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On Mary’s Mountain

  The Daily Life of The Seminary Community

Memorial Mass for Brian Bergkamp

Immaculate Conception Chapel

Brian Bergkamp


Wisdom 3: 1-9

1 Corinthians 15: 51-57

John 12: 23-26



“How are you?” This in inevitably one of the questions someone asks us when one of our close relatives or friends dies. It sometimes follows the statement, ‘I’m so sorry” or “My condolences.” Then they turn to us and ask, “How are you?”

It has been 52 days since Brian Bergkamp’s death. We gather this evening not to celebrate Mass for the repose of someone’s soul who we do not know. We knew Brian – you and I. He was a member of our seminary community. He was a diocesan brother, a classmate, an advisee, a student, a fellow Mounty, a friend. We celebrate this Mass for the repose of his soul and for an increase of faith for all those who mourn his loss. We miss him now and will continue to miss him. So the question seems very appropriate to ask, “How are you?”

To answer such a question, we have to ask, “Who are we?” We are Christians. We know all about the meaning of death because we know Christ. We know about death and we gage how we are based on the truths of our faith and the consolation we receive from it. We are men and women of faith who can, because of Christ, stare into the face of death and say, like St. Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

That’s how we are!

The Word of God provide the truth about death

The Bible was made for moments like this one. When we are faced with death, we can turn to the inspired word of God to find the true meaning of suffering and death. It is a word about death because it is a word about true life.

The Bible proclaims the “euaggelion”, the Gospel, the “good news” about Christ’s victory over death. It conveys to us the life, teaching and action of the One who conquered death. Our Lord Jesus Christ is life unconquerable by death. He is true life. He is eternal life.

The Book of Wisdom clearly states that the “souls of the just are in the hand of God.” “They seem to the foolish;” that is, those without faith, “to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction. But they are in peace.” Death does not have the final word.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of death as a “change.” The Preface of the Mass says, “Vita mutatur non tollitur.” “Life is changed not ended.” It is a change from corruptibility to incorruptibility, mortality to immortality. Thanks to the victory we have through Christ, death is swallowed up. Death loses its sting.

From the lips of our Savior Himself, we hear in the Gospel that death to self is a way of life and a way to life. Jesus exhorts us to be like a grain of wheat which falls and dies. We must turn away from our attachment to this worldly life and seek eternal life. Death is a way of life for a Christian. His life is a continual death to self – a falling to the ground – so as to produce the fruit of holiness and heaven.

The heroism of the gift of self

News stories were published around the globe about Brian’s selfless action. In places like Italy (Agenzia Fides), Spain, (ACI Prensa), Hungary (Magyar Kurír), Ireland, (Irish Catholic), people read about a seminarian who stopped to help a young woman out of a life-threatening situation in the Arkansas River. Her life was saved and his was lost.

Why such international interest in this story? I think the answer is found at the depth of the human heart. We long for heroes. A hero epitomizes was is best in man; what is most virtuous. It is the heroism of the gift of self.

When Brian was at Conception Seminary College the monks gave him the key to the woodshop. He was one of the few men who loved to go down there and make all sorts of things out of wood. One day a fellow seminarian, in a casual conversation which Brian overheard, said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a wooden model plane to fly around this place.” About a week later this seminarian found a model plane made out of wood on his bed in his room. As Matt Davied said to me, “This just shows the kind of person Brian was.”

The millennial generation, to which Brian belonged, has a strong tendency to idealize the self. Often young people see the world only insofar as it impacts them. They are more interested in feeling good than in being good.

Brian, and I dare say like many young men whom it is a privilege to serve at the Mount, do not follow in the footsteps of some of their peers. Their lives as seminarians are a path in the footsteps of another. They follow the one who said that He had come “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many.”

Brian went out into the Arkansas River not to take life but to save it – to save her. Brian’s chosen vocation, the actions of his life, and his last act all give living witness against the idealism of the self and for the heroism of the self.

The gift of self is at the heart of the priesthood

When I listened to Bishop Kemme’s homily at Brian’s Memorial Mass in the Cathedral of Wichita, I was struck by what he observed. He said that Brian “may not have been a priest, but lived and died in the most priestly way.” You see, the gift of self is at the heart of the priesthood.

A great saint once wrote, “the priesthood requires more than a morally upright life. It demands sanctity.”[1] Being a priest demands total, all-in, heroic gift of self. Look at our patron - St. John Vianney. He rarely left the little town of Ars but he was heroically holy in the little things - daily prayer, Mass, hours in the confessional, teaching catechism, preaching, etc. All the essential elements of any priest’s life. His heroism in the little things made him a great saint.

The gift of self is radiated by the Holy Eucharist.

This heroic gift of self is radiated by the Holy Eucharist.

This past Spring Brian received the Ministry of Acolyte from Bishop Kemme. It is a ministry needed in the advance toward ordination to the priesthood and it is especially dedicated toward the Holy Eucharist. At that ceremony Brian and his classmates heard the words of the ritual say, “Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s Sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness.”[2] Little did he know that he would soon live in a concrete way the words he heard addressed to him and his classmates on that occasion.

Is Brian exceptional in this regard? No. He did something exceptional but I believe that he is not exceptional for a seminarian from the Mount. That’s the kind of men we have here.

