Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Annual Symposium Focuses on Technology

by Dean Marshall

On March 7-8, 2016, Mount Angel Seminary held its annual formation symposium, which seeks to expound on a topic of particular relevance for future priests and those involved in priestly formation. This year’s presenters, Sister Mary Timothy Prokes, FSE, and Fr. William Holtzinger of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, presented on the topic “Social Media and Virtual Reality.” Presented in three sessions over the two days, the symposium consisted of lectures, small-group sessions, and feedback sessions amongst the entire seminary community.

Monday morning’s session, hosted by Sister Mary Timothy, covered the current state of social media and technology in society, as well as its impact on ministry. Asking the question, “How are we changing as persons and how does that [impact] our relationship with the Divine Person…with truth?”, Sr. Timothy noted that social media and related technologies have affected how people relate on the personal level.

Noting authors such as Sherry Turkle, Sister Mary Timothy demonstrated how new forms of communication can result in a split persona, divided between digital and real-life identities. She noted that to combat this and to ensure that social media is used in a positive manner, society needs to use it as a way to enable “better face to face contact” and more meaningful communication, rather than communication that is hampered by a divided identity.

Immediately following this session, small groups were able to discuss their own experiences, covering topics such as recognizing the reality of being a public person, how to use social media as a communications and evangelization tool, and how it can be used for recognizing the profound human need for not just communication, but rather genuine communion.

On Monday afternoon, Fr. William Holtzinger, Pastor of St. Anne’s Parish in Grants Pass, Ore., presented on the topic, “Effective Uses of Media in the Parish Setting.” Fr. Holtzinger noted that “technology will help us continue that journey of communion” referenced during the morning session. He proceeded to highlight several tools that have proved useful in his own work as a parish priest, including technologies geared towards social media outreach, website design, administrative planning and scheduling, and personal productivity.

Recalling the words of Pope Francis, Fr. Holtzinger reminded those gathered that “technology can be both a help and a hindrance.” He demonstrated that in order to be successful, technological tools need to allow ministers to “serve better and reverence persons, increase communication, [and enable] better time management.” According to Fr. Holtzinger, technology is, at its core, a tool to “help ministers journey with and encounter people.”

Concluding the formation symposium on Tuesday morning, Sr. Timothy moved beyond the present state of technology and looked to where it may take society in the future. Recognizing the constantly changing state of technology, she invited the seminary community to ask, “What is happening to us, as a people and as a church, in the way we use these instruments?”

Sr. Timothy examined topics including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and genetics, drawing on Pope St. John Paul II’s teachings on Theology of the Body to show how to keep the focus on the reality of the human person and the necessity for genuine love. Noting that as future priests, those gathered would have to answer many difficult questions in the future, a greater value needed to be placed on “face to face and eye to eye” communication, thereby allowing an enduring respect for both the physical and spiritual aspects of the human person.

The annual symposium provides an opportunity for those gathered to examine topics that would not normally be addressed at length in the classroom, allowing for discussion of a wide variety of matters pertinent to priestly ministry. Established by the monks of Mount Angel Abbey, 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.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

College One Seminarians Serve Portland Underprivledged

by Chi-Nhan Vo

On February 11, 2016, the Mount Angel Seminary College I class underwent their second-semester of pastoral immersion at St. Andre Bessette Parish in downtown Portland, Oregon. Through the Red Door Retreat day program that St. Andre Bessette offers, the seminarians served free meals and conversed with guests, in addition to performing other duties, and reflected upon their experiences in group prayer.

The seminarians arrived at St. Andre Bessette at 7:00 in the morning and were welcomed by Ms. Becky O’Neil McBrayer, Director of Community Programs, and a number of other regular volunteers, who quickly set the group about at their tasks.

The majority of seminarians worked to serve food, sharing coffee, a hot meal, and fellowship with all who came through the parish doors. Others worked behind the scenes in the kitchen, in the food pantry, the clothes closet, and in the arts room. “When we finished we were able just to speak to the homeless people,” said Alex Valtierra, Jr., seminarian of the Diocese of Sacramento. “It showed how they are hungry- hungry for communion with other people. To be treated the same.”

After finishing the service at around noon, Fr. John Patrick Riley, C.S.C., Pastor of St. Andre Bessette, led the seminarians in celebrating Mass in the chapel below the dining hall. “What was really interesting and powerful for me was that this wasn't just any normal soup kitchen for the homeless, this was a parish,” said Andre Sicard, seminarian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. “As you walk in, the tabernacle, the altar, the church is right there . . . next to the place where the mission of the church is happening with the guests. It really made a vivid image of what Pope Francis calls for, ‘a Church for the poor, of the poor.’”


Mass was followed by a short walking tour of the area surrounding St. Andre Bessette. Seminarians were introduced to the MacDonald Center, the Sisters of the Road Cafe, and the Blanchet House, all of which provide similar support services for those in need.

Finally, the group returned to St. Andre Bessette for group reflection. As a whole, the group expressed their pleasure in being able to serve and, through that, to be served, but also disappointment in not being able to do more to aid the poor. However, seminarian Thien Hoang of the Archdiocese of Portland commented, “Sometimes we aspire to do something big and great to help others, but a lot of the times, doing the simple thing, such as helping the poor directly through institutions such as St. Andre Bessette, can make the biggest difference.”

St. Andre Bessette parish has operated out of its current location at SW 5th St. and Burnside St. in Portland since 1971. It was founded in 1919 as the Downtown Chapel by Mr. P.J. Hanley in order to provide relief services to those veterans returning from World War I.

Since then, the Chapel has strived through depressions and wars to, in the words of its mission statement, “welcome all people – rich and poor, housed and homeless, healthy and ill- to share in the love of Christ through [its] Hospitality.” The parish runs many community programs in order to support Portland’s large homeless population, many of whom are unemployed and suffering from mental illness.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Seminary Community Supports Blood Drive

by Garrett McGowan

On Jan. 26th the American Red Cross came to the Damian Center at Mount Angel Seminary for a blood drive. The team stayed from 11:00am to 4:00pm. This was done with the help of the Peace and Social Justice Chairs of the seminary, Luis Fernando Trujillo and Joe Paddock. The Red Cross is the largest supplier of blood for those in need of it.

Mount Angel seminarians helped the Red Cross reach their goal for this donation. The Red Cross was hoping to get thirty-four units of blood. Seminarians and teachers helped them get forty-two units of blood, eight units over the goal.

This time around there were seven new donors. Mr. James Sisley, a member of the seminary faculty, was one of them. He realized that there is a great need for blood and decided to help. He said, “It’s my first time; I’m embarrassed to admit it.” Luis Fernando Trujillo is trying to get more people to donate. There will be another blood drive on April 12th. Everyone is encouraged to come.

The Red Cross was very grateful to those who donated. Luis Fernando described the blood drive as “giving life in a pint of your own blood.” The Peace and Social Justice Chairs are hoping that this will help people remember those that are in need of blood.  For anyone who interested in donating blood, it is recommended they be attentive to the twenty-four hour board in Anselm Hall.

The Red Cross sent a letter to Luis Fernando expressing their gratitude to the seminary. In their letter to the seminary they wrote, “We are so grateful for those people who donated because despite all the advances in modern medicine, without life giving blood many people would not survive.”