Every August we have a 4 day Convocation with all the diocese seminarians. It’s a chance to get all the seminarians together, build fraternity, catch up after summer assignments, and refresh before heading back to school. This is especially appreciated because we spend most of the year divided up into 6 different seminaries. Convocation and Christmas dinner are the two times a year that everyone is together.
Each year I appreciate the event more and more. First year I showed up and felt totally overwhelmed. I walked into a room with 40 strangers, most of whom already knew each other. Everyone was kind, but it was a lot to take in. Second year was great because I had friends I had spent the year with that I hadn’t seen all summer. This year was even better because I’m slowly building up friendships with more of my brothers. I got to spend time with the guys I was in school with, the men I’ll be joining at St. Mary’s, and the new men who will be starting their first year. I spent one night listening to a table full of recently ordained priests and deacons discuss their experiences as ordained ministers. I continue to grow a deeper appreciation for the men God just has given me to journey with and eventually serve alongside in ministry.
This isn’t a retreat as you’d typically imagine. We go to mass, pray the Liturgy of the Hours together, and schedule time for personal holy hours, but it’s mostly a social gathering. Vacation is a truer sense of the word – time for rest and personal re-creation. One of the days we went out to a lake house. Some nearby parishioners donated boats so we could wake board, tube, and cruise on the lake. Another afternoon we went to a ranch for lunch, swimming, Olympics watching, and volleyball. The newly ordained priests and Bishop Joe always jump in on the volleyball action. It’s not every day you see your leader and shepherds arguing over line calls and exchanging spikes at the net. Bishop is actually really good.
This picture with the Aggie Catholic Seminarians: Fr Brian was the vocation director who accepted most of us into Seminary. Now he’s our Pastor when we go home to Aggieland.
Dcn Joseph: I’ve heard it constantly throughout formation, but now I’m realizing more and more that I’m most able to minister to someone when I have personally encountered Christ’s mercy in the place they are struggling. I can only show love from places of my heart that I know I am loved. I’ve found that the most effective homilies are ones that I can speak from a place of encounter in my own life.
Fr Sean: Being a priest rocks! Every single confession makes the years of prep totally worth it. I wake up every morning and realize I don’t have to find a parish to go to mass at. I’m a priest now, I can do that now. Wait… I’m a priest!!!
Jimmy: One of my best friends – fellow Aggie, diocese transplant, and classmate, At our formal dinner he stood up and gave a profoundly vulnerable reflection on his experiences at IPF this Summer. He shared how the blessed mother has guided him to allow Jesus to remove the walls surrounding his stony heart (Ek 36:26). It brings me great joy to see friends share the ways Christ is healing wounds and shining truth on previously believed lies.
Bishop Joe: The more time I spend around him, the more I realize his deep love for the priests of the Diocese. He really is a father to us and cares about our lives. “Trust me, I read your stuff. I know what you are experiencing. I want your best.” In his official address to the seminarians he emphasized, “Absolutely nothing can substitute for your own encounter with Jesus.” Further, priestly ministry is not a solo act. You cannot be a lone wolf. Priestly fraternity is absolutely essential, and that starts now.
Bishop Danny: “The only posture that matters is for you to know yourself as a beloved son of the Father. That is THE identity that defines everything else in your life.” From there, Pastoral Charity is the priestly virtue. Are you allowing your heart to be moved by the suffering of others? Everything in a priest’s life is for the sake of pouring self out to the Church.
Now I’m moved into Houston, finished a week of orientation, and class begins Monday. This weekend I’m driving out to Baton Rouge to help clear out flooded houses, so I’d appreciate any prayers you want to offer for the families we’ll be assisting.