During Christmas break, thirty-one fourth year men spent seventeen days in the Holy Land on pilgrimage and retreat along with seminary rector Msgr. Steven Rohlfs, scripture professor Dr. Steven Smith, and Fr. Timothy Whelan, rector of St. Vincent’s Seminary, Latrobe, PA. After departing on December 28, the men traveled to the Pilgerhaus Retreat Center in Galilee which served as their base camp while making day trip to various sites such as Mount Carmel. Next, they had a five day canonical retreat in anticipation of the reception of Holy Orders at the conclusion of the spring semester. Their retreat was led by Fr. Eamon Kelly, L.C. at the Pilgerhaus Retreat Center. At the retreat’s conclusion, the men traveled to Jerusalem, spending the final week of the trip touring the sites of the ancient city so prominent in the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The men returned to the United States on January 14, ready to begin their final semester in the seminary. Of the numerous highlights of the pilgrimage, all of the men agreed that the Holy Hour at the Garden of Gethsemane and the boat trip on the Sea of Galilee were among their favorites. The trip marked the second consecutive year the deacon class has had the opportunity to make their canonical retreat in the Holy Land, and walk in the footsteps of Christ Himself.
On Mary’s Mountain
After a three week Christmas break, the seminarians returned well rested in time for the annual mid-year silent retreat held January 7-11 at the seminary. The retreat master was the Right Reverend Archabbot Lambert Reilly, O.S.B., who served between 1995 to 2004 as the eighth abbot and fifth archabbot of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Southern Indiana. An accomplished scholar and educator, Archabbot Lambert has served as retreat master on countless occasions over the past 40 years. His visit to the Mount marked his third retreat offered to the seminarians on Mary’s Mountain, having previously conducted retreats in 2006 and 2010. Archabbot Lambert held two conferences each day on various topics relevant to seminary life and the seminarian’s future priestly ministry. Aside from the conferences, strict silence was maintained throughout the week with the exception of the daily sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer. The silent nature of the retreat allowed the seminarians to enter into the desert with the Lord. At the conclusion of the retreat, the community welcomed two new seminarians beginning philosophical studies in the pre-theology program from the Dioceses of Wichita and Paterson, while one other man from Wichita was welcomed back to the class of 2nd theology after spending a year away from the seminary.
The annual Christmas open house and Lessons & Carols were held once again at Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday, December 2. Each year during the open house, visitors are welcome to attend a guided tour throughout the entire seminary. The seminary’s social committee prepared for the event by providing numerous Christmas treats and cookies for the visitors. In addition, an annual Christmas decorating contest was held between the ten different residential halls in the seminary building. Over the years, the battle for the best decorated hall has become a hotly contested affair with the decorations becoming bigger and bigger every year. Three visiting friends of the Vice Rector of Pastoral Formation, Fr. Ken Brighenti, were the judges this year, and in the final analysis, the 3rd floor in McSweeney Hall was deemed the winner with 1st Mulcahy coming in second place. For the first time ever, a new “award” was given this year to the hall with the most deficient décor. In other words, any hall who refused to participate in the decoration extravaganza was assigned the “prize” of assisting the winning hall in cleaning up their decorations. This year, 1st Keating gained this undesirable award, though some skepticism has arisen among members of 1st Keating who claim their floor contained more substantial decorations than 2nd McSweeney. Of course, since the rector and other faculty outnumber seminarians on 2nd McSweeney, this accusation has largely fallen on deaf ears. Following the Christmas open house, the Mount community and visitors headed over to Immaculate Conception Chapel where the Advent Lessons & Carols were held at 4:30. The annual Advent Lessons & Carols are held annually in place of Sunday Solemn Vespers on the First Sunday of Advent. It was presided over by the rector, Msgr. Rohlfs, and consisted of six reading from Scripture and Tradition with corresponding hymns sung by the seminary’s Vesper Schola. This year, the Mount was privileged to have a great friend of the seminary, Mrs. Rosemarie Sappington of Libertytown, MD, deliver a speech detailing the profound impact her childhood pastor had on her as a young girl following the destruction of much of her native German country in World War II. Mrs. Sappington’s inspiring and very moving story was a great conclusion to the day’s festive events.