One of the last conversations I had with Brian was in St. Bernard’s Chapel. The graduating class of 2016 had purchased a beautiful crucifix and matching candle sticks for the chapel altar. I was in the process of taking the little wooden crucifix off the altar to replace it with the large, new one. Brian was watching. As I took the little one off, I asked him, “Brian, do you know where this came from?” With a rather sheepish and guilty look he admitted, “Monsignor, last year I thought the altar needed a crucifix so I put it on there not knowing how long it would last.” I said, “Well, it lasted the whole year. But where did it come from?” With a bit of cheerful pride, he said, “From the Manochio Mart.”[3]

Brian had an innate sense of the connection between the Eucharist and the Cross; between the priesthood and the Cross. This sense became concrete action when that young woman needed help. He obviously did not think twice. Someone needed help and he was going to help. Yes, that decision led to his death. But it was a decision to fall to the ground and die. It was a decision to live as a Christian. It was a decision to live as a priest should live, with a Eucharistic gift of self.


When we look back on the events of this summer, when we return to the Mount years from now and see this beautiful plaque commemorating Brian’s heroic death and life, we might wonder, “How are we now?”

We will be as we are now. We are confident in faith that death does not have a victory or a sting. We are confident that we are all called to live a heroic life marked by selfless love for others. We are confident that a person who makes a gift of self for another – who lives a truly Eucharistic life – is someone who is capable of receiving is a life which will lives on in eternity with Christ.

[1] St. Josemaria Escrivá

[2] The Roman Pontifical

[3] The Seminary exchange market where someone’s trash becomes someone else’s treasure

from The Wichita Eagle, August 1, 2016

Bergkamp has been hailed as a hero for his efforts to save a woman in his kayaking group who had fallen into the water.

Police have said he was kayaking with four friends, a man and three women, when they hit churning water under the 21st Street Bridge.

According to the account provided by the woman Bergkamp saved, two of the women and Bergkamp’s fellow seminarian were able to paddle through the rushing, swirling water beneath the bridge, but the back end of her kayak was sucked under the water.

When the kayak tipped, she fell out of it. She had a life jacket, but was not wearing it at the time.

Bergkamp was behind her, wearing his life jacket. Instead of paddling through the churning waters, he stopped to help.

He was calm the entire time, trying to get the two of them to a metal ladder attached to a support under the bridge.

From his kayak, he threw her the life jacket she had lost, which had floated away when she fell in the water.

Because of the over-the-head style of the life jacket, the water sucked it off shortly after she put it on.

Then Bergkamp’s kayak overturned.

Somehow, she was able to get out of the current. After that, she was floating on her back in the river until the other seminarian came in his kayak to pull her to shore.

No one saw Bergkamp after his kayak capsized.

When Anaya found the life vest on Saturday, the large wooden rosary was tangled in the prongs that would have slipped into the clasp that secures the vest. The cross was gone, but the loop of rope with the wooden beads remained intact.

A member of the Bergkamp family said Monday afternoon they had not been contacted about the vest and rosary.

“It’s just too coincidental” that the rosary was dangling from the vest, Anaya said. He’s hoping the rosary is Bergkamp’s and can be returned to the family.

“That’s been my intention from the start,” he said.

Read more here:

Fr. Rother

By December of this year, the hallways of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary officially may have housed a Martyr of the Church. Father Stanley Rother, an alumnus of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary...Click here to read more.

Mount St. Mary’s University has 16 Division I sports and numerous club sports, and this year each team has its own Mount seminarian as its chaplain. Presently, 25 seminarians are involved in the sports chaplaincy program....Click here to read more.

Pope Francis MSMUMembers of the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary community have the opportunity of a lifetime by serving with Pope Francis during this week’s Papal visit to the United States....Click here to read more.

Archbishop William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and Chancellor of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, has appointed Monsignor Andrew R. Baker, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, PA, Rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.  Msgr. Baker succeeds Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, who served as Rector of the Seminary since February 2005.  Msgr. Baker’s appointment is effective July 15, 2015....Click here to read more.

Fr. Rother - AlumniMore than 30 years after his assassination, Rev. Stanley Rother, S’63, was formally recognized as a martyr by a special Theological Commission at the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome....Click here to read more.

Mount St. Mary’s Seminary Deacon Class of 2015 received their Master of Divinity degrees on May 1. The ceremony took place in the Mount’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and included 36 Mount seminarians—many also received their Master of Arts in Theology....Click here to read more.

Mount St. Mary’s will welcome 1,600 high school students for this weekend’s annual Mount2000 retreat....Click here to read more.

Mount St. Mary’s Seminary traveled in full force to Washington, DC on January 22th to participate in the 42th annualMarch for Life 2015 March for Life. The seminarians joined hundreds of thousands who gathered as perhaps the largest crowd in four decades to affirm the value of life in the womb against the currents of the pervasive culture of death. In keeping with the custom of Mount St. Mary’s, a number of seminarians traveled to the nation’s capitol on Wednesday night to join in the 36rd annual National Prayer Vigil for Life which began with a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Boston, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The next morning, the seminary gathered for a Youth Rally and Mass with 15,000 youth and young adults at the Verizon Center, with the Mass celebrated by Washington DC’s archbishop, Donald Cardinal Wuerl. After the Mass, the seminarians made their way to the National Mall to partake in the main event. Along with the scores of other marchers, the massive group made their way up Constitution Avenue past the National Capitol before turning south on 1st Street where the March concluded in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building.

Aug 2016  
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