Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Studying the Copernican Revolution at MAS with Dr. Duncan Parks

by Garrett McGowan

Many people believe that you must choose to be on the side of science or on the side of the Church.  This causes many conflicts and debates between the two sides.  As seminarians, we have to know what the arguments are, and at Mount Angel Seminary Dr. Duncan Parks helps to train seminarians to discuss these issues.

Dr. Parks teaches a course on the Copernican Revolution, and through this course he helps to bridge the gap that many people see and to prepare future priests to answer any questions that may come up.

Dr. Parks is a biologist, yet he has a background in the Copernican Revolution and has read much on about the subject.  He said it has become one of his favorite courses that he teaches.  One of the reasons he sees this class as important to seminarians is because priests need to have knowledge of the events of the Copernican Revolution.  Dr. Parks said, "An understanding of the historical, theological, and scientific context of those events will make seminarians better at reconciling their faith with the pastorally relevant findings of contemporary science."

With all of the new discoveries that science is encountering, many questions are sure to arise on the Catholic Church's position.  No priest can avoid these questions and must be ready to give an answer.  Dr. Parks looks to prepare his seminarians for their future ministries.

The Copernican Revolution is still relevant to the priesthood today.  Modern science started with the Copernican model and gave science a new way of looking at the cosmos.  Modern science keeps making new discoveries that priests in the Vatican are looking at.  The Catholic Church wants to keep up with all the newest discoveries.

Dr. Parks expects students to enter into the class with an open mind to what scientists have to say.  He wants seminarians to not be afraid to engage in science.  He said, "I remind my students of St. Thomas's assertion that there cannot be any true conflict between revelation and science."  With this approach, Dr. Parks can show why science matters to the priesthood.

Dr. Parks does not see any conflict between science and the Catholic Church; he sees them more as two sides of the same coin.  The job of science is to do research, not answer ethical questions.  Dr. Parks believes that this is where the Church comes in, to help answer these questions.  Dr. Parks said, "Science is great at figuring out what is going on objectively, but ethical decisions that apply scientific knowledge ("ought" questions) are not part of the domain of science.  When it's time to decide what to do with the results of scientific research, the Church has a role to play."

With this kind of mindset, we can see how the two sides work together and complement each other.  The Copernican Revolution is a class for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the cosmos and to learn where the Catholic Church stands on issues of the past and today.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tackling Philosophy through Film

by Garrett McGowan

When seminarians come to Mount Angel Seminary at the college level, they work towards a Bachelor's degree in philosophy.  Most of the philosophy course are required, yet there are a few that are electives.  Art of Philosophy is one of those electives, and this year the class is taught by Mr. Mark Woolman.

The class is different from the other philosophy classes because it involves watching films and using chapters from a book to help uncover philosophical meanings within the films.  In the class, seminarians are learning to look beneath the surface of what is in front of them to gain knowledge to ask the bigger questions in life.

The book Woolman uses is Ten Philosophical Mistakes.  Questions that come up are varied from chapter to chapter in accordance with each film.  What is morality?  Do we really have freedom of choice?  Are we happy or just content?  These are questions everyone should ask themselves.  Woolman wants everyone in his class to walk away asking themselves about the possible answers to these questions.

The book and films for the Art of Philosophy

For example, the movie Crimes and Misdemeanors is used to help discuss the chapter on morality.  In the movie the characters are in conflict with their moral beliefs and what they feel they must do to protect themselves.  It takes a look at what happens when there are no clear answers to a situation and what may happen when people push their moral convictions aside to protect themselves or others.

The movie Gattaca is used with the book's chapter on human society.  The movie is about how a person's life is determined by society at the time of his or her birth and how society deems his or her worth, even if it is based on false information.  The chapter talks about human society and civilization and how we treat one another.  Another chapter in the book asks if we have any real freedom of choice.  The movie used for this chapter is The Truman Show.

Woolman challenges his students to watch a movie and then to see if there are any deeper meanings to the plot.  Because this class is designed to get students thinking, they are able to carry these ideas outside the classroom and into conversations with other people.  After taking the class, seminarians can go to a movie or read a book and ask themselves how it relates to life.  They can ask themselves what can be learned from what they viewed or read.  This class can make the experience of watching a movie or reading a book all the richer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mount Angel Seminary Holds Theological Symposium on the Cross of Christ

Photo and story by Phillip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Thursday, November 12 and Friday, November 13, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) held its annual theological symposium. This year, Rev. Donald Senior, CP, was the keynote speaker. Fr. Senior is a Passionist priest and renowned Scripture scholar who holds both a licentiate and doctorate in sacred theology from the University of Louvain in Belgium. For 23 years, he served as the President of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, one of the largest theologates in the country. In addition to teaching courses in New Testament Studies, he currently serves as Chancellor of CTU. He is the author of numerous publications and books, including Jesus: A Gospel Portrait, The Catholic Study Bible, and most recently, Why the Cross?

Fr. Senior’s symposium was entitled “The Memory of the Passion,” and it concentrated on the meaning of the cross. The symposium spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. All conferences were followed by a period for questions. In his first conference, he reflected on the process and meaning of crucifixion in the first century (i.e., what the contemporaries of Jesus would have understood about crucifixion). In his second conference, he showed how the meaning of the cross was transformed from an instrument of torture and death to “the sign of life and unconditional love.” He made frequent references to New Testament texts, especially to St. Paul and to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. John. In his final session, he spoke of the theme of the cross in relation to discipleship. The Christian community, he said, “is to live in the shadow of the cross and let it have an impact on the way we deal with each other… We are to live in the spirit of self-transcending and self-giving.”

From left to right: Deacon Owen F. Cummings, Academic Dean of MAS; Rev. Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of MAS; Rev. Donald Senior, CP; and Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Professor of Theology at MAS.

Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, discusses the role of the cross in a seminarian’s formation: “Spiritual formation has its roots in the experience of the cross, which in deep communion leads to the totality of the paschal mystery.” In his conferences, Fr. Senior helped the community to enter more deeply into the experience of the cross. Affirming this in his closing remarks, Msgr. Betschart thanked Fr. Senior with these words: “The incredible insights that you shared with us… I think we will never look at the cross the same way again, as a result.”
Symposia are a standard part of the formation program at MAS, and typically focus on theological or human formation-related issues. Last semester, MAS held a formation symposium with Fr. Michael Casey, OCSO, who presented on lectio divina. Last year’s theological symposium was focused on the liturgy, with conferences by Msgr. Kevin Irwin.
Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Joel Kibler Reflects on Prayer for Seminary’s Fall Day of Recollection

Story by Phillip J. Shifflet

On Wednesday, November 5, 2015, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) hosted its bi-annual day of recollection for seminarians. In the morning, Mass was celebrated in St. Joseph Chapel by the Most Rev. Peter L. Smith, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. Thereafter followed four conferences on the topic of prayer given by Joel Kibler, a lay brother and the superior of the Brotherhood of the People of Praise.

