmers, read books on the subject and study the physics of the sport, but until you jump into the water you don’t know what swimming is. This is the truth of vocation – you can’t understand until you commit. And this is the genius of the seminary – you jump into the deep end ready to follow Christ and then receive the support and perspective of those that can direct you to His desired ends.
You have to have a taste for adventure to consider priesthood. It’s not your life, but Christ’s life and he will inevitably lead you where you did not expect to go. The seminary is a unique beginning for this lifelong lesson. When I entered seminary, I expected a certain set of challenges. Celibacy was certainly going to be one of those challenges and I was somewhat doubtful about whether it could ever be embraced as a “gift” rather than as something merely to be tolerated. I also expected certain friendships would be forfeited, for example, relationships with apathetic or non-Christians. Sacrificing material comforts also appeared to be a challenge, especially for someone that had worked for several years and had become acquainted with a certain lifestyle.
These expected struggles have turned out to be sources of great blessings, whereas the actual challenges have been different than expected. God seems to have uniquely heard my prayers for assistance and generously provided great gifts. Celibacy has enabled me to be fully present in more relationships – such as those with the kids at the juvenile detention center where my field education ministry takes place. It’s enabled me to have life-giving relationships with my brother seminarians, with religious sisters and with my pre-seminary friends. Whereas I thought those friendships might get closed, the relationships have deepened to include more spiritual and discernment-related discussions than before. And, quite honestly, I’ve never been invited to more dinners and award-banquets than I have been since joining seminary.
So my advice for someone considering seminary is to take stock of what you expect. It’s good to identify those struggles and to ask God to make his grace present in the struggles. “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13). You will almost certainly be surprised by how God presents himself in your life, but you open yourself to abundant graces if you make the leap and commit to aligning your life with Christ’s.
Here is a video of Dave Brenner:
The Pope delivered a homily on Holy Thursday morning, at the Chrism Mass, at which the priests of Rome renewed their priestly commitment. The homily can be found at Zenit.org.
In his homily, the Pope encouraged priests to be configured to Christ. It is a fresh reminder each year as all priests renew their promises at the Chrism Mass in their own dioceses.
The Archdiocese of Chicago celebrated the Chrism Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago this past Tuesday. The oils that will be used for the sacraments were blessed by Cardinal George and the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago renewed their priestly promises.
Today marks the beginning of the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday). Holy Thursday recalls the Last Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist, the command from Jesus to imitate him in washing the feet of the 12. In addition, Holy Thursday recalls the institution of the priesthood, when Jesus at the Last Supper says "Do this to remember me." And we see in the scriptures, especially in the Acts of the Apostles, that the apostles continued to gather to break bread in remembrance of him.
Men continue to follow Christ in the priesthood. One way the Archdiocese of Chicago helps men come to clarity, regarding the call to priesthood, is to provide opportunities for men to come and see what this life entails. We have an upcoming weekend at Mundelein Seminary, called Exploring Priesthood Weekend, April 20-22. The weekend is a combination of meeting the seminarians, hearing their stories of preparing for the priesthood, time for prayer and mass, a chance to enjoy the beautiful grounds of Mundelein Seminary. The Exploring Priesthood Weekend is geared toward men who are Juniors in college and older.
Exploring Priesthood Weekend is meant to help men clarify what they feel called to. There is no pressure to 'sign up' for the seminary after the weekend is over. The majority of men, after the weekend, are grateful they gave it a chance. They express gratitude, especially in hearing the vocation stories of the seminarians, who were in the same position as the participants just several years ago.
If you have been thinking about priesthood in the Archdiocese of Chicago, this is your opportunity to gain some clarity. Please contact Fr. Brian Welter to register.
The following reflection is from one of our participants in the InSearch Discernment group hosted by the Vocation Office in the Archdiocese of Chicago. InSearch is a weekly discernment group for collegiate and post-collegiate men, who are discerning the call to priesthood. We wrapped up our 6-month program last night.
