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.