On-campus days of recollection are held once per semester at MAS and seek to respond to the Program for Priestly Formation’s exhortation that “the Seminary program and spiritual direction should teach seminarians to value solitude and personal prayer as a necessary part of priestly spirituality. Occasions for silence and properly directed solitude should be provided during retreats and days of recollection” (PPF 121). The entire day is spent in silence, with several conferences to help foster personal prayer.

In his homily, Bishop Smith reflected on the passage from the Gospel of St. Luke where Jesus addresses the great crowds, saying, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?” (Luke 14:28). The seminary, Bishop Peter said, is trying to help us be prepared. “If you look at the life of Jesus, he was always available for ministry. Yet, the disciples and apostles would find him off by himself praying, being with the Father. We have to do that. Brothers, we cannot give what we do not have.” In anticipation of Kibler’s conferences, Bishop Smith defined prayer as “a relationship with the risen, glorified Lord. A relationship that is very unequal, but ultimately one in which Jesus wants to make us his friend.”

Kibler’s morning conferences, entitled “That Christ May Shine in Us” and “Noise, Too Much Noise,” laid the foundations for the experience of prayer and growth in holiness and sought to enumerate some of the things in our culture that are obstacles to cultivating a life of prayer. In the first conference, he wished “to remind us to raise our consciousness to a higher level to a world inside of us, to this interior world where Christ and His Father and the Holy Spirit dwell. But there's this problem. Our growth in love of God is blocked by many, many obstacles in the external world.” In the second conference, he spoke primarily of this problem of noise, particularly of information noise, as an obstacle to the life of prayer. “How can we ever know the love of God when his voice and his tender touches are drowned out by the noise of all this information? This immersion [in the media] is a major obstacle in years of formation.”

Kibler’s afternoon conferences, entitled “From Complexity to Simplicity” and “So That We May Shine in the World,” touched on the need to become simpler and how this can affect our living in the world. “If we want a genuine friendship with God,” Kibler said in his third conference, “which is at the heart of Catholicism and is certainly at the heart of ministry, then we need to simplify our environment. But not only that: we need to simplify ourselves.” He encouraged us to move from a complexity of life to a simplicity of heart, where we can overcome a love of self so that we can love just one thing, namely the Lord. In his final conference of the day, Kibler reflected on the person of St. Paul, who shone as a light in the darkness and who understood that there was only one sorrow – not to be a saint. “The more we shine in the world,” Kibler said, “the more the Lord rejoices.”

The Brotherhood of the People of Praise, of which Bishop Smith is also a member, has status in the Catholic Church as a private association of the faithful. Its members are associated with the charismatic ecumenical group People of Praise, and its priests are incardinated in the Archdiocese of Portland.

Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Seminarians Make a Difference at Local Shelter

by Brother William Petry, M.Sp.S.

On Saturday, Oct. 10th, half of the second-year college seminarians volunteered at St. Joseph Shelter in Mount Angel as part of their pastoral formation. St. Joseph Shelter is a ministry that serves a variety of people in the local area. It was founded by the Benedictine Sisters at Queen of Angels Monastery in 1988. The shelter used to serve as a college in the 60s and 70s but was repurposed for the shelter in the late 80s.

The seminarians were greeted by Mike Norman, one of the directors of the shelter who serves along with Jennifer Johren. Mike greeted them with a smile as he finished a meeting with someone in his office. He began briefing the group about the history and mission of the shelter at the reception area of the building. During this time he was interrupted by three or four workers who asked him for directions, keys, or his signature. It was evident that Mike is very busy in his work to keep this shelter running.

The facility at St. Joseph Shelter can house up to 11 families, and Mission Benedict, their food pantry, feeds up to 200 local families. They also have a house for immigrant workers called Casa de Refugio St. Jose, which houses up to 80 men. As Mike showed the seminarians the food pantry he explained that the shelter is currently under construction; nevertheless, they chose to keep it open. “Let’s help more people and modify our office space,” explained Mark regarding the rationale behind the changes that are being made. After its construction, the shelter should be able to house up to 17 families.

The College Two students before they headed for St. Joseph Shelter.

After the short tour, Mike showed the group their task: a main office at the entrance of the shelter. It had accumulated many things and needed to be cleaned. The seminarians didn’t need any more directions. They started working, some directing, while others chose his corner with which to work. A wooden cabinet was removed and placed in a storage building, and all of the items in the office were organized and then cleaned. Within a few hours, the office was good as new. The group worked well together and efficiently completed their task. At the conclusion of their experience Marc Jenkins shared, “It was a great time to see the brotherhood between us as we worked.” 

Fall Write-In Offers Assistance and Companionship

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

The third Write-In offered by the MAS Writing Center was held the evening of Friday, Nov. 20, at the Press.  All seminarians were welcome to come and work on their final writing projects for the semester.

The fifteen students who attended the Write-In worked on variety of projects, including essays for Writing in the Humanities, capstone projects, theological essays, MA theses, and lessons plans for field education assignments.  The MAS writing assistants, Phillip Shifflet, Dean Marshall, Matthew Knight, and Isaac Allwin were available to offer feedback on drafts and to answer questions.  Sister Hilda Kleiman, MAS faculty member and writing center coordinator, was also available.

The MAS Writing Center Staff (left to right): Phillip Shifflet, Matthew Knight, Sr. Hilda Kleiman, Dean Marshall, and Isaac Allwin

The Write-In was organized by writing assistant Phillip Shifflet and academic chairs Matthew Knight and Steven Wood.  Nathan McWeeney, a seminarian and barista for the Press, made coffee by request.

Guardians Soccer Wraps Up the Season

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

This Saturday the Guardians soccer team ended their season with a loss against Central Oregon Community College, giving the Guardians a season record of 0-7-2.

In the first half of Saturday's game, COCC scored twice.  One of the COCC players also received a red card due to the language he used with the referee.  The third goal for COCC came shortly into the second half after a penalty kick by the Guardians.  With four more goals for COCC, the game ended with a score of 0-7.

The 2015 Guardians Soccer Team

This last game of the season was attended by other seminary students, family of the players, and seminary faculty.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Hispanic Seminarians Create an Altar to Commemorate All Souls Day

by Br. Jorge Haro, M.Sp.S.

On November 2, the Feast of All Souls, the seminary community created an altar in Saint Joseph Chapel to remember those who died during this year, especially Fathers Joseph Nguyễn Thắng and Paschal Cheline, members of Mount Angel Abbey whose pictures were placed on the altar.

Altars like this are part of a well-known Mexican tradition. This year, the altar was decorated under the guidance of Francisco Garcia, a seminarian of Monterey and Walter Martinez, a seminarian of Fresno, both members of the seminary’s Hispanic community.

Altars like this one involve a very personal and spiritual process because people have the chance to remember their loved one’s life and legacy. Altars are made to celebrate life and memories, not death. Martinez said, “It is to honor their lives, so others may know a little bit more about them . . . and to let them know that we continue to love and pray for them."

The portion of the altar featuring Father Paschal Cheline, OSB

Some of the food offered on the altar.

