Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, the nation’s second oldest seminary, convened its new academic year with an afternoon Mass on August 21. For the third consecutive year, the local ordinary, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore (S’ 77), celebrated the opening Mass at his alma mater. This year the Mount opens the year with 161 seminarians - 37 of whom are new to formation. Over the summer the seminary enhanced devotional areas, made improvements to the interior and exterior of the house, and hired two new theology faculty: Dr. John-Mark Miravalle and Fr. Pietro Rossotti, FSCB. More than 35 men in the house are enrolled in the pre-theology program, an intensive two-year course of philosophy studies prior to entering theology. The remaining students are spread throughout the four years of theology studies.
On Mary’s Mountain
Bishop James D. Conley (S’ 85) of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska returned to his alma mater to install the new class of lectors and acolytes at the seminary. At a Mass on Friday afternoon, twenty-nine seminarians in the class of 2017, were permanently installed as lectors in Immaculate Conception Chapel, while the following morning, nineteen seminarians, from the class of 2016, were installed as acolytes.
Above: Installed Lectors from the Class of 2017
Above: Installed Acolytes from the Class of 2016
The Church’s official ministry of lector and acolyte are the equivalent to the minor orders which were previously bestowed upon seminarians as they progressed through their priestly formation. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, there were four minor orders received by a seminarian before receiving the final major orders of subdeacon, deacon, and priest. In the post-conciliar Church, lector and acolyte are typically received in consecutive years prior to a man’s ordination to the diaconate.
Consequently, the Mount traditionally installs members of the first and second theology classes into these ministries in the spring semester toward the end of the academic year. For the seminarian, the installation into these ministries symbolizes two of the final steps taken on the path toward the priesthood. A number of seminarians welcomed family and friends to the Mount to attend the liturgies, and a reception with light hors d'oeuvre and drinks was held in the seminary’s rec-room following the Friday afternoon Mass.
On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, the seminary community held a solemn Mass for the second consecutive year at the Basilica and Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg.
Following the afternoon Mass, the Daughters of Charity hosted the entire seminary community for a Spaghetti dinner. Although the tradition had been broken for some time, it had been the custom for many years for the seminarians to celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph with the Daughters of Charity at their Emmitsburg Motherhouse. This tradition was renewed last year and once again, the Mount was pleased to be hosted by the Sisters for this year’s celebration and join them for dinner afterwards!
Additionally, the annual Festa di San Guiseppe (Feast of St. Joseph) party hosted by seminary Vice-Rector of Pastoral Formation, Fr. Ken Brighenti, was held on Saturday evening, March 22. Since St. Joseph’s Day fell on a Wednesday of Lent this year, the festivities were held on Saturday evening in order to occur after the Sunday vigil had begun.
As in previous years, many friends and family of Fr. Brighenti traveled to the seminary from New Jersey and Connecticut and assisted him in hosting the party. In keeping with the tradition of a St. Joseph Table, there was plenty of pizza, St. Joseph pastries, Italian cookies, Reggiano Parmegiano cheese, Italian bread and olive oil, prosciutto di parma, as well as homemade wine. After invoking St. Joseph’s intercession and the blessing over the food, the party officially began at 6pm. As the evening drew on, the community enjoyed the fraternity which always accompanies the yearly party.
Father Vincent Tobin, a Benedictine monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey, Saint Meinrad, IN, visited the seminary this past weekend to serve as the retreat-master for the annual Lenten Day of Renewal. Fr. Tobin, a professed religious since 1954, is in his 55th year of priesthood, having been ordained in 1959. He is a Classics scholar and has vast experience teaching the ancient languages of the Church. The Day of Renewal began with a conference after Vespers on Friday night.
Another conference was held on Saturday morning followed by Mass celebrated by the seminary rector, Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, and preached by Fr. Tobin. Finally, the Day of Renewal was concluded with an afternoon conference. During all of the conferences, Fr. Tobin shared practical advice from so many years of priestly ministry. He strongly reiterated the prominent role the Psalms should occupy in the spiritual life of priests and seminarians due to the role they played in Jesus’ own life as well as the power they can possess in ecumenical efforts.
The annual Day of Renewal offers the seminarians an opportunity to step back from the regular seminary schedule to set aside a little extra time for prayer and spiritual advancement prior to Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum.
The internationally renowned Catholic author and commentator, George Weigel, spoke at Mount St. Mary’s on Thursday evening, March 13th. Weigel, perhaps best known for his best-selling biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, is one of the foremost Catholic intellectuals in American history. His authorship of more than twenty books as well as countless articles led the seminary rector, Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, to rightly introduce him on Thursday night as “a veritable Erasmus in America.”
His lecture at the Mount, based on his most recently published book, Evangelical Catholicism released in 2013, was held at 7pm in the university’s Knott Auditorium. The hour long presentation took the audience through an analysis of various epochs in the history of the Church before eventually arriving at our current situation in the 21st century. He discussed several of the positive trends currently advancing in the Church and also spoke at length on the impact of the three most recent pontificates of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. Weigel’s insights are invaluable due to his close involvement with the inside functioning of the Church’s hierarchy. Among other things, he concluded that the witness of the individual Christian to his or her faith is the most powerful tool for the universal spread of Catholicism. At the conclusion of the lecture, Weigel answered questions for about twenty minutes before signing copies of his books.
