Monday, October 31, 2011

Interview with Father Terry Tompkins

Michael Khong, one of the journalism students this semester, has submitted this interview with Fr. Terry Tompkins, a faculty member and formation director at Mount Angel Seminary.

A Lighthearted Spirit on the Hilltop: An Interview with Fr. Terry Tompkins
by Michael Khong

If you happen to meet Fr. Terry, you would describe him as a funny man with a loving and caring spirit.  He is also a source of encouragement for seminarians on the hilltop.  For instance, Romple Emwalu, a seminarian from the Diocese of Honolulu, is very grateful to Fr. Terry: "He encouraged me when I was suffering a spiritual battle and helped me to recognize my shortcomings.  He also seems to understand what I have been going through."

Father Terry Tompkins

Following his silver sacerdotal anniversary - twenty-five years of serving as a priest - Fr. Terry's diocese offered him some sabbatical time.  During this time, he spent several months driving across the country and seeing how great the United States is.  In August of 2007, he came to Mount Angel Seminary for studies and relaxation.

Fr. Terry said, "I had a wonderful time on the hilltop, and I was allowed to sit in on any courses that I wanted."  While he was here, a few people started wondering if he would like to become a faculty member at Mount Angel Seminary.  They asked him, "Have you ever considered becoming a formation director?"  Fr. Terry had never thought about it before; however,  he took it into consideration.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Theology on the Hill: The New Atheism

Tonight in the Store at the Press, Mark Woolman was the featured speaker for Theology on the Hill.  The Store was packed with off-hill guests and seminarians.  Mr. Woolman drew many questions from the audience as they explored the reasons for atheistic beliefs.

Mark Woolman wraps up the evening with Theology on the Hill.
Mr. Woolman has served as a Professor of Philosophy at Mount Angel Seminary for over twenty years.

The next session of Theology on the Hill will be Wednesday, December 9th, and will feature Father Jeremy Driscoll, a monk of Mount Angel Abbey and a Professor of Systematic Theology.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mount Angel Seminarians on KBVM

On Tuesday, October 18, Linda Showman, the Associate Director of Pastoral Formation, and four seminarians - James Herrera, David Trujillo, Brian Bergeron and Edson Elizarraras - made their way to KBVM, the Catholic radio station in Portland.

David Trujillo, James Herrera, Brian Bergeron, Linda Showman, and Edson Elizarraras
They had been invited to speak about pastoral formation at Mount Angel Seminary on "In Person with Dina Marie."  Ms. Showman introduced the purpose and structure of formation at the seminary, and then James, David, and Edson talked about their experiences at various onsite assignments over the years.  They also shared a bit about how they had come to discern their vocation and about seminary life.

Brian then explained "Theology on the Hill" and invited listeners to come and check it out.  The next session will be Friday, October 28, at 6 p.m. at the Store at the Press.  The featured speaker will be Mark Woolman, a professor of philosophy at Mount Angel Seminary, and he will speak on the new atheism.

Visit the audio archives page for KBVM and scroll down to "October 18th, 2011 - Mt. Angel Seminarians" to hear the interview.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate

For the second time in a week, the seminary community celebrated one of the major steps toward the ordination to the priesthood for some of its students.  Today six seminarians were ordained transitional deacons in the Abbey Church.

John G. Vlazny, the Archbishop of Portland in Oregon, presided at the Mass.  In his opening remarks, the archbishop said that the diversity of these six deacons reflects the diversity of the Church in the United States today.

Mrs. Mryna Keough and the seminary choir provided the music for the liturgy.  In addition to the organ, the vocalists were accompanied by a flute and horns.

The new deacons are:

Br. Raymond Bueno, OCD
Order of Discalced Carmelites

J. Guillermo Ramirez Chavez
Diocese of Sacramento

Jorge Moises Kamul Mac
Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon

Benjamin Tapia-Ortiz
Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon

Br. Jacob Stronach, OSB
Mount Angel Abbey

Br. Jonah Wright, OSB
Mount Angel Abbey

Journalism students: As with the men who were admitted to candidacy last week, these new deacons are excellent possibilities for a profile for our blog.  Such a profile may also include descriptions of the rite of ordination to the diaconate since many of our readers may not have attended such an ordination before.