Garcia explained that according to the Mexican tradition that predates the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas, every object that is placed on the altar has its significance and meaning. The altar is made in three pyramidal levels representing life here on the earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. A crucifix, symbolizing that it is Jesus’ death that gives life to everything, crowns the higher part of the altar. Flowers, candles, food and drinks were placed to honor the life of Father Joseph Nguyễn Thắng and Father Paschal Cheline. This year, a book was placed also in the front of the altar, so seminarians and visitors may write the name of their relatives and friends that died to remember them in prayer.

Martinez said that another objective of the altar is to show seminarians other Catholic traditions from around the world: “It is a way of showing our culture … and perhaps they may incorporate this tradition back in their home parishes.”

The altar is part of other Christian spiritual activities on the Feast of All Souls. Mount Angel Seminary commemorates, together with the monastic community, this day with the Mass for the deceased, followed by a procession to the monastic community cemetery.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Deacon John Becerra Sets the Altar at St. Luke's in Woodburn, Oregon

by Luis Trujillo

The newly ordained deacons that continue their studies at Mt. Angel Abbey Seminary are assigned to continue their pastoral formation at a local parish. Deacon John Becerra for the Archdiocese of Portland is placed at St. Luke’s Parish in Woodburn; he serves as a deacon and prepares for his upcoming priestly ordination in June of 2016.

The Parish

The parish is made up of 2150 families of which 60% are Hispanic and the rest are Anglo. It is a vibrant community that keeps busy year round with catechetical programs, celebration of the sacraments, and different ministries. Fr. Jim Coleman, the pastor, is a native of Salem and a 1968 graduate Mount Angel Seminary.

Fr. Coleman has been the pastor for the past two and a half years and is proud to support the Pastoral Formation team by having a deacon serve at his parish. The parish has a total of five masses during the weekend and is also in charge of St. Agnes, a mission parish in Hubbard. Fr. Coleman is assisted by another graduate of Mount Angel Seminary, Fr. Scott Baier, who also served as a deacon there during his deacon year and is now associate pastor.

The Call to Serve

Deacon John described his experience at the parish as a true joy in his heart and looks forward to spending as much time as possible with the community. He stated, “To be a deacon is a great responsibility; we are performing a ministry in the name of Jesus.”

Deacon John will attend the Saturday night vigil and will take turns attending the masses in Spanish or English on Sunday. His other activities include participating in the catechizing of the confirmation group, the RCIA groups for the Anglo and Hispanic communities, and other ministries like the meetings for the Knights of Columbus and visiting the families.

Deacon John Becerra

Pastoral Formation at Mt. Angel Seminary

The seminarians of Mount Angel are all assigned to ministries off-site that will help form their pastoral qualities in the pillar of Pastoral Formation. Fr. Steven Clovis, the director of Pastoral Formation, said, “My first priority when assigning a deacon to a parish is to assign a deacon to a good example of priestly service.”

The importance lies completely in the deacon learning and being guided by the community and the mentorship of the pastor. Fr. Clovis said, “I try to assign the deacons to those pastors in the archdiocese whom I believe are good mentors, teachers and not just good pastors.”  Fr. Coleman said, “My hope is that Deacon John gets pastoral experience, and especially gets to know what concrete parish life looks like.”

For Deacon John, Fr. Coleman is a wise fatherly figure who has forty-two years of experience since his ordination. “I look up to him and I respect him; I will follow my pastor,” Deacon John said. “I ask him questions about various matters from administration to his understanding on moral questions.”

Deacon John expressed a feeling of care for the community and asks that we pray for him and for the whole deacon class. In turn he will pray constantly for the people of St. Luke’s and prays that God will help him understand what He wants him to say.

Two Mount Angel Seminarians Ordained as Deacons

story by Br. William Petry, M.Sp.S.
photos courtesy of Arjie Garcia

Arjie Dacua Garcia and Tetzel Ballogan Umingli received their diaconate ordination on Saturday, October 10th at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland by Archbishop Alexander Sample.

Arjie and Tetzel are both students of Mount Angel Seminary in their last year of theological studies and both belong to the Archdiocese of Portland. For this special celebration they were accompanied by various priests, including Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary. Several fellow seminarians of the Archdiocese of Portland and other classmates also attended the Mass. Both of their families gathered together before Mass, in joyful preparation along with other parishioners and friends to participate in this pinnacle moment for both of these men.

Archbishop Sample gave a homily encouraging both seminarians in this new phase of their vocation, referring to both of the candidates by name in his address. He initiated his homily reiterating the mission of service of the diaconate. He exhorted them at the beginning that “you are first and foremost configured to Christ the servant . . . you will always be deacons, those called to serve."

Archbishop Sample then focused on the promise of celibacy that they made at this celebration. He particularly invited them to see this commitment as a gift and not as a burden or “a hoop we make men jump through to become priests.”  He concluded his homily heartening Tetzel and Arjie, “give your heart completely to Christ, give your hearts completely to the people you are now called to serve."

Archbishop Sample laying hands on Arjie Garcia

Archbishop Sample laying hands on Tetzel Umingli

Various family members and parishioners stood up at the moment of the ordination, showing the reverent silence and joyful excitement they felt during this special moment. As the deacons received the Gospel and their dalmatics, the liturgical vestments of a deacon, they externally displayed what the supernatural grace of Holy Orders conferred on them spiritually.

Both Tetzel and Arjie were beaming with an exuberant smile as they joined the other clerics down the procession when the celebration came to a close. After the celebration, filled with gratitude, Deacon Arjie reflected, “It felt good . . . but in all of it, I was humbled in the sense that God has confirmed His plan for me to serve Him in this kind of life.” 

Friday, November 20, 2015

College One Delivers for SACA Food Drive

by Santino Ambrosini

Before there can be a story to tell, there always has to be a beginning. That is where our class of College 1 came into play. As we met in front of the Damien Center at 8:30 a.m., we realized we were about to start what we would most likely be focusing on for the rest of our lives, joining together to help others when they need it most. This we were going to do with our involvement in the Silverton Food Drive.

After our prayer for a successful immersion, we started our trip to SACA or Silverton Area Community Aid. Upon arrival we were taken into the building to get a tour. The entrance was the receiving end through which the large amounts of food that were donated would enter. Just inside the door and down a few stairs, there was the large stocking area with many shelves. To the right of the shelves were the two large walk­-in fridges/freezers that SACA recently got to keep the products in edible condition.

Once we got the basic information about what they did in the stock area, we moved on to the actual part where people who need food would actually receive that help. It was a smaller area compared to the stockroom but big enough for a nicely-sized group of people to move freely around. In this area they had food products on the shelves and in the two full-size fridges against the wall.

When we moved on to the waiting area, we could see the location where people could pick up clothes that were donated. Clothes that were donated were placed on a plastic shelf within sight of the door. They even had a small table for children with coloring books where they could be entertained while their parent or guardian was with a SACA member or waiting for their turn.

