Only a few minutes after the white smoke began rushing out of the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday March 13th, scores of seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s came rushing to the rec room to watch the events transpiring in the Vatican’s grand piazza. The looks of excitement, joy, and expectation on the faces of the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square was equaled by the spontaneous joy and anticipation that filled the rec room at America’s largest seminary in Emmitsburg, MD. By the time of the official “Habemus Papam” announcement, a great majority of the community gathered to await the initial address of the new pope. Along with the rest of the Church, immediately after the new pope’s identity was revealed, the seminarians began frantically searching for information about the new Sovereign Pontiff. After learning of the imitable pastoral qualities of the new Pope Francis, the seminary has joined the Universal Church in rejoicing at the election of such a worthy man to the See of St. Peter as the 266th pope in the Church’s history.
On Mary’s Mountain
Plans for the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary schola to release its second CD took a big leap forward on March 8th when Sheffied Recording Company of Phoenix, MD arrived on campus to hold a rigorous two day recording session. Back in 2008, the seminary released its first CD, a collection of hymns and chants sung during a live celebration of Vespers. This time around, the schola recorded around twenty sacred hymns traditionally sung during the liturgical celebrations in the Advent and Christmas seasons. The Christmas themed CD will hopefully be available for purchase this upcoming November, offering the public a chance to allow the seminary’s schola to be a part of their future Christmas preparations.
While the schola’s twenty-four singers worked for more than thirteen hours with scores of individual takes during the two days of recording, the preparation for this CD has been ongoing for months. The seminary’s schola director, Ms. Julia Parker, first began working on the project last July, though her efforts have demanded a more heightened dedication since the beginning of the school year. Laboring for countless hours, the completion of the recording process is a great achievement for Ms. Parker who arrived at the Mount just over two years ago in January 2011. Prior to brining her musical abilities to Mary’s Mountain, Parker, a native of Virginia and South Carolina gained abundant experience working for various Catholic institutions in the Diocese of Columbus, OH. She held posts at Columbus’ seminary, the Pontifical College Josephinum, from 1998 to 2010 while also working at the cathedral and another large parish. Possessing skills as both an accomplished organist and an abundant knowledge of the Church’s tradition of sacred music, Parker now holds the positions of Director of Liturgical Music at the seminary, university organist, and the seminary’s instructor of Pastoral Music. Though the completion of the CD’s recording process is a huge step ahead, Ms. Parker will now turn her attention to the grueling process of editing the lengthy recordings before sending the final version back to the recording company.
Once again the seminary community hosted the Mount2000 retreat this past weekend for high school students. Mount2000 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 yeat, the retreat saw 1,500 participants brave the winter cold to travel to Emmitsburg and spend the weekend growing in their relationship with the Lord. The theme for this year’s retreat was Ignite which encouraged the participants to allow the Holy Spirit to be ignited in their lives. The well known speakers Mark Hart and Jackie Francois were the marquee speakers throughout the weekend and the popular Josh Blakesley Band provided the musical entertainment. The celebration of the retreat’s closing Mass on Sunday by the Archbishop of Baltimore has now become a standing tradition and this year marked the first visit to Mount2000 of the new archbishop, William E. Lori. Of particular note, seminarian Chris Perrella (S’14, Bridgeport) was the chairman of the 2013 retreat, bearing the burden of laboring for countless hours to coordinate and plan the retreat. The extensive effort of Perrella and his Core Team allowed all of the participants to have the greatest possible experience. To read much more about Mount2000 and see videos and pictures from the weekend, visit the online website at www.mount2000.com.
Along with millions of other Americans, the Mount seminary community gathered in the rec room Sunday, February 3rd, to partake in the annual Super Bowl party. The class of second theology was enlisted to provide the food, drinks, and entertainment as a class fundraiser. Eric Bolek (S’15, Peoria) was in charge of the entire effort, and Dr. Jay Alexius (S’15, Lake Charles) headed up the cooking crew for the evening. The Super Bowl this year matched up the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers in the New Orleans Superdome. With the game played in New Orleans, the second theology class opted to host a New Orleans themed party, and no good New Orleans party is complete without an abundance of gumbo. Along with the gumbo, Zapp’s Crawtator Potato Chips, another Louisiana favorite, was shipped to the seminary in bulk in time for the big game. As far as the play on the field went, the majority of those attending the Mount’s party were cheering for the hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, and they did not walk away disappointed. While the 49ers managed to make a valiant comeback after Baltimore’s first half dominance, in the end the Ravens walked away with the 34-31 Superbowl XLVII victory, capping off a great evening of fraternity among seminarians and visitors alike.
On Saturday the 26th of January, Curtin Martin, the founder and president of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) spoke to the Mount seminarians in a series of talks. Each year, the Mount hosts an outside visitor to offer spring workshops on various areas of pastoral ministry. This year, Martin, who founded FOCUS (www.focus.org) in 1997 spoke to the community on how best to incorporate the New Evangelization into the life of parishes. FOCUS, a highly successful Catholic outreach program on American college campuses seeks to aid students in their growth in the Catholic faith while giving them the appropriate skill set to continue living a Catholic life after college. In addition to his work with FOCUS, Martin has served for the past year as a consultor to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. As the leader of FOCUS, he has quickly become one of the key figures promoting the new evangelization among the youth and young adults in the United States. During his visit to the Mount, he spoke to the seminarians in two sessions from 9-11 in the morning and 1-2:30 in the afternoon. A wide variety of issues were discussed, and he allowed for a lengthy Q&A session in the afternoon. The main theme of the entire workshop centered on the need to develop greater fervor in the American Church, particularly as the seminarians go out as priests to shepherd the vast flocks in the parishes they will one day serve. Martin’s gracious agreement to speak to the Mount was much appreciated, especially by the many seminarians who previously served as FOCUS missionaries on college campuses as well as those who were actively involved in FOCUS while in college.
The Mount community once again traveled en masse to Washington, DC to participate in the 40th annual March for Life on Capitol Hill. The seminarians joined hundreds of thousands who gathered as the largest crowd in four decades to protest 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 Thursday night to join in the 34rd 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, most of the seminary gathered for a Youth Rally and Mass celebrated by Washington’s archbishop, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, held at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. After the Mass, the seminarians made their way to the National Mall to partake in the main event. The seminary was blessed this year to be accompanied by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano visited the seminary this past October. One of the highlights for many in the group was seