Monday, May 19, 2014

Mount Angel Seminary Sends Workers into the Lord's Vineyard at its 125th Commencement Exercises

St. Benedict, Ore. – Earlier this month, Mount Angel Seminary celebrated its 125th Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises, continuing its mission given by Archbishop William Gross in 1889 to “send forth angels in flesh and blood to promote, as not even angels in heaven can do, the glory of God on earth."

On May 9th in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, Mount Angel Seminary welcomed faculty, family members, and friends of the community to the annual Baccalaureate Mass. Monsignor Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, served as the main celebrant and Abbot Peter Eberle, OSB, the Vice-Rector of the Theologate and Director of Human Formation, delivered the homily. The Mount Angel Seminary choir, directed by Mrs. Myrna Keough, led the congregation in worship, including a moving rendition of Palestrina’s “Sicut Cervus.”

Abbot Peter, reflecting on the meaning of the word “commencement,” reminded the graduates that just as St. Paul experienced a new beginning on the road to Damascus, their commencement indicated that “something completely new was about to begin, [and] in some sense it also indicated something had come to an end. Life would never again be the same.”
Honored guest William Cardinal Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, offered closing remarks and congratulations in anticipation of the commencement ceremony.
The Commencement Exercises began the next day, Saturday May 10, at 10 a.m. Cardinal Levada, who served as Chair of the Seminary’s Board of Regents while he was the Archbishop of Portland in Oregon from 1986 to 1995, delivered the commencement address. The Cardinal reminded the graduates to “never presume the knowledge of the faith in those for whom you are responsible; rather you should always seek ways to propose it with fresh insight.”
Cardinal Levada told the graduates that their primary responsibility was in forming those whom they will serve in the faith so that all of God’s people would be ready to “share [the faith] with others confidently.” In closing, Cardinal Levada gave thanks for the “pioneering missionary spirit of the Benedictine founders of Mount Angel” who have helped to form thousands of priests in the seminary’s 125-year history.
The Reverend Mister Lauro Minimo, a graduate of the seminary Theology program for the Diocese of San Diego, delivered the annual senior farewell, exhorting his peers to “be that bridge to Christ...[to] set the world on fire with God’s love” as he reflected on Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis. Echoing Abbot Peter’s homily from the day prior, Deacon Minimo told the gathered graduates, family, and friends of the community, “It is true that we are never the same as when we first came here, but in another respect we leave here as we came…hopeful, excited, still eager, still smiling…and united together in Jesus Christ.”

In his closing remarks, Msgr. Betschart gave thanks for all of those involved with the “education and formation of priests and religious and lay men and women with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ for servant leadership to God’s holy people” over Mount Angel’s long and fruitful history. Finally, he gave thanks for the 184 present seminarians and students “who have heard the Lord calling them by name, and have generously and faithfully given their ‘yes’ to Him” and he offered special congratulations to the graduating class. 

Mount Angel Seminary offers undergraduate degrees in Philosophy, with possible double majors in Literature or Religious Studies, with the goal of preparing men for graduate formation for the priesthood. At the graduate level, the seminary offers Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degrees in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Theology, as well as a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology offered in concert with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy. Next year, Mount Angel Seminary will also begin offering a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy for its pre-theology students. 

This year the seminary granted 13 undergraduate degrees and 27 graduate degrees to seminarians, religious and lay students from around the United States and the Pacific Islands. In addition, in an earlier ceremony nine seminarians received certificates of completion for the pre-theology program.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Voces Fidei Sings for Christ and the Church

by Frank Villaneuva

The group Voces Fidei is a quintet of seminarians that come from different parts of the country and share their love of music through a cappella.  Phillip Shifflet of the Diocese of Orange, Greg Snyder from the Archdiocese of Seattle, John Hesla and Stephen Cieslak of the Archdiocese of Portland and I, Frank Villanueva from the Diocese of Honolulu, make up this diverse group of singing seminarians.  We have joined our gifts and talents together to create one unique sound.  The name of our group reminds us to excel and to always be a voice of faith.