Correction: As of 9 a.m. on October 27, 2011, the spelling of the word "organ" has been corrected in this story.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rite of Admission to Candidacy Photos

A link to a couple of group photos has been added to the previous post about the Mass for the Rite of Admission to Candidacy.  You may also see the photos here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Corrections Policy

The Mount Angel Seminary Journalism blog welcomes comments and suggestions about our work that warrants corrections.  Corrections may be left in the comments section below a story or emailed to Sister Hilda Kleiman at

For ease of reading, the needed correction will be made in the text of the story, and an editor's note will be added at the bottom of the story that explains the nature of the correction, as well as the date and the time that the correction was made.

Readers may find a list of recently corrected stories on the page at the top of the blog entitled "Corrections Policy."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rite of Admission to Candidacy

This morning Mount Angel Seminary celebrated the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for seminarians who will be ordained as deacons and priests in the near future.  

Over two dozen bishops and vocation directors came to Mount Angel Abbey this week to take part in the Mass and to attend the Annual Episcopal Council Meeting.  Archbishop John G. Vlazny of the Archdiocese of Portland was the presider at the Mass.  Under the direction of Mrs. Myrna Keough, the seminary choir provided jubilant music for the liturgy.

The seminarians admitted into Candidacy are listed below, along with links to their (arch)dioceses.  Follow the links and learn more about the dioceses served by Mount Angel Seminary.

For our journalism students who are working on profiles, each of these men is a good story possibility.

Jose Alejandro de la Cruz
Diocese of Spokane

Norman Dale Apo
Archdiocese of Portland

Brian Bergeron
Diocese of Helena

Patrick Brosamer
Archdiocese of Anchorage

John Crutchfield
Archdiocese of Helena

Joseph Fleming
Archdiocese of Helena

Daniel Gutierrez
Archdiocese of Santa Fe

James Herrera
Archdiocese of Portland

John Marshall
Archdiocese of Portland

Albert Mello
Diocese of Fresno

Philip Okwama
Archdiocese of Portland

Robert Peccatiello
Archdiocese of Santa Fe

Robert Sullivan
Diocese of Monterey

Carlo Tejano
Diocese of Sacramento

Note: As of 10 a.m. on Friday, October 21, 2011, the spelling of Archbishop John G. Vlazny's name has been corrected. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The New President of the Filipino Community

Our journalism students have completed their first stories for the semester, and a number of them pursued profiles of seminary students and faculty.  Emmanuelle del Castillo focused on the leader for one of the seminary's ethnic communities.

Neil Guan: President of Mount Angel Seminary's Filipino Community
Story and Photo by Emmanuelle del Castillo 

Neil Guan is the new president of Mount Angel Seminary's Filipino community.  He was elected by the community for the 2011-2012 academic year.  He studies for the Diocese of Las Vegas and is in his second year of philosophical studies here at Mount Angel Seminary.  He was born in the Philippines and has lived in Las Vegas for the past fifteen years.  He is the eldest of three children.

Newly Given Role

This is the first time Neil has taken the leadership role, but he has experience from his home parish.  Even though he has officially been president for about a month, he has already established important connections to Catholic Filipino communities from Salem, Silverton, and Portland.

Neil Guan with a statue of Saint Lorenzo, the first saint and martyr of the Philippines
 This year Neil is very willing to work with the other ethnic communities on the hilltop.  His expectations for the Filipino community and himself are "to glorify God as we tend the future flock."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Employee Profile: Josef Sprug

Bruce Flath, an employee of the Mount Angel Abbey Library, is one of our journalism students this semester.  For his first story, he interviewed Josef Sprug, one of his colleagues at the library.

Working for the Library - Extending His Life: A Profile of Josef Sprug
By Bruce Flath
Photo by Victoria Ertelt

A man stricken by cancer was told by his doctors in 1988 that he had only five years to live.  What better place, he thought, to spend those precious years than someplace close to the angels?  That's when he decided to move to Mount Angel.  Twenty-three years later, you'll find that man volunteering at the Mount Angel Abbey Library.