Searching for Christ: A Reflection on InSearch
What is InSearch? What are we searching for? The first thing that comes to mind is Christ! I often ask myself these questions: Do I desire to be truly human, to express my humanity to others through service? Do I desire to be a follower of Christ? Do I desire to be holy, living and embracing the virtue of charity? The answer, of course, is "yes.” So there beckoning is the call to priesthood. To help men discern this call, the Archdiocese created a program called "InSearch." InSearch meets once a week, introducing a different priest at each session who shares his vocation story and sheds insight into an area of the ministry. Through InSearch, one's interest in the priesthood is further cultivated, enabling a self-examination of the mind and heart to take place. That is, we are encouraged to ask questions, to be engaged in the reading material, to share personal experiences and, most importantly, to open our hearts to Christ -- to be aware of Him working through us and others. InSearch also serves another purpose in the respect that it functions as a precursor to an external discernment process (which is, ultimately, the application stages). In other words, as we discern our own calling to the priesthood, the diocese discerns us, ensuring that we are not only called to become priests, but also called to serve in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
This past weekend, I had the unique opportunity to go on a 3-day InSearch retreat at the Cardinal Stritch House in Mundelein. With this, I was immersed into a peaceful, scenic environment with ample time for prayer, meditation, reflection, and interaction with seminarians. Structured around the day was morning and evening prayer, including mass. During that time, Fr. Richard Mueller (InSearch Director) and Fr. Brian Welter (Vocation Director) helped to facilitate open dialogue among the retreatants, always offering words of encouragement while fostering spiritual and fraternal growth. Included in the itinerary were several lectures given by Fr. Mueller. These lectures challenged me to think about the priesthood critically. One area of focus was apostleship or priesthood through the eyes of St. Mark. St. Mark says that an apostle (one who is sent) has a distinct and unique call to be with the Lord in a personal relationship. Furthermore, the apostle/priest – serving as a primary collaborator in the coming of God’s kingdom – also has a distinct and unique mission to preach and to heal. Therefore, by coming to a new awareness of God’s presence and activity through that personal relationship with Jesus (as a source of strength), the priest is able to bear the responsibility of his mission. And with this understanding of the theological approach, I now have a greater appreciation for the sacred and historical roots that define the noble priesthood so well.
Coming back from Mundelein, I felt renewed, energized, and inspired. I am eager to continue with my journey, keeping Christ at the forefront and always trusting in Him. So as we walk together in union with Christ, preparing to celebrate His glorious Resurrection, I ask that you please keep me and all those who are discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life in your prayers. I will keep all of you in my prayers as well.
Have a Blessed Holy Week and Easter!
- Christian Shiu
For more on InSearch, click here
We came across this video, which is in Spanish with English subtitles. It is a creative vocation video from the Bishop's Conference in Spain. Enjoy.
We are grateful for the post from Cardinal Francis George, OMI, the Archbishop of Chicago. He writes today on the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Jesus created the sacrament of Holy Orders in calling the Twelve to be with him and to be sent out as witnesses to the world, telling others who Christ is and making him present by governing Christ’s people with his authority.
For some, Jesus is only a moral teacher or even a moral hero; but Jesus himself said he is more; he is the truth and the life as well as the way. He died on the cross and rose from the dead, not so that everyone could believe whatever he wanted and do whatever she wished. Why should he have bothered? He didn’t write a book; he founded a community. Being part of that community, the body of Christ, is the only way to know and love him for who he is. It is the way of salvation in this life and the next.
As the apostles set up churches in town after town where they preached, they appointed others who received authority from Christ through sacramental ordination to teach, to sanctify and to govern. Those who are called to the ordained priesthood in the Church must give their lives for Christ’s people; they must love them and govern them well, keeping them together in Christ. They make the sacraments, which are actions of Christ, available to the people and they, along with lay people, invite everyone whom Christ died to save to come and meet him in his Church. That means everyone is invited, even though many might refuse. These latter, a priest continues to pray for.
Cardinal Francis George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
Seminarian Tom Byrne offers some thoughts on: preparing for priesthood in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the hope found in the Church today, and celibacy.