The seminary Social Committee held the annual pre-Lenten Mardi Gras party on Tuesday March 4, the day before Ash Wednesday. The party, held in the seminary’s rec room, began after Vespers which was prayed in community at 5 pm. Dr. Jay Alexius, M.D. (S’ 2015, Lake Charles, LA) led the Social Committee in preparing for the party for the second consecutive year. Dr. Alexius who hails from Louisiana themed the seminary’s party after the annual festivities held in New Orleans.
The main food offered was a meat based gumbo popular throughout Louisiana. In addition to the seminarians, several of the lay faculty came to the party with their families including many children who enlivened the environment. The party is a tradition for Catholics throughout the world who take advantage of the final day of Ordinary Time before entering into the 6 week penitential season of Lent leading up to Easter.
During Vespers on Sunday February 16, the students of third and fourth theology took one of the final steps before approaching Holy Orders this coming spring. The third year men preparing for ordination to the diaconate made the Profession of Faith and took the Oath of Fidelity, while the fourth year deacons took the oath of fidelity to the sacerdotal office to which they will soon be ordained.
Prior to the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, the Mount’s rector, Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, gave a ferverino expounding upon the meaning and importance of the oath and profession.
Seminarians often have different dispositions when they take the oath and make their profession, Msgr. Rohlfs explained, but the common thread running through each man is the willingness to stand before God and the Church and publicly proclaim their faith and determination to live out the will of God in their lives.
For this willingness, Msgr. Rohlfs personally thanked the men on this occasion of their oath and profession. The canonical law of the Church requires that all candidates take such oaths prior to reception of Holy Orders. Numerous family, friends, and seminary faculty were on hand to witness these men on this joyous occasion in preparation for the Sacrament of Orders.
Once again the seminary community hosted the Mount 2000 retreat this past weekend for high school students. Mount 2000 is an annual Eucharistic retreat started by the seminarians prior to the year 2000 jubilee.
The first retreat was such a success that the seminarians decided to continue it beyond the year 2000. The retreat lasting from Friday afternoon through Sunday offers high school youth a chance to come and hear some of the best and most dynamic Catholic speakers in the country, spend time with seminarians, priests, and religious, enjoy one another's company, and most, importantly, spend time with the Lord in the Sacraments: in Mass, in Confession, and especially in the time offered for prayer in front of the Eucharist.
This year Mount 2000 saw 1,500 participants brave the winter cold to travel to Emmitsburg and spend the weekend of February 7-9 growing closer to the Lord. The theme for this year’s retreat was Come. Encounter. Go. which encouraged the participants to experience the love of God during the retreat before leaving with the commission to “Go home to your friends and tell them all the Lord has done for you” (Mk. 5:19).
Well known figures, Jon Leonetti, Leah Darrow, and Sr. Mary Brigid Burnham, O.P., were the marquee speakers throughout the weekend and the Ben Walther Band provided the musical entertainment.
The retreat’s closing Mass on Sunday was offered by the Archbishop of Baltimore, William E. Lori, for the second consecutive year. Of particular note, seminarian Adam Cesarek (S’15, Peoria) was the chairman of the 2014 retreat, bearing the burden of laboring for countless hours to coordinate and plan the weekend. The extensive effort of Cesarek and his Core Team allowed all of the participants to have the greatest possible experience.
To read much more about Mount 2000 and see videos and pictures from the weekend, visit the online website at http://www.mount2000.com/.
The seminary community held its annual Spring Workshops on Friday January 24 and Saturday January 25. Each year during the spring semester different presenters are invited to conduct a two day informational seminar on a ministry related topic which is typically not covered in detail in the seminary’s formation program.
This year, we welcomed two speakers from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to help expand the horizons of the seminarians’ understanding of ministry in the modern world. First, Fr. David Garcia of the Archdiocese of San Antonio conducted three hour-long sessions on Friday afternoon and one further session on Saturday morning on the topic of Hispanic Ministry. Following Fr. Garcia, Joan Rosenhauer, the Executive Vice President of US Operations for CRS, spoke for two sessions on Catholic Social Doctrine in the life of the Church.
Both Fr. Garcia and Ms. Rosenhauer brought with them extensive knowledge and experience in their respective fields and were gracious in sharing their insight with the Mount community.
On the evening of January 15, the deacons in the seminary Class of 2014 returned from a nearly three week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This year marked the third consecutive year that the fourth year men spent the majority of their Christmas break in the land where Christ Himself lived. Once again the group was accompanied by the seminary rector, Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, along with the esteemed scripture scholar and Mount professor, Dr. Steven Smith. After departing on December 28, the men spent the first week of the trip in Nazareth, touring various sites throughout Galilee while also traveling to Mount Carmel.
Next, the group made their way to the Sea of Galilee where they were privileged to make their five day canonical retreat in anticipation of the reception of priestly ordination this upcoming spring or summer. As has also become a custom, the retreat was led by Fr. Eamon Kelly, L.C. at the Pilgerhaus Retreat Center. At the retreat’s conclusion, the men next traveled to Jerusalem where they spent the last week of the trip before returning to the United States on January 15. Of the numerous highlights of the pilgrimage, all of the men agreed that the night spent in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was one of the most memorable and grace-filled experiences of the journey as well as simply having the opportunity to experience the culture and geography of the area where Jesus lived and carried out his ministry.