Connected to the waiting area was the office for SACA. In this area is a desk with a computer, printer, and other supplies that people in need might not have. The main purpose of this station, after asking our tour guide, is for people to have the tools to look for a job, to communicate with family, or just get information on topics that interest them.

Members of College One prepare for their deliveries.

After finishing our tour of the facility, we were brought back to the back entrance (receiving area) where we all gathered to hear what our part in the Food Drive was going to be. Because of some scheduling complications, we actually wouldn’t partake in the actual food drive which was the next weekend. Our part was going to be the delivering of the food drive bags throughout some neighborhoods in Silverton.

We broke up into three groups with three different routes. Our drivers would be our small group leaders. Even though our time estimate for the bag delivering was to be around three hours, with some teamwork we were able to finish in an hour and a half. There were some exciting times during the delivering, like dogs chasing us, people thinking we were trying to vandalise their property, and one of our vehicles getting a semi-flat tire.

In the end, we all made it safe and sound back to the seminary. There we all gathered together to eat our meal and have a reflection on our finished work with SACA. It was a very fruitful weekend which we all made possible.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Guardians Soccer Loses to Portland Community College

News brief by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

During one of their rainiest games of the season, the Guardians faced and lost to Portland Community College on Sunday, Nov. 8, with a score of 3-4.  The game also resulted in injuries for both teams.

The Guardians chased PCC throughout the game, keeping the score tied at 2-2 and 3-3 for some time.  The first two goals, one for PCC and one for the Guardians, were scored shortly after the beginning of the first half.  Both teams made numerous attempts to score during the first half, with the ball bouncing off the top of the goal several times.

In the second half, the game was tied by a goal scored by Andres Guerra.  Later in the half, PCC pulled ahead with a goal scored by penalty kick.  Minutes later Andres scored again to tie the game 3-3.

The day before, the Guardians lost during an away game against Oregon State.  Their record now stands at 0-5-2 for the season.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Soccer Takes a Loss, Faces Two Weekend Games

News brief by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

On Saturday, Oct. 31, the MAS Guardians soccer team faced Lewis and Clark at home and lost 2-5, giving the team a record of 0-4-1 for the season thus far.

On a chilly and windy field, Lewis and Clark scored their first goal shortly after the start of the game.  Later in the half the Guardians tied the game with their own goal, which was quickly followed by the second goal for Lewis and Clark.  By the half, the score was 2-4.

In the second half, goalie Jimmy Jimenez from the Diocese of Oakland made an excellent save against a penalty kick from Lewis and Clark.  With its final goal, Lewis and Clark brought the score to 2-5.

This upcoming weekend, the Guardians play away in Corvallis on Saturday and again back home at the seminary on Sunday.

Fifteen Men Admitted to Candidacy

Story by Dean Marshall

Mount Angel, Ore. – As many bishops and priests processed in at the beginning of the annual Mass of Candidacy on October 22, 15 men waited in joyous anticipation within the Mount Angel Abbey church as they prepared to take the next step toward the holy priesthood. The Most Reverend Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland in Oregon, was the main celebrant; the Mass was concelebrated by the bishops, religious superiors and vocation directors who were also visiting Mount Angel Seminary for the annual Episcopal Council meeting and Regents Dinner later that day, as well as other priests from the Hilltop.

The concelebrating bishops included the Most Rev. John Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe; Most Rev. Peter Brown, Bishop of Samoa - Pago Pago; Most Rev. Liam Cary, Bishop of Baker; Most Rev. Peter Christensen, Bishop of Boise; Most Rev. Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson; Most Rev. Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego; Most Rev. Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu; Most Rev. Jaime Soto, Bishop of Sacramento; and Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange. Other concelebrants included the Right Rev. Gregory Duerr, O.S.B., Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey; Rev. Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary; Very Rev. Stephen Watson, O.C.D., Provincial Superior of the Order of Discalced Carmelites; Rev. Ivan Pertine, Director of the St. John Society; and Rev. Msgr. Robert Siller; Chancellor of the Diocese of Yakima, as well as vocation directors from various dioceses served by the seminary and priests from Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary. Most Rev. Peter Smith, Auxiliary Bishop of Portland, also participated in the Episcopal Council meeting that followed the mass.

The candidates approach Archbishop Sample after the homily.
Photo credit: Ace Tui

The bishops, priests, and candidates immediately after Mass.
Photo credit: Jose Morales

During the homily, Archbishop Sample referenced St. Paul when he told those gathered, particularly the men about to be admitted to Candidacy, that those who seek to be a disciple of the Lord have to transform their lives. As those preparing for Holy Orders, the men were “called in a unique way…to undergo this transformation, embracing service in a new life in Jesus Christ.” Archbishop Sample exhorted the new candidates to follow the example of Pope St. John Paul II, whose memorial was also celebrated that day, when he spoke of the saint’s life and shared that he [Sample] was “inspired by [John Paul II’s] example of courage and zeal.”

The Archbishop encouraged the men in their pursuit of the priesthood, asking them to “preach divine mercy” while seeking “sanctification…[so that they] may sanctify others.” During the mass, those admitted to Candidacy publicly declared their intention to complete their preparation to be ready for ordained ministry in the Church and give faithful service to the Lord and his people. If called by their bishops, typically the new candidates would be ordained as transitional deacons some time in the next year.

The newly instituted candidates were from 11 dioceses: Zani Pacanza, Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon; Chad Green and Christopher Hoiland, Archdiocese of Seattle; Víctor Mena Martínez, Diocese of Baker; John Kucera, Diocese of Boise; Andriel Ruperto and Gonzalo Siller Ramírez, Diocese of Fresno; Joseph Paddock, Diocese of Helena; Phuong Nguyen, Diocese of Orange; Joseph Walsh, Diocese of Reno; Andrés Emmanuelli Pérez and Germán Ramos Plaza, Diocese of Sacramento; Nathan McWeeney and William Zondler II, Diocese of San Diego; and Henrry Mendez Fajardo, Diocese of Yakima.

The 2015 Episcopal Council - Photo Credit: Ace Tui

Following the mass, a reception was held for the new candidates before the bishops, religious superiors and vocation directors began the Episcopal Council meeting. That evening, the community celebrated the annual Regents’ Dinner, during which the seminarians, faculty, monks, priests, vocation directors, religious superiors and bishops were able to gather for an evening of joyful fellowship and brotherhood.

Mount Angel Seminary is the largest seminary in the western United States, currently celebrating its 127th year of forming men for the Catholic priesthood. Established by the monks of Mount Angel Abbey in 1889, the seminary serves both graduate and undergraduate seminarians from the United States, Canada, the Pacific Islands, and as far away as Hungary, as well as seminarians from various religious communities and many lay students.

A New Barber Sets Up Shop

Story and photos by Garrett McGowan

All of us want to look good when we have to go places, even if we are just walking from one building to the other here on the hilltop. The Benefit Dinner was last week, and people are expected to look professional, yet not everyone is able to leave the hilltop to get a haircut. Thanks to Jimmy Jimenez from the Diocese of Oakland they won’t have to. Jimmy is starting his first year of college and has brought with him his skills as a professional barber.

