Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Second Press Conference Highlights Seminary Faculty

Story by Daniel Miller
Photos by Sister Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B.

The evolution of the soccer program and the hobby of raising tropical fish highlighted Mount Angel Seminary's second press conference on Friday.  Dr. Andrew Cummings talked about his experience as a player and faculty advisor in soccer, and Fr. Jacob Stronach, O.S.B., spoke about the two fish tanks and numerous water-based pets he maintains.

Journalism students prepared questions for the press conference and practiced interviewing Dr. Cummings and Fr. Stronach as part of their coursework.  This was the second of three press conferences scheduled to promote potential campus stories and hone journalistic skills.

Press conference speakers Dr. Andrew Cummings
and Fr. Jacob Stronach, O.S.B.

Dr. Cummings described how the seminary's soccer team grew from spontaneous internal play in 2005 to become part of the Cascade Collegiate Soccer League that competes at a club level against area rivals such as Willamette University, Oregon State University, and Reed College.  Being part of a league allows for referees, nicer fields, and stiffer competition, Cummings said, and as a result, players at the seminary have had to train more rigorously.

"It's important at the physical level for the guys, but it also helps to put Mount Angel out there in the open," Cummings said.  "I have the impression that some people didn't know we existed.  People take us more seriously, especially after we've won a few games."

The soccer team tied 4-4 in their first match against Willamette on Sept. 29, won their second to open the season, and they have nine more games scheduled.  Cummings said he anticipates the team to finish in the middle of the standings for the seven-team league.  He also expressed hope for a revitalization of the seminary soccer field.

"We share the field with a family of gophers.  I've been assured we might be able to resurface the field in the near future," Cummings said.  "Hopefully the gophers will have to move out.  With a little bit of work, it really could be a nice area for soccer."

MAS Journalism students Jesus Gonzalez, Daniel Miller, and Romple Emwalu (front row) and Brother Marinus Kim, O.S.B., and Brother Lorenzo Conocido, O.S.B. (back row)

Fr. Stronach then spoke about his affinity for fish and how he acquired the tanks and creatures for his office and personal room in Anselm Hall.  Most of Fr. Stronach's collection of fish is freshwater species from the Amazon in South America.  Among them are angelfish, neon tetras, hatchet fish, and discus fish, which have had difficulty surviving.

Since his office sits along the main thoroughfare of Anselm Hall, many have noticed the 60-gallon tank there.  Fr. Stronach said the fish can offer a sense of peacefulness to seminarians in formation and others who enter his space, a statement he says psychological studies have shown to be true.  The equipment and supplies for the fish came out of Fr. Stronach's personal vacation budget with permission from monastery Abbot Gregory Duerr, O.S.B.

Fr. Stronach asked for the abbot's blessing to begin the project this summer because he had enjoyed raising fish before coming to the monastery and wanted to take up the hobby again.  The fish are now the centerpiece to his office and room.

"I think that a fish tank is either the prettiest thing in your house, or it's the ugliest thing," Fr. Stronach said.  "If you don't maintain them, not only is it not going to be a healthy environment, but it's going to be an eyesore."

Luckily, Fr. Stronach enjoys the process of cleaning and caring for the fish, he said.  His interest in fish has also spread to others.  Fr. Stronach bought a beta fish for his fellow monk, Fr. Aelred Yockey, O.S.B.  Fr. Yockey's fish is named Mary and resides just around the corner from Fr. Stronach.

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