For three consecutive days between November 29 to December 1, Mount St. Mary’s held a series of diverse liturgies offering seminarians an opportunity to experience a more universal perspective of the Christian liturgy. First on Thursday, November 29, the usual communal Mass held at 7 AM was in Spanish. In fact, Spanish Mass is celebrated every Thursday the seminary is in session, and in recent years the Mount’s Spanish Schola has been growing and making many positive advances to more easily assist the community in entering into the Sacred Mysteries. On Friday, November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, the Mount celebrated its annual Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom of the Ruthenian Catholic Byzantine Rite. For many years now, the Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy has been celebrated at Mount St. Mary’s on the Feast of St. Andrew. It was first initiated by Fr. Lee Gross (Arlington), the seminary’s Dean of Men, whose bi-ritual faculties permit him to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Catholic tradition. In addition to Fr. Gross’ duties at the seminary, he also celebrates the Divine Liturgy for the Byzantine Catholic mission of Montgomery County, MD each Sunday. Lastly, on Saturday morning, December 1, the Mount offered a sung Mass (Missa Cantata) in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The liturgy commonly referred to as the Traditional Latin Mass was also offered by Fr. Gross who, in addition to teaching the 1st Theology class in literature, enjoys sharing his passion for liturgy by routinely providing seminarians with the opportunity to actually attend the diverse liturgies studied in the classroom. Seminarians typically have the option of attending one of two Masses on Saturday mornings, one at 7:30 AM and another at 11 AM with the earlier Mass being celebrated in Latin once a month. The Saturday morning Latin Mass alternates every other month between the post-conciliar Novus Ordo and the pre-conciliar Extraordinary Form. About once a semester, the Latin Schola led by Deacons Dan Richards (S’ 13, Harrisburg) and Renaurd West (S’ 13, Charleston) also provides music during the Latin Mass, as in the Missa Cantata celebrated on the morning of December 1st.
Thirteen seminarians in the 3rd Theology class received candidacy in a November 16 Mass celebrated by Washington, DC’s Auxiliary Bishop, Barry C. Knestout. The admission to candidacy rite offers the candidates for ordination the opportunity to publicly express their intention to receive ordination as a deacon and later as a priest. Before the ceremony, the seminarians composed letters to their respective bishops, petitioning to be received as a candidate for sacred orders. In receiving candidacy, the seminarian acknowledges that he must care for his vocation in a renewed way, both in prayer and study. Further, he acknowledges he is making this petition of his own free will. The bishop receives the seminarian on behalf of the Church. A number of family and friends attended the ceremony and joined the entire Mount community in congratulating these men who will be ordained in just a few short months.
As many were beginning to prepare for the Thanksgiving break or even look ahead to Christmas shopping and the busyness of the final weeks of the semester, the Mount community held its annual Fall Day of Renewal November 16 and 17. The Day of Renewal, a one day retreat, comes at a time in the semester when many seminarians are feeling the pinch of the end of the semester, and it serves as an opportunity for the men to refocus their attention on divine matters and boost their spiritual life before heading into one of the most rigorous stretches of the academic year. This year the Day of Renewal was preached by the vocation director from Washington DC, Father Carter Griffin. Father Griffin, who also serves as the vice-rector of the Blessed John Paul II College Seminary in Washington, preached a conference on Thursday evening before offering two more conferences in Immaculate Conception Chapel on Friday morning and afternoon. There was unanimous acclaim for Fr. Griffin’s ability to relate to seminarians and offer a needed boost to encourage the men in formation to fully dedicate themselves to God and the service of His people. Following the final conference on Friday afternoon, the Day of Renewal concluded with the Mass for Candidacy described below.