Josef Sprug
 Josef Sprug, whose father immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  A professional librarian and indexer, he comes to the library nearly every day.  Unassuming in manner and gracious in hospitality, you often see the elderly gentleman moving about the stacks, ready to help patrons and visitors.

Sprug holds both a library degree and an M.A. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America.  Before coming to the Mount Angel Abbey Library, he had created or collaborated on indexes to the literature of fairy tales and the works of Chesterton and St. Augustine.  For nine years he compiled the Catholic Periodical Index.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another News Tip from NPR

This Sunday's news tip from David Folkenflik on NPR discusses credibility in the light of a number of major news organizations that have damaged their credibility in the recent months.

Once credibility and trust is lost, it is extremely difficult to regain it.  Listen to the story and consider how this may apply not only to our work as journalists but all of our ministries.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Faculty: Sister Gertrude Feick, OSB

Bryce Lungren is the second seminarian who will have his journalism work featured in the upcoming issue of the Catholic Sentinel that has a special focus on Mount Angel Seminary.  He contributes a profile of one of the seminary's new faculty members.

Making St. Benedict Proud: Mount Angel Seminary Welcomes Sister Gertrude
by Bryce Lungren
Photos by Sandra Chiodo

Mount Angel Seminary has always been dedicated to providing seminarians with a superb education.  An excellent example of this scholarly pride is the recent appointment of Sister Gertrude Feick, OSB, as an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.

Sister Gertrude during a class at Mount Angel Seminary
 Sister Gertrude has just completed three years of study at the Angelicum, a Pontifical University in Rome, where she has been working on earning her Licentiate of Sacred Theology (STL) in Spiritual Theology.

This fall semester, Sister Gertrude is teaching Introduction to Christian Spirituality as well as assisting in Liturgy Documents.  Next spring, she is scheduled to teach Historical Introduction to Theology, Christian Spirituality and Practicum, and to team-teach Theology of the Liturgy with Father Paschal Cheline, OSB.

Sister Gertrude explained how the bar has been raised for those involved in seminary education.  No longer it is just priests and religious teaching theology; it is whoever is the most qualified, which is often lay professors.  In this regard, one could say that seminary employment is not much different than corporate America, which Sister Gertrude knew well before entering Queen of Angels Monastery eleven years ago.

However, unlike the competitive corporate world, Mount Angel Seminary professors collaborate to bring out the best in one another.  Sister Gertrude said that Mount Angel Seminary is such a wonderful environment to work in because "you can find people who are very willing to support and help a person to do what he or she needs to do.  In my case, I am still trying to finish my degree."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A New Seminarian

Each year Mount Angel Seminary holds a benefit dinner, and the Catholic Sentinel, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, publishes a special section dedicated to the seminary to coincide with the dinner.

This year, two seminarians will have their writing featured in that special section.  The first student, Dean Marshall, interviewed a new first-year seminarian, John Hesla.  Dean is studying for the Diocese of Sacramento, and his interview is below.  Thank you, Dean, for your contribution!

Preparing for God's People: An Interview with John Hesla
by Dean Marshall

John Hesla, a young man from St. Cecilia Parish and a first-year seminarian at Mount Angel Seminary, relates a vocational call that is filled with unexpected turns.

John Hesla
Hesla converted to the Catholic faith in 2004 with the rest of his family when he was in the sixth grade and eventually found himself at St. Cecilia Parish.  He grew to love the "sacraments, tradition, and universality" of the Church.  Little did he realize that his journey would eventually bring him to Mount Angel Seminary.

In middle school, Hesla began altar serving, getting to know the priests and the Mass.  During this time, one of his parish priests, Fr. Peter Fernandez, told him he would be a good priest.  Several of Hesla's friends and another priest agreed, and so he began to consider the priesthood.  It would still be several years, however, before he would actively pursue the call.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Holy Man of Hawai'i

The Mount Angel Seminary Journalism blog continues to publish portions of the formal and informal academic writing of the students of Mount Angel Seminary.

