How do future priests spend spring break? For three days in late February, more than 20 seminarians from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, spent their break at Marymount University getting to know the students, faculty, and staff. They struck up conversations with people outside of classrooms, in the cafeteria, on the campus grounds, and even on the shuttle buses.
During Marymount’s stress-filled, mid-term week, the seminarians empathized with students, while challenging them to go beyond the immediate and look inward to see how one’s faith could bring joy and meaning to all aspects of everyday life.
Ken Roth, a second-year, pre-theology student at the seminary, acknowledged being a little apprehensive about how such a conversation would be received, but he found the experience both enjoyable and meaningful. He said, “I went around campus just meeting kids and striking up a conversation – mostly finding out about what they were doing, where they are in their lives, and bringing up their faith life.”
Roth added, “If they seemed receptive, I would challenge them to take the next step. I was pretty nervous, but everyone was nice. I spoke with one freshman who had grown up with no religious tradition, so she was enjoying Marymount’s theology class where she was learning about the Bible for the first time.” At the end of his visit, he noted, “I’ve had good conversations with students who have no religion, those who have a strong religious belief, and everything in between. I just tried to weave a spiritual perspective into wherever they were in their faith life.”
What was evident to all in the Marymount community who encountered the seminarians was the joy that they have in their vocation. Without being overbearing, they encouraged reflective thought.
A beautiful Eucharistic Procession around the campus was a highlight of their visit. On that sun-lit winter afternoon, there was a tangible spirit of blessing and thanksgiving as Marymount students, faculty, and staff joined in the procession and veneration of God in our midst.
The procession was followed by Campus Ministry’s weekly Food for the Soul dinner, where again joy was the prevailing theme. Marymount President Matthew Shank told the seminarians, “Your visit has brought a good feeling to our campus, and your presence promotes and enhances Marymount’s Catholic identity.”
Seminarians Adam Cesarek from the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and Ben Dunkelberger, from the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, addressed the gathering, explaining that their mission at Marymount was to “spread the joy of Christ.” Cesarek described his own discernment process and the moment when “joy took off in my life and I realized I wanted to be a priest.” He told the Marymount students that they should look for and find that same joy in whatever vocation they follow.
Dunkelberger talked about the joy of friendship, “which means that we see the face of God in each other.” He explained that friendship is about sharing your life, sharing common experiences, and sharing joys and difficulties. He said, “I don’t mean just being a Facebook friend; you need to develop real friendships to become a better person. You need friends to grow.” He encouraged the students to begin that growth by bringing spirituality and prayer into everyday experiences with others, while acknowledging that “having this conversation is not easy, but so worth it.”
The seminarians may have sometimes felt that initiating conversations with members of the Marymount community took them out of their comfort zone. But the resulting discussions were so worthwhile for all involved. Summarizing the purpose of their visit, one seminarian said, “We are not here to proselytize, but rather to share the happiness we’ve found in being open to God’s message. We hope that this will open the door for Marymount students to find such joy.”
– Kneeling in prayer during the Eucharistic ProcessionPHOTO 2
– The Eucharistic Procession began in Marymount’s Sacred Heart of Mary Chapel.PHOTO 3
– With Marymount Chaplain Fr. Brian Bashista leading the way, the Eucharistic Procession crosses the foot bridge on the university’s Main Campus.PHOTO 4
– The Eucharistic Procession proceeds across the campus and back to the Chapel.PHOTO 5
– Seminarians Alfredo Porras (left) and Ben Dunkelberger (right) chat with Marymount junior Lacey Hughes.