Voce Fidei: Stephen Cieslak, Gregory Snyder, Frank Villanueva,
Phillip Shifflet, and John Hesla. Photo credit: Ivan Garcia

When I asked this group of men to be part of this singing group here on the hilltop, I never could have imagined how far this group would go.  We started singing just for fun until one day our choir director, Mrs. Myrna Keough, heard us and asked us if we would be willing to put an a capella piece together and sing for the annual Seminary Benefit Dinner in Portland, Oregon.  Since then we have been a part of the Portland Benefit Dinner and the Benefit Dinner held annually in Eugene, Oregon.

At celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of Mount Angel Seminary, the group was asked to sing during the program.  The group was also asked to sing for various community events such as the annual Ambassadors of the Mount Angel Abbey Retreat House luncheon and the recent ordination of Br. Rito Guzman of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.  Voces Fidei also sang for the ordination dinner of Portland’s new Auxiliary Bishop, Peter Smith.

Our love for music and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through the ministry of music is a gift that will extend beyond this holy mountain.  Stephen Cieslak said, “Voces Fidei is a group who sings for Christ and his Church. As priests we will be representatives of that Church, though we are now as seminarians too. Singing, glorifying God with voice is prayer in a unique and loving way. This [will] carry over into our ministry in celebrating the sacraments and ministering to the people, drawing them closer to Him who loves us.”

One of the common musical backgrounds that we all share is our musical experiences in various choirs and in our parish ministries.  For instance, Greg Snyder was a part of his parish’s music ministry and sang for various choral groups before entering the seminary.  These experiences all helped to put together this wonderful group of men who love to sing and make music for the Lord.

I started the group in 2012 as a way to continue my love of music, which has been a big part of my life since I was six.  At the age of eight, I became a member of the Honolulu Boy Choir and remained until the age of thirteen.  My love for music continued in my parish life as a cantor for three different parishes in my home town of Pearl City.  In 2004, I became a member of one of Hawaii’s newest and hottest singing sensations, the “Fab 4.”  The group sang melodies from the 50s and 60s, Broadway hits, contemporary Hawaiian music, impersonations such as Don Ho and Elvis Presley, and we featured songs from artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire, and Yvonne Ellemin.

Starting this group wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  It was tough to find others who are just as passionate and committed to the work needed to prepare such pieces for a cappella singing.  These guys were a pitch perfect match.  “Our voices mesh really well and we get along together too,” Hesla said.  When I asked them what the differences were singing in a quintet group such as ours as compared to a choral group, Shifflet said, “You have to be more attentive to each other as not to single your voice out and sing to make it sound like one voice rather than many voices.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Students Learn Irony and Sophistication Through Medieval Literature

by Jonathan Eubanks

This spring semester, like many spring semesters before, Dr. Creighton Lindsay is teaching his Medieval Literature course for the College II class.  The course is known for both its knowledgeable and engaging professor and its rich and extensive material.  This pivotal academic adventure, pivotal for the role it plays in the formation of the students academically, spiritually, and personally, accompanies and guides the students on a journey through the age after the fall of the Roman Empire up until the Renaissance, covering such texts as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and even the great Shakespearean tragedy Othello.

Dr. Lindsay is very knowledgeable about these works of literature and about the history of the people and their cultures. As one student from the class, Emilio Gonzalez, put it, "The professor is awesome.  The way Dr. Lindsay teaches is with a lot of passion, so it's very easy to go to class.  And it is a very good environment [in which] to learn."

Being accompanied by Dr. Lindsay's extensive knowledge of the cultures and histories, the literature, such as Boccaccio's The Decameron, enlightens the reader about a time when the world was in turmoil.  However, it was also a time when the Church was growing and spreading.  Educated monks and priests worked diligently to preserve the faith, as well as their own culture, in a world that could have easily been destroyed by the many other hardships affecting their livelihood.  In his class Dr. Lindsay mentioned the consensus amongst scholars that Beowulf was written by a monk, most likely of Saxon birth, and preserved by a monastic community for centuries in England.