When Jimmy had his interview with the formation team prior to coming to Mount Angel, Father Ralph Recker asked him what he had done before discerning priesthood. Jimmy explained his experience as a barber, and Father Ralph gave him the house job on the spot. House jobs are assigned duties or jobs seminarians may sign up for. It involves tasks of cleaning, working in the sacristy, mail delivery, and many other jobs. Ever since then Jimmy sees approximately eight to ten seminarians a week, with formators also coming in for haircuts. Jimmy’s skills are in such high demand here on the hilltop that he has had to post a sign up sheet, and haircuts are only given on Saturdays and occasionally by appointment on Thursdays.

Gerard Juan enjoys Jimmy's barbering on a recent Saturday.

Jimmy works on the back and the front of Gerard's haircut.

Jimmy said it really started when his father back in Oakland told the family he was tired of paying for haircuts. Jimmy and his father purchased a pair of clippers and scissors and started to practice on each other. Soon Jimmy was cutting both his younger brother's hair and cousins were coming over. The more people who came to Jimmy’s house for haircuts, the better he became. He started to learn how to work with different types of hair and the different styles people wanted.

Jimmy explained that to be a good barber, “you really have to love what you do. You have to want to make people look good.” After a while he was able to get a job with the skills he had learned. He worked for almost three years in a professional shop. He developed a large list of clients before coming to Mount Angel. The barbershop can be a very competitive environment. Jimmy said that a barber is working against other barbers to gain clients and has to make enough money to rent his chair in the shop.

Jimmy said that there are different steps for different styles people ask for. The ones that he usually recommends for people trying something new are tappers, comb-overs, and fades. A taper starts off with skin and then blends into the thicker hair, whereas a fade already starts off with short hair and blends into the thicker hair. A comb over is combing the hair over to the side. He has converted the third floor kitchen of Anselm into his barbershop, where music can be heard from outside the door while people line up and wait for their appointments.

Jimmy cuts the hair of Zani Pacanza (top),
Dalton Rogers (middle), and Thein Hoang (bottom).

Jimmy comes ready for every appointment with his clippers as well as a cape and the paper neck collars, just like any professional barbershop would have. Jimmy also knows how to work with beards for those in need of a beard trim or a new style. Jimmy enjoys what he does for the community: “I use to do it for money, now I do it for the love of my brother seminarians.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bone Broth and Vegetable Simmer a New Option for the Hilltop Community

Story and photos by Br. Jorge Haro, M.Sp.S.

Mount Angel Seminary has a new bone broth self-service station that will add an extra nutritional value to every diner’s diet.  The new station is an initiative of Chef Paul Lieggi and his Bon Appétit team.

The bone broth is made through a very careful process. “We only use local and healthy bones. We select carefully the bones. We don’t want bones from animals that have been injected with antibiotics or steroids,” Chef Lieggi explained.

The new bone broth and vegetable simmer station

The entire process of simmering the bones, depending on the kind of bone, may take up to twelve hours or more. The hilltop community can enjoy beef, chicken, pork, bison, and vegetable broth. Mark Stulce, a Bon Appétit prep employee, said that the broths posses “a light, but rich flavor.”  Sea salt, thyme, parsley, black pepper, and other spices are used to season the broth.

Bone broth can improve the health of diners. Chef Lieggi explained: “The broth is very healthy because it has gelatin in it. It is good for your bones; it has a lot of healing properties in it.” Responding to the request of some seminarians to have more choices for healthy eating, Chef Lieggi said that the bone broth might help to curb the appetite as well.

Chef Lieggi at the new station.

Seminarian Ryan Dixon adding some bone broth to his lunch

The idea of the broth is part of a continued effort to create a better lifestyle for the future priests that will minister to the Church. Chef Lieggi explained:  “It [the broth] really fits into the program that we are trying to accomplish. The fresh fruits and the vegetables that we offer, the natural juices in the morning, everything ties into our program.” Chef Lieggi is also using less canola oil and more olive oil. All these changes, according to Chef Lieggi, will benefit the whole seminary community.

Onions, sour cream, and a variety of vegetables from a salad station can be use as garnishes for a more savory broth. Chef Lieggi stated that in the future the broth might be offered to the general public in the hilltop bookstore.

Three Missionaries of the Holy Spirit Ordained to the Priesthood

Story by Br. William Petry, M.Sp.S.
Photos by Joy of Life Photography

After over a decade of priestly formation, Alexandro Rubio M.Sp.S., Armando Hernandez M.Sp.S. and Manuel Rosiles M.Sp.S. were ordained on Saturday, September 19th through the imposition of hands of Bishop Eusebio Elizondo M.Sp.S. in the parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bothell, Washington.

The three men belong to the congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Rosiles and Fr. Hernandez both graduated from Mount Angel Seminary last year, marking the completion of their theological studies. Fr. Rubio studied one year at Mount Angel Seminary and completed the rest of his studies at Notre Dame University. In addition to this, Fr. Rubio completed a post-graduate degree in counseling after his theological studies at Notre Dame University before his ordination.

The parish was filled to capacity for this celebration. Family, friends and parishioners who have supported and known these three men throughout their formation gathered from California, Oregon, Illinois and Washington State to be present for this special occasion.

The joyful tone of this celebration was heightened as the congregation sang "People of kings, holy assembly, priestly people, people of God, bless your Lord" during the initial procession. Bishop Elizondo expressed his happiness to take part in the ordination of his brothers. He reminded them during his homily that the whole purpose of their years of basic training is for the service of God and his people. He referenced Pope Francis’ metaphor of the Christian vocation and the moon. The Christian vocation, like the moon that reflects the light of the sun, is to be a reflection of God’s face to others.

Bishop Elizondo reminded the new priests that on their own they do not have light to give. Rather, their vocation is to bring the light of Christ to others through their life. Continuing the metaphor of the moon he said, “In our smallness we will not be able to even be a full moon, but we can at least be a waning crescent." This brought laughter to the crowd.

The celebration of the Eucharist and the ordination of Frs. Rosiles, Hernandez and Rubio concluded with a reception afterward. Fr. Juan Antonio Romero M.Sp.S., a formation director of the House of Studies in Mount Angel, Oregon, reflected upon this celebration afterward, sharing that it stirs a deep sense of hope and joy in him to participate in the ordination of his brothers. He said that this reminds him of what the purpose basic formation is: consecrating servants to the Church to bring the light of Christ to all.

Father Manuel Rosiles before Bishop Elizondo.

The ordiands prostrating during the liturgy.

Bishop Elizondo anointing the hands of the ordiands.

Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, Fr. Peter Artega, M.Sp.S., and other priests laying hands on the ordiands.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Seminarians Welcome Oktoberfest Guests

Story by Luis Trujllo

The celebration of Oktoberfest that took place from September 17th to the 19th brought hundreds of visitors to Mount Angel Abbey. Father Terry Tompkins, a formation director and the vice rector for the seminary college, said, “[The town of] Mount Angel hosted around 500,000 visitors over the four days of Oktoberfest.” Whether you were a guest on the hilltop that walked up the hill or were dropped off by the bus that made its way up to the hilltop every 15 minutes, you would have noticed a tent just outside the guesthouse with welcoming smiles.