Frank Villanueva, a student in Writing in the Humanities, a first-year college writing course at Mount Angel Seminary, offers the piece of informal writing below.  Another piece of his informal writing can be seen here.  Frank is a seminarian for the Diocese of Honolulu.  Through his reflection, we see how our seminarians make connections with their home dioceses even when they are far from home at Mount Angel Seminary.

Frank Villanueva:

Last semester my diocesan brother introduced me to a book entitled Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai.  I was born and raised in Hawai'i and knew a little about St. Damien.  After reading this book, I have a new sense of love and respect for this great and holy saint.  Reading this book reminded me a lot about what Christ went through in his ministry.

 Following Traditions

In my reading of the life of Saint Damien, there were many typologies that I saw throughout his life and ministry.  One in particular struck me the most, his answer to the call to the life of a priest.  According to Ronald D. Witherup's Bible Companion, the written tradition, "especially when crisis erupted that threatened to destroy the faith heritage of the chosen people" was written down by trained scribes in order to preserve them (10).  Like the scribes writing traditions down to preserve them, Saint Damien's interest in the priesthood came during a time in which his country was under crises that threatened the very lives and traditions of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Local News Sources

This week NPR's On the Media aired an interview with Lee Rainie about a new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project.  The study looked the sources that people used to obtain their local news.  Listen to the interview here.

The study organized people's responses according to the source of the local news rather than the platform.  For instance, news obtained from Twitter was counted as word of mouth rather than the internet.  The study also has some important insights into the use of social media in the local news.

Journalism students: Which part of the interview did you find the most interesting or surprising?  What implications does this study have for our work at Mount Angel Seminary?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Riding a Bicycle - Letting Go

Below is another piece of informal writing from a student of Mount Angel Seminary, another peek into the every day activities of our seminary classrooms.  

All faculty are welcome to submit the writing of their students for publication on our journalism blog and the seminary website.  We welcome both short and long piece and formal papers and informal assignments.

This semester in Writing in the Humanities, one of the English Communications courses offered by Mount Angel Seminary, the students read the poem "Arrowood House" from the book Out of Town by Lex Runciman.  Runciman is an English professor at nearby Linfield College.

One of the students, Brother Jesus Maria Leija, OSB, offered this reflection on "Arrowood House."  A father is teaching his young daughter to ride a bicycle, and the last three stanzas read:

I can no more do this for you than fly.  I forget
how many days it took, how many times
falling was the price and the end.  I remember

an evening after dinner.  The bicycle,
as I run, as you peddle, floats free: you know,
and I let go.  You have done this for yourself.

I am unsure of how to turn or stop.
I see you balanced, upright,
one of the world's happiest children. 

In his reflection, Brother Jesus Maria writes:

My take on this poem is summed up in two words: letting go.  I could just picture the father probably holding one side of the handlebars . . . While she is pedaling faster and faster he is trying to keep up, yet in a very awkward position, he is trying to steady the bicycle with his little girl on it.  I think what is important here is that he has both hands holding his child with all his might out of love for her.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hike to Saddle Mountain

Father Ralph Recker led students from Mount Angel Seminary on a second hike in September, this time to Saddle Mountain.  They celebrated Mass at the top of the trail and also enjoyed the Oregon coast on the way home.

Thank you, Hoa Tran, for sending in the photos below.  Photos from previous hikes can be seen here and here.

Some beautiful views from Saddle Mountain:

Celebrating Mass:

Father Ralph Recker

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hike to Table Rock

Last month Father Ralph Recker, one of the formation directors for Mount Angel Seminary, led a group of seminarians on a day hike to nearby Table Rock.  As with his previous hikes, the students saw stunning scenery and celebrated Mass before returning home.  

For our journalism students, future hikes are a good story possibility.  Thank you, Hoa Tran, for sharing these photos of the hike!

Father Ralph, holding the cross, with the Table Rock hikers
Celebrating Mass