Tom is finishing his 3rd year at Mundelein Seminary, with one year remaining.
Relevant Radio in Chicago (AM 950) broadcasts our Vocation show each first Friday of the month at 9am. Listen this week as Vocation Director, Fr. Brian Welter interviews Chicago seminarian, Kyle Lee.
Lee shares his story about a recent project he completed on the sinking of the cruise ship, The Andrea Doria. Lee interviewed three Chicago priests who survived the sinking of the ship. Click here to listen to his interviews with the surviving priests.
Each month we hope to bring you reflections from different priests from the Archdiocese of Chicago. This month we bring you Fr. Elliot Dees, who was just ordained in May 2011. Here is his reflection on being a newly ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Life as a Newly Ordained Priest
As a fourth year seminarian, I had heard a lot of stories from friends about the first couple of months as a priest in a parish. I had heard of the great joy and occasional struggles that come from living a new way of life. I had been introduced through them to some of the paths and obstacles that would have to be navigated in those first months and years. I also got a lot of advice, little pieces of information dropped here and there that were supposed to make the transition just a little easier for me than it had been for them. At a certain point, however, everyone acknowledged that words cannot really describe the transformation that takes place both personally and publically in those first precious months as a priest. At the time I thought that that was probably a little dramatic, over time I have come to realize just how very true that is.
In the seven months since my Ordination last May, I have already experienced so much, more than I thought I ever would in fact. I knew that life would become busy with Masses and Sacraments but I never really appreciated how central these would be to my ministry as a priest. People want to enter into a personal relationship with their priests, yes, but first and foremost they expect us to show them God. They want us to pull them into the mystery of His love, to offer comfort in time of sorrow, to rejoice with them in their moments of joy, and to bring Christ to them when they are ailing. In my first month in the parish I probably celebrated some sixty masses, heard around a hundred confessions, and baptized a handful of babies. I conducted one wedding, and half a dozen funerals, some of them incredibly difficult. I accompanied the sick in their suffering, I walked alongside a grieving family as they mourned the loss of their child, all while adjusting to living in a new place with new people and new housemates.
In the whirlwind that is the first year of priesthood, my house has stood firm only because of the solid foundation of Eucharist and Prayer. As I celebrate the Eucharist I am always moved by the great task that has been placed in my hands. As I say those words of Institution, I am always humbled by the thought that I have been charged with the task to make Christ present to this community. Through the prayer of the Mass, I am now responsible for the people before me; for their education, their faith formation, their sacramental life I am now answerable to God. It is powerful and humbling all at the same time. It is only the reception of the Eucharist that gives me the strength to face each new day with the same strength and vigor as the day before, despite hardships and setbacks. I have also found that my prayer life has changed and deepened. One of the most common requests of the people I meet is this: “Father, pray for me.” Intercessory prayer has in many ways become the cornerstone of my prayer life; when I celebrate Mass, when I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, when I hold my rosary beads, I am bringing along with me the needs of all God’s people. This is what grounds me as a priest; this is what makes the transition just that much easier. The experience of God is a real and tangible thing and it is my duty to share that with His people.
These past months have been filled with all the ups and downs of starting a new adventure, beginning a new path, but they have been filled with a deep inner peace and joy the likes of which I have never experienced before. I know that with God’s grace I can make a difference in people’s lives if I remember this one thing: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, For the greater glory of God.
Three priests from the Archdiocese of Chicago share their vocation stories on this video. God called and they listened.
Featuring Fr. Rene Mena, Fr. Ken Simpson and Fr. Jim Hurlbert.
Two Former Totus Tuus Teachers, Tom Boharic and Bobby Krueger are scheduled for Ordination on May 12, 2012 at Holy Name Cathedral.
Each of them spent a summer leading week-long parish missions for youth grades 1 - 12 at parishes around the Archdiocese of Chicago. It was their chance to spread the faith and to continue the discernment of their call to the priesthood. Please keep them in your prayers. Check out www.totustuuschicago.com