The tent was set up by the college students in order to guide guests, answer questions and even hand out holy cards of some of icons that were written by Br. Claude Lane. The event was organized by C.A.M. (College Activity Members) whose president is Randy Hoang, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Portland in College IV.

Randy Hoang

Hoang was in charge of finding volunteers to host the guests and even make cookies for them. The Bon Appetit staff that caters our meals helped the seminarians by providing canteens with water and coffee for the thirsty guests.

In hosting this booth the seminarians of Mount Angel Seminary had the blessing to share in some of the spirituality of the Benedictine order. The Rule of Saint Benedict in chapter 53 asks that all guests be welcomed as Christ. This was very clear to all the seminarians hosting the guests. The rule continues by stating, “Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.”

Plaque inside the foyer of the Abbey Library

Hoang explained that for the seminarians it was a blessing to share the gifts God has for them in the seminary. He explained, “It was an opportunity to share the background of the seminary and . . . some of their [sic] vocation story.”

The seminarians were busy inviting people to the Liturgy of the Hours and inviting the guests to the Abbey, library and Abbey church. Hosting an event for returning guests and new guests gave the seminarians an opportunity for the formation of their vocations, especially putting pastoral attributes into practice, like being gracious hosts, being attentive, and offering to pray for the guests as well as asking for their prayers. Fr. Terry supports that idea by stating multiple times, “I am exceedingly proud of the seminarians here on the hilltop.”

Fr. Terry Tompkins in front of the Abbey Church

“The history of and the sanctity of the place are really palpable,” said Fr. Terry. He indicated that many guests showed an interest in returning and making it part of their future plans.

Editor's Note: As of 9 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2015, the first quotation from Fr. Terry Tompkins and the caption for the plague featuring the quotation from the Rule have been corrected.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Seminarians Offer Service at St. Joseph Shelter

Story and photos by Dustin Vu

The time at last came. This was the day that the second half of the College II class was to do a community service project.  The eight of us assembled in front of the Damian Center around 12:40. For some, this was not their first time going out to do off-hill work; for others this was unprecedented.

After we had all gotten together, our crew went off in two cars along with Fr. Steve Clovis.  At St. Joseph’s Shelter, which is run by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount Angel, there was one large main building surrounded by other residential buildings and a large storage building.  Our supervisor started to explain the services that the shelter offered which include housing homeless families, migrant men, and migrant families while they seek a way to be self-sufficient. I had never been to a shelter before, so I was excited to get a feel for how the place was.

Then we got our mission. Our two objectives were to 1) dust, sweep, and mop the basement storage and dining area and 2) clean out a resident’s room that was just recently vacated. We all started our work in the basement, which stores the majority of the facility’s clothes, food, and some furniture. The place that we started to work was filled with racks for clothes and shoes; I wondered at how the clothes were distributed as there were all sorts of shoes there, some of them quite used.

The College II seminarians working in the stairwell leading
to the basement and the area for distributing clothes.

After working in the basement for a short while, two of us left the others to their work and went up to start working on the resident’s room. Going into there was like stepping into a still life painting. Everything was set up as if the person who was living there just stepped out for work; there were cups and mugs here and there, food in the cabinets, ice trays ready to be filled lying by the sink and shirts hanging in the closet.

The living space was actually quite substantial; it was a room divided in two by a windowed wall that separated the kitchen and dining area and the sleeping area and doors opened up two a walk-in closet and a bathroom. We proceeded to work to clear the room of all loose objects except furniture and appliances. It was interesting work as we pondered the conditions as to the person’s leaving especially seeing that things were left as they were.

We also talked about how strange it must be to live in such a way that the things you used weren’t actually yours but were to stay like this. What was that like? This and other reflections would be further talked about at the discussion later in the day. We packed these things into boxes and sent them down the little goods elevator, which got stuck on the way down for a while before we could get it to the basement.

Then, after doing some extra minor work, we settled in the basement dining room and had a theological/spiritual reflection on our activities that day. I was surprised at how much we ended up talking about seeing as we only had two main jobs to carry out and actually worked for about two hours. I found it edifying how the group of us supplemented one another’s reflections and revealed different perspectives and insights into the work that we did. It did seem like a good refresher of our vocation to the diocesan priesthood; we were reminded of our duty to serve and our connection to the wider Church, which can be easy to forget sometimes as we continue in our routine of study and prayer up at the seminary.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Guardians Take Two Hard Soccer Losses

News brief by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB
photos by Ace Tui

This past weekend the MAS Guardians took on two home games, resulting in one tie and one loss, giving the team a 0-2-1 record for the season thus far.

Saturday, Oct. 10, the Guardians faced Central Oregon Community College.  The first half included two goals for the Guardians, the second of which was scored by Andres Guerra.  New MAS Guardian Phillip Holy provided good defense of the goal and several hard runs down the sideline.

COCC score their first and second goals early in the first half.  Their third goal was headed into the Guardians goal and was quickly followed by another failed attempt to score right before the whistle for the half.

In the first half of the game David Panduro was charged by a COCC player and came out of the game, resulting in a yellow card for the COCC player.  COCC received a second yellow card for a penalty against Guerra.

In the second half, the Guardians scored their third goal, bringing the game to a final score of 3-3.

Isaac Allwin on the defense against COCC.

Andres Guerra races against COCC player.

On Sunday, Oct 11, the Guardians went against Willamette University on a much warmer afternoon than the previous day.  At the blow of the whistle, they immediately faced hard, aggressive pressure from Willamette, resulting in another game with several yellow cards, two for Willamette and one for the Guardians.

Philip Holy working against Willamette.

Dustin Busse faces off with a Willamette player.

Willamette scored twice in the first half, with Isaac Allwin clearing several additional attempts to score.  Andres Guerra and Santiago Torres worked together in the first half to achieve the only goal for the Guardians for the game.  In the second half, Willamette scored twice, once on a penalty kick, resulting in a final score of 1-4.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fr. Gerardo Alberto, M.Sp.S. - Spiritual Director for the Directors of Souls

by Luis Trujillo

Imagine having the vocation of being the shepherd of souls for those who will one day be the shepherds of many others.

Fr. Gerardo Alberto, M.Sp.S., does exactly that. In the quiet hallway of the Anselm building, Fr. Gerardo listens patiently to the seminarians who come to him, trusting him in love that he will give them spiritual material for growth. Close to 150 souls are being formed here at Mount Angel Seminary in the four pillars of formation: spiritual, human, academic and pastoral. Getting to know each seminarian, Fr. Gerardo helps them set out into the deep with Christ himself, so that one day they may in turn do the same in a parish.

Father Gerardo Alberto, M.Sp.S

Spiritual direction, Fr. Gerardo said, is “so very important, it is one of the pillars of formation. Within the meetings I have with the seminarians, we find ways to make the four pillars of formation work in their life, so that we can share in the priesthood of Jesus more fully.”