When asked how his class fits our formation as future priests, Dr. Lindsay responded, "Almost all of the texts we read are in the context of Christianity, and it shows, I think, the development of a very sophisticated authorial understanding of Christianity."  He points out that there is a metamorphosis that occurs in what the students read.  In Beowulf and in the poems that they read at the beginning of the semester, there is a "piety that is sophisticated" in the literature, but "the sense of narrative potential hasn't been quite explored at the same level that you get, for example, with Chaucer.  I see it fitting into formation because you can watch in one semester the development of that sophistication.  That sophistication, really, is attached to irony."

According to Dr. Lindsay, irony plays an important role in the lives of the medieval authors.  He focuses a large portion of his energy on educating his students about the importance of irony in their own lives.  He said, "Irony gives us the appreciation, irony gives us a more attuned ear to, not just the language of those people around us, but also to the possibilities of joy in life."

One of the assignments that Dr. Lindsay has his students do in his class is a practice of memorization.  The student is tasked with either reciting the first eighteen lines of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in contemporary English (or for extra credit in Middle English), or reciting a Shakespearean sonnet.  Dr. Lindsay said, "You get the music of the language in your ear in a more profound way than you do simply reading it off the page."

He also used a sports analogy to convey the point that memorizing something makes the student feel like they have conquered an obstacle, and that this accomplishment is important for building character in the student.

How does Dr. Lindsay see the benefit of his course for future priests?  He said, "I think that we could go on forever about that, but I would have to defer to my good friend Fr. Paschal. That if you can enjoy that irony that we find in Chaucer, that sort of deep understanding of the world that means, I think, that translates into you as a priest."

As priests the students will have to minister to all kinds of people and in many different situations.  Dr. Lindsay, quoting Fr. Paschal, said that it is important for a priest to have "a wide understanding of the world," and as the students read the texts of the class they in turn "become more sophisticated."  This point of contact for not only the course but all of literature seems to be a crucial axiom for the students and further leads them, like Emilio, to get excited about going to class.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Serve, Set, Spike! That’s What Volleyball Is About When It Comes To The MAS Guardians

A Photo Essay by Jose Morales

Ace Tui and Isidore Slade hold up the game ball and are the official scorekeepers for the season.

Ivan Garcia, the Emcee for the game, with Sister Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B.

The Mount Angel Guardians Volleyball Team starting lineup. 

Sr. Hilda Kleiman, O.S.B., saying the opening prayer for
 the Willamette Valley Boys versus Mount Angel volleyball game. 

A player for the Willamette Valley Boys starting off the game
with an overhand serve.

A Willamette Valley Boys player (10) sets the ball up for the hit for his teammate (8).

Huong Dinh from the Guardians, an outside hitter, jumps to spike the ball 
to the Willamette Valley Boys.

Raul Barriga and Daniel Miller on the Guardians' side help Deacon Alexander De Paulis, the middle blocker, to block the shot from a Willamette player.

The Guardians gather to regroup and strategize after the Willamette team calls for a time out.

The Willamette Valley Boys huddle up during the time out.

Dinh, the outside hitter, jumps to spike the ball while two defenders try to block it. 

Dinh gets a good spike on the ball to the other side.

The Vikings from Woodburn gather before the start
of their game against MAS.

Justin Ryan begins the first serve of the game with an underhand serve.

A player from the Vikings (in white), tries to spike the ball to the Guardians side, 
while two defenders tries to block it. 

The Guardians wait in suspense while Stephen Cieslak passes the ball over on the last hit out of the three.

A Viking player serves as a setter for his team while two Guardians
try to block the ball.

Cieslak (7) spikes the ball to the opponents by
going off the floor with two feet.

The Vikings coach jumps up to spike the ball to the Guardians side
while De Paulis tries to block.

Pio Afu tips the ball over to the other side while two players from the Vikings attempt to block it.