Following the annual November 2, Feast of All Souls Mass at the Grotto of Lourdes’ Glass Chapel, around sixty members of the seminary community headed down to the seminary’s Rec Room where they enjoyed a fine Vietnamese meal organized by Philip Phan (S’ 16, Bridgeport). In hosting the event, Phan, originally hailing from Vietnam, worked with the Vietnamese Knights of Columbus Council from Our Lady of Vietnam parish in Silver Spring, MD. Many members of the council, along with their families, were generous in setting aside the evening to provide and cook the food and also make the trip from the Washington, DC suburbs for the event. The meal consisted of a authentic, traditional Vietnamese foods such as Pho (noodle beef soup), egg rolls, and summer rolls. In providing this cultural experience at the seminary, Phan was also able to fulfill one of his goals for the 2012-2013 academic year. Each year every seminarian is asked to develop a few goals in each of the four pillars of formation; academic, human, pastoral, and spiritual. This year, one of Phan’s pastoral goals was to organize the Vietnamese party in honor of the 117 Vietnamese Martyrs. Unfortunately this year the Feast of the 117 Vietnamese Martyrs, November 24, falls during the Thanksgiving Break, so the decision was made to host the part on November 2 instead. As a part of the celebration of the Vietnamese Martyrs, a film was also shown at the beginning of the dinner recounting the history of the Catholic Church in Vietnam and the details of the lives and deaths of the 117 martyrs honored by the Church as saints.
As part of the 2nd Theology Seminar, Priest as a Public Person, seminarians from the Mount’s Class of 2015 traveled to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on the evening of November 1st to attend the National Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, led by Conductor Christoph Eschenbach. The system of yearly seminars is a program developed by current rector, Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, which consists of a weekly one credit hour course, with minimal requirements, but which offers the seminarian an opportunity to become more well rounded and prepared to face the rigors facing 21st century parish priests. The 2nd Theology Seminar, titled Priest as a Public Person taught by vice-rectors Frs. Brian Doerr and Ken Brighenti, centers around aiding the seminarian in developing a well-rounded knowledge base and the skill set to work as a strong and capable leader and pastor within the modern world. Along with attending the orchestra in Washington, the seminar also provided the class with the opportunity to shoot clay pigeons on Friday October 26 or visit the National Gallery of Art in Washington later in the fall.
The Mount St. Mary’s held the annual Oktoberfest party on the last Friday of October. A variety of traditional German foods such as bratwursts, sauerkraut, and pretzel rolls were consumed throughout the night by the seminarians and guests attending the celebration. Along with the tasty food, a number of refreshing autumn beers were also available for sampling. The seminarians always enjoy spending time with the families of the lay faculty who attend the festivities, and every year a number of the children come to Oktoberfest dressed in their Halloween costumes. In addition, an annual pumpkin carving contest is held during the evening. There was stiff competition for the pumpkin carving title this year which was won by Mike Misulia’s (S’18, Baltimore) design of a dragon which narrowly beat out Neil Kirchoefer (S’15, Peoria) whose unique carving of the face of seminarian Carl McIntosh (S’ 15, Bridgeport) onto a pumpkin was a favorite of many (see in picture). Misulia took home the first place prize of $100 while Kirchoefer received $50 for his efforts. Oktoberfest was the first of a handful of house parties throughout the year hosted by the seminary’s social committee headed by Matt Capadano (S’ 14, Omaha). The social committee, comprised of about ten seminarians, is entrusted with the planning and the overseeing of the parties, helping to ensure that all who attend have an enjoyable experience.
On the weekend of October 19-21, in excess of ninety family members of Mount seminarians traveled to Emmitsburg for the seventh annual seminary family weekend. The activity-filled weekend gave the visitors a unique view into the life of a seminarian. Beginning on Friday night, the seminarians and visitors celebrated Vespers together in Immaculate Conception chapel followed by a social in the rec-room. On Saturday, the families attended presentations describing the seminary formation delivered by the rector, Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, and other faculty members involved with the four pillars of formation; academic, human, pastoral, and spiritual. Saturday evening ended with a formal dinner in the William H. Keeler Seminary Dining Room attended by the visiting family members and their host seminarians. The family weekend concluded the next day with a solemn Mass on Sunday morning celebrated by Msgr. Rohlfs.