Fr. Gerardo listens to close to 15 seminarians a week and has about 35 who sign up for his direction year after year. He has been a spiritual director at Mount Angel Seminary since 2011. Father Gerardo is also the superior for the order of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit who have a House of Studies in Mount Angel. Fr. Gerardo is a busy man; besides being a spiritual director and superior, Fr. Gerardo celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and assists the Hispanic ministry there.

“He gives the example of life and that of a religious. You will find he is very approachable and trustworthy,” said one of his brothers, Jorge Haro, who has known him for about seven years and who, since 2011, has been under his brother’s formation.

Brother Jorge Haro, who belongs to the community of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, affirms that Fr. Gerardo is one of the most popular priests for spiritual direction on the hilltop because of his closeness to people.  Brother Jorge said, “Our whole spirituality asks for that.”

Different seminarians will praise the wisdom that Fr. Gerardo offers in their meetings with him. It is all due to the fact that it helps them grow. Francisco Garcia, seminarian for the Diocese of Monterrey, has a lot to add: “His [Fr. Gerardo’s] spirituality is strong. I have felt it though the different sessions.”

During spiritual direction, the seminarian is welcome to talk about anything in internal forum.  The sacrament of reconciliation and moral and spiritual support are always found with a director who, like our parents, makes an impact for the rest of our lives.

Father Gerardo with his brother Missionary priests Peter Arteaga (left) and Juan Antonio (right) during the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Abbey Church.

The Missionaries of the Holy Spirit have become a familiar face, and their hospitality is a home away from home to many seminarians, thanks to the openness and welcoming character of Fr. Gerardo. It is not uncommon to find seminarians praying with the Missionaries and sharing meals in their House of Studies.

The welcoming environment of the House of Studies invites the seminarians to have a familiarity with Fr. Gerardo, a place of refuge or solitude of prayer, or to sit down to homemade meals. As seminarian Francisco Garcia said, “People outside seminary think that life within the walls is very easy, but the reality is it is not as easy as people think. With your own spiritual director, you feel supported by someone to guide you and listen.”

Fr. Gerardo recalls his own vocation story and remembers lovingly the people who helped him make the decisions to consecrate his life.  Fr. Gerardo recalls, “I had a great zeal to go and work as a missionary.” He recalls his interest in who the man exposing the Blessed Sacrament was while he accompanied his grandmother to perpetual adoration as a youth.

Later, he would join the diocesan seminary, but war in El Salvador broke out and he was sent to the United States to live with relatives.  He said, “I felt betrayed by God because of the far away call and possibility to become a priest.” He described that years passed.  He went to confession and, at the words of a Franciscan priest, was questioned when he would answer the Lord about his plan for life. Fr. Gerardo had to leave his fiancé first to return to that desire he always had in his heart.

“Their happiness and the habit attracted me greatly,” he said, when asked why he was attracted to the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

With enthusiasm, Fr. Gerardo explained the joy he feels on his way up the hill, excited that the Holy Spirit is the one true director and that, maybe, out of his life experience, he can help guide and care for seminarians, hoping always to teach them how to bring together the human and spiritual as two aspects and to solidly discern God's call in their lives.

Fr. Gerardo stated strongly that his only desire is to see the seminarians grown in openness to spirituality to transform their lives and to respond better to their vocation.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Discovering New Horizons: A Hilltop Profile of a New Seminarian

by Br. William Petry, M.Sp.S

Abundio Colazo Lopez, a seminarian of the Diocese of Tucson in his second year of college, has encountered in Mount Angel Seminary a new community and an opportunity to share his talents and a challenge to grow.

About Abundio: His Family

Coming from a family of five and only 23 years old, Abundio is the oldest of his siblings followed by a brother and three sisters. He has twin sisters who are currently in high school, and his youngest sibling is only 11 years old. He and his family are from Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco Mexico.  At only 12 years old, he came to the United States to live with his aunt and begin middle school.

He shared that it was a difficult shift, being relocated from Ciudad Guzman to Mesa, AZ. "I came over here,” Abundio recalled, “and I didn't know any English at all . . . It was that time of transition and a little bit of culture shock." He was reunited to his immediate family about a year after his arrival to the United States.

Discerning His Vocation

At 19 Abundio started attending the youth group at St. James Parish in Coolidge, AZ. However, due to his immigration status he had to return to Mexico for a year. He finally received the notification that his residency was approved in September of 2012, only two weeks before his 21st birthday. Twenty-one years was the cut-off age for his process to receive permanent residency.

Abundio said, "I was like, well, God I will accept your will, but He wanted me back and now I’m back."  He saw this as God’s hand working in his life, leading him step by step closer to the mission he was called to do.

Returning to St. James Parish in Arizona, Abundio did not waste time. He began coordinating the Spanish youth group called “grupo pan de vida.” In addition to this he joined the Spanish choir and was asked to join the pastoral council of the parish. Meanwhile he began studying at Central Arizona Community College, choosing radiology as his major while juggling a part-time job.

On January 6, 2013, Fr. Virgilio Tabo Jr., or Fr. “Jojo” as Abundio affectionately calls him, from Abundio’s parish visited his family’s home to bless it.  As Fr. Jojo was entering each room, something special occurred when he arrived to Abundio’s room. Abundio shared that Fr. Jojo “stared at my wall and all of my holy cards and then looking into my eyes said, ‘Abundio have you ever thought of being a priest?’ and I replied: ‘Actually I have!’” This moment was the catalyst for his journey of seriously considering the priesthood.

Fr. Jojo referred Abundio to Fr. Ricky Ordóñez, the vocational director of the Diocese of Tucson at that time. Fr. Ricky invited Abundio to visit Mount Angel Seminary in February of that same year. After arriving at Mount Angel Seminary, Abundio said, “I felt like I belonged.” The warm community and sacred prayer time made him feel more and more comfortable about consolidating his decision to enter the seminary.

Abundio Colazo Lopez with Mount Angel Abbey in the background.

At the same time Abundio’s family was assimilating his new decision. His father had always imagined Abundio finishing his major in college and eventually marrying. His mother, he shared, was more supportive of the idea though she was uncomfortable with the idea of her firstborn leaving the house. Now that Abundio is in the seminary, his parents are both supportive of his decision.

“It’s Real Now”: Life as a Seminarian

Over a month has passed since Abundio moved into Mount Angel Seminary. Regarding his initial feelings as he began orientation, he shared that all he could think of was, "It's real now.” Everything that he had experienced before, his discernment, the years of preparation, were for the moments that he is now living. Since school began, he has not wasted time. He has begun to employ his talents on the hilltop. He belongs to the Spanish schola and also the seminary soccer team.

