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On Mary’s Mountain


  The Daily Life of The Seminary Community

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.

Lenten Day of Renewal

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.

Lenten Day of Renewal

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.”

George Weigel

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.

Mardi Gras Party

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.

Mardi Gras Party

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.

Profession of Faith

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.

Profession of Faith

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.

Profession of Faith

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.

Mount 2000

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.

Mount 2000

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).

Mount 2000Mount 2000

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.

Mount 2000Mount 2000

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.

Mount 2000

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. 

Holy Land Pilgrimage

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.

Holy Land Pilgrimage

After a three week Christmas break, the seminarians returned well rested in time for the annual mid-year silent retreat held January 6-10 at the seminary. The retreat master was former seminary vice-rector, Fr. Brett Brannen, who completed his six year tenure as vice-rector following the 2010-2011 academic year.

Silent Retreat

A 1994 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s, Fr. Brannen has served in numerous parishes in his diocese of Savannah, GA and is now the pastor at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Savannah. During his term as vice-rector, he authored the book To Save a Thousand Souls which has been invaluable in assisting countless men in their vocational discernment. Fr. Brannen is also a skilled retreat master, having vast experience in offering various types of retreats and parish missions to a wide range of groups.

Silent Retreat

In the Mount’s retreat, Fr. Brannen 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 one new seminarian who will be beginning formation and philosophical studies in the pre-theology program from the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Another man from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is returning to the seminary in the class of 1st theology after spending a year away.

Twenty-seven seminarians in the 3rd Theology class received candidacy in a November 22 Mass celebrated by Philadelphia’s Auxiliary Bishop, Barry Daniel E. Thomas.

Candidacy Mass

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.

Candidacy Mass

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.

On the evening of Thursday November 14, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary hosted a concert at Immaculate Conception Chapel performed by the world renowned organist, Christopher Houlihan.

Organ Recital

The concert marked the first time a public performance was played on the chapel’s organ which was purchased and installed in 2009 through the generous efforts of the Knights of Columbus.

Organ Recital

The community was privileged to experience the concert by Christopher Houlihan, a graduate of the Julliard School, who is regarded as one of the world’s premier organists. Houlihan has received high regards from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

Organ Recital

In addition to his preparation at Julliard, he also studied at the French National Regional Conservatory in Versailles where he earned the “Prix de Perfectionnement” (equivalent to a university artist’s diploma in the US). He also served as assistant musician at the American Cathedral in Paris where he had the honor of performing for then President and Mrs. George W. Bush. Mount St. Mary’s was honored to have a musician of such repute play on our organ.

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