Dinh (10) jumps to try another spike at the white team.

The Vikings watch in suspense as their coach spikes the ball trying to score against the Guardians.

Guardians players Dinh (10) and Cieslak (7) jump trying to block a spike from the Vikings.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Passionate Helper Dr. Mark Van Ness Raising Up Norms for Seminarians

by Brother Marinus Kim, OSB

Dr. Van Ness, who is an assistant professor of English Communications at Mount Angel Seminary, brings passionate multicultural experience and lots of energy to his teaching. 

He gave a clue about his plan to join the seminary faculty. He said, “I knew already Mount Angel mainly because I had looked online for a place to have a spiritual retreat before I worked for the school.”

Mr. Jim Sisley, who teaches at MAS and Portland Community College (PCC), gave the information about the job to his boss, the department chairperson at PCC. Dr. Van Ness looked at the job posting and two words attracted him: “pronunciation and speaking.” He really likes that even if he is teaching reading and writing too. Furthermore, he says that it is a good way to help future priests.

He was reading some books about Benedictine spirituality at that time he applied. In addition, one of his friends gave him good information about the seminary job. This friend was a friend with Ms. Kathy Akiyama, who also teaches at Mount Angel Seminary.   

Dr. Van Ness described the seminarians' multiculturalism and the best way of improving of their second language: “One of my students in China . . . told me that the best way to learn another language is this: find a fluent speaker who is teaching your second language, then both of you go into same prison cell together.”  

Dr. Van Ness did not really do that and does not recommend it, but he thinks that is about being exposed to the language. The best way is as much as possible to expose yourself to that language. 

His life in China, almost ten years, was a good example. He was only the English speaker and all the others around him were Chinese speakers. He had to learn their language and their culture to survive. At MAS, seminarians do not have much chance that way, but they can help each other to learn other languages with humility and grace. The most important thing to do is to practice as much as possible on yourself when you get the new ways. 

Dr. Van Ness chose to go to China for English teaching as a volunteer because he loves serving and teaching: “I had been given so much, God blessed me in so many ways that it is good to try to give back something to people.”  He also speaks Chinese Sign Language for deaf people.

For those who need help, Dr. Van Ness is developing some ways to help the students according to his teaching experiments at PCC, in China, and at Mount Angel Seminary. He said, “I am developing more skills and more ideas about how we teach, especially intonation and rhythm.”

To get better experience, he is teaching the Capstone Seminar, and he is the English Standards reader for all of the capstones, the final project for college-four students before they graduate. He is helping seminarians to develop their good thesis statements, presentations and to clearly pronounce and present arguments. 

Dr. Van Ness was born in New Jersey and grew up there until he studied for his master’s degree. His parents took care of five kids, three boys and two girls. After he finished studying business in college, he worked for the Hilton Corporation for a year. He realized that this job was not for him.  He decided to obtain a master’s degree of education. Then, it happened as one his college professors once foretold, “One day you are going to be a teacher.” 

While teaching middle school, he had a chance to go to China as a volunteer for summer break. He likes helping others, so he was happy to train English teachers who worked in poor areas. With this good experience, he worked in China almost ten years, and he got an MA and prepared for a Ph.D in intercultural education. Due to his mom’s illness, he felt it was the time to go back to America. He came back and settled in Oregon.

Br. Lorenzo Conocido, OSB, who is a student in the pronunciation class, said, “Dr. Mark Van Ness always treats his students with dignity, respectful of our diverse cultural background. It’s amazing how he can keep a professional composure even in the most laughable situations that happen whenever we’re having language drills!”

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Postcard From the Hilltop Photo Challenge and MAS Journalism Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Postcard from the Hilltop Photo Challenge and the MAS Journalism Awards:

The Photo Challenge Winners:

Dean Marshall - 3rd Place

Brother Lorenzo Conocido, OSB - 2nd Place

Brother Basil Lawrence, OSB - 1st Place

Our first place photograph is now a beautiful postcard that may be purchased for $1 each at the Abbey Bookstore!