Abundio’s qualities are not unnoticed. Isaac Allwin, also a seminarian from the Diocese of Tucson in his second year of college, shares that Abundio is a very dedicated and responsible seminarian. He stated that he is a very good listener and is not quick to interject his own comments or opinions. Isaac said, “He is a really good seminarian as a whole, and I mean that.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Silva's Vocational Journey: Finding God's Will Through Life's Difficulties

story by Br. Jorge Haro, M.Sp.S
photo by Jose Morales

Joan Sebastian Silva is a second-year theologian from the Diocese of Yakima in Washington state. This year will be his first semester as a student of Mount Angel Seminary. It was after three years and a terrible accident that he came to recognize his original calling to the priesthood, a calling that urged him to leave his country, to learn a new language, and to change his entire life.

A Life-Changing Experience

The Diocese of Yakima has a large immigrant Hispanic population. For this reason, Bishop Joseph Tyson has admitted seminarians from Latin American countries.  Silva is one of them. “I was encouraged by a priest . . . to come and visit Yakima,” Silva said. “He just called me one day saying that he had bought my ticket.”  On their way from the Seattle airport to Yakima, Silva and the priest got into a very serious car accident. Silva suffered several fractures in his face.

After many surgeries and a long period of recovery, Silva’s spiritual life started to change. Silva stated: “Something happened in that accident.  I felt the love of God again. I felt his tenderness and compassion. After I recovered from the accident, I had a sense of being called to the Diocese of Yakima.” Silva started to discern his call. With time, he decided to move to live in the United States, enrolled in an ESL program, and joined the Diocese of Yakima.

Joan Sebastian Silva

Luis Trujillo, another seminarian from the Diocese of Yakima and good friend of Silva, said: “This is a man listening to the Lord’s will as a missionary. He is willing to come and do two more years of studies on top of the [normal] nine or eight, leave home, and learn a new language."

Silva said he was able to recognize with this accident that his talents must be put to work at the service of others and of the Church.

Passionate Guitarist

Mount Angel Seminary is a mosaic of seminarians from different dioceses, religious communities, and culture backgrounds. This year, one of the biggest components of Mount Angel Seminary’s mosaic is the Hispanic community, shaped by second-generation Hispanic seminarians and by those who were born in countries of Latin America and Mexico. They bring with them not only the richness of their cultures but also their talents. 

When Silva came to the United States, Trujillo said, “I was asked to pick him up from the airport. My phone was dying, and the only thing I knew was that he was carrying a guitar. None of the seminarians of the diocese, at that time, played the guitar.”

Every Wednesday, Mass is said in Spanish at Mount Angel Seminary, and the sound of the organ is exchanged for the sound of guitars, drums, and piano. “The idea is to expose every seminarian to the Spanish Mass that one day they will be, probably, celebrating,” Oscar Anaya, the director of the Hispanic choir, explained. This year, the Hispanic choir is formed by twenty-six members that gather twice at week to prepare for the Spanish Mass. “We normally play songs that express our joy and culture, but in a way that allows everyone to pray and be calm,” Anaya explained.

As part of the Hispanic choir, Silva's his skills and charisma have made an impact.  "Every time he plays, you can feel his emotions. I have been inspired by him,” Anaya said. 

Silva’s passion for music comes from his childhood: “My father has a good musical ear; he taught me all the basic things to play the guitar.”  With time, he developed a well-trained talent for music.

Childhood: A First Call to Be a Priest

Silva was born in Colima, Mexico; he is the third of four children. His grandmothers played an important role in his early relationship with God. When Silva was a teenager, he entered the minor seminary; he graduated and continued with his philosophical and theological studies.

After he finished his first year of theology, things started to change: “I started to feel a sense of emptiness.”  After writing to his seminary rector asking for a year to discern, he left the seminary.  Silva explained: “I lose [sic] my life, and my vocation. I confronted more difficulties during the days that I passed out of the seminary. I lose [sic] my way.”

It took him three years, a long period of discernment, and the car accident experience to go back to his original calling.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Everything was Grace: The Papal Visit

Reflection and photos by Zani Pacanza, Archdiocese of Portland

Editor's note: Seminarian Phillip Shifflet is also offering reflections and photos on his blog about the papal visit.

Everything was grace. From the first moment we stepped inside the Immaculate Conception Basilica of Washington D.C., to meeting priests, bishops, cardinals, seminarians and religious from all over the country, to finally seeing His Holiness Pope Francis and attending the canonization Mass of Junipero Serra, everything was a grace-filled moment from God.

Zani Pacanza outside the Basilica decorated
with the banners for the canonization Mass.

Mount Angel seminarians Ethan Alano, Randy Hoang,
Dustin Busse, and Zani Pacanza

Sept. 23, 2015: We started the day by praying and thanking our Lord for bringing us here and allowing us to experience the Pope's first visit to the United States. The night before, we stayed at the Theological College right across the Basilica, the venue of the canonization Mass, so we had a good panoramic view of everything that was happening, from the rehearsals to the preparations.

At 12:30 p.m. we were escorted by security officials from the college to the basilica. We were ecstatic when we got seats at the front area by the center aisle. We were told that Pope Francis will be passing by our side, and we couldn't wait. We had a couple of hours before the start of the Mass, so we went around and enjoyed the grandeur of the Immaculate Conception Basilica. This church was definitely amazing! At the crypt was almost a hundred images of our Blessed Mother from all over the world: Europe, Latin America, USA, Africa, and Asia! We were just in awe.

We also made friends with a lot of priests, seminarians, and religious from all over the country. Some of them drove from nearby states, and some, just like us, flew from far-away cities just to be one with His Holiness.

At 4:00 p.m., everyone was silent. Then, the two main doors opened, and the Vatican entourage entered. Everyone stood immediately and erupted in cheers. At the end of the entourage, finally, Pope Francis walked in, waving at the people. The whole venue let out a rousing applause, shouting "Viva il Papa!" repeatedly. So there we were, seeing him parade from the vestibule, walking closer and closer to us. Finally, he was right in front of us, smiling, waving, then smiling some more. I couldn't describe how I was feeling at that very moment. I was in a daze. Everything was surreal! The Pope was right in front of us, I could almost touch his face!

Pope Francis and members of the faithful standing
opposite of the Mount Angel seminarians.

He continued walking up to the altar of the basilica, then stopped in front and prayed for us. Then he gave us his blessing, then prayed some more, and then processed to start the canonization Mass for Junipero Serra, the great missionary priest of California. As the Mass started, everyone was praying reverently and singing with the choir joyfully.

In a brief moment of silence during the Mass, I closed my eyes and uttered a fervent prayer of thanks. First, a huge thank you to Mount Angel Seminary for bringing us here. We felt very humbled to represent our beloved institution in this historic and momentous occasion.  We also felt, of course, deep gratitude to our Lord for allowing us to celebrate with his people, his community of faithful, his Holy Mother Church.

Everything was grace. Truly, the fire of the Holy Spirit was with everyone during the event and throughout the day! When we come back to Oregon on Friday, we hope to be able to spread out the grace we have received to the entire hilltop community,and wherever else we may go.  Like the Papal visit's theme, indeed, our call as Christians is to "share the joy of the Gospel because love is our message!"