The MAS Journalism Awards:

Best Single Piece of Writing:

Daniel Miller - Joani Steffen Retires, Remembers, is Embaced

Joani Steffen with seminarian Romple Emwalu

Best Single Photograph:

Jose Morales - The Honolulu Seminarians and Their Snowman

Best Blog Post:

Brother Lorenzo Conocido, OSB - The Vows We Make, the Life We Live

Best Shelf Talker:

Brother Marinus Kim, OSB - Benedictine Medals

Congratulations to all of our award winners!  We look forward to more great work from our journalism students and the rest of the seminary community next year!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fr. Nguyen Speaks on the Vietnamese Community in Oregon

News Brief by Romple Emwalu

Editor's Note: This is the third of three news briefs on presentations from this class this semester.

Ms. Kathy Akiyama’s class, Cultural Diversity in the Global Society, invited Father Liem Nguyen, O.S.B., a Director of Formation, to talk with the class about the Vietnamese community living in Oregon.  The Vietnamese community is growing rapidly in the United States today.
Father Nguyen said that the Vietnamese are different from other ethnicities in terms of their culture and how they live. “Vietnamese come to settle down in the United States to find a good education. Two of the most common goals most Vietnamese are aiming at is to at least have a doctor or a priest in their family,” said Father Nguyen.
Father Nguyen said that most of the Vietnamese are very determined in labor, business, education and other fields: “Parents are worried about their children’s future; they make sure their kids can grow up with a good education or something that could [provide a] living in the future.”  He said that Vietnamese are very friendly and kind to the people; whatever help  they offer to the community is the same help they offer to the church.

Fr. Lange Reflects on the Hispanic Community

News Brief by Romple Emwalu

Editor's Note: This is the second of three news briefs on presentations from this course this semester.

On March, 17, 2014, the Cultural Diversity in the Global Society class, taught by Ms. Kathy Akiyama, invited Fr. Theodore Lange, a Formation Director and Adjunct Professor of Religious and Systematic Theology, to give a talk on his experience with the Hispanic community in the Archdiocese of Portland.  

Fr. Lange finds the Hispanic community interesting, challenging and a good group to work with. He sees that different Hispanic communities, even those that are close to one another, have a different understanding of the liturgy compared to their sister communities.  One of the examples he used is a Hispanic community in Molalla, a town about fifteen minutes north of Mount Angel Seminary. They do not quite understand the Hispanic community living in the Mount Angel area.  

“This is one of the challenges the priests today have to face,” said Fr. Lange. He emphasized that we have to remember that America was meant to be a melting pot; everyone is free to bring their culture, sharing it with one another. He also mentioned that one of the important elements for a priest to remember is that he is there to serve his people. “We do not change people to the way we think, but we learn to accept them and to understand them well,” said Fr. Lange.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fiacre Nduwayo Offers Presentation on the Church and Culture in Africa

News Brief by Romple Emwalu

Editor's Note: This news brief is one of three that will be covering presentations for this course this semester.

In Ms. Kathy Akiyama’s class, Cultural Diversity in a Global Society, seminarian Fiacre Nduwayo gave a presentation on the Roman Catholic Church in Africa. Nduwayo, a college four student studying philosophy for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, is originally from Rwanda.

Nduwayo pointed out that many people are confused about Africa, and when they ask him if he is from the country of Africa, he reminds them that Africa is not a country but a continent made up of sixty-one countries. 

Nduwayo sees that this misunderstanding leads many people to think that Africans are all the same in terms of culture and the celebration of Roman Catholic Church’s liturgy. Nduwayo demonstrated clearly that Africa has many different cultures: “We don’t speak the same language, and that’s what makes it difficult for the priest, especially a foreigner priest, but there is a commonality I see that unifies the Africans,” said Nduwayo. He continued, “The key element that can unify the Africans is faith.” Nduwayo clearly showed throughout his presentation that Africans have many different cultures of which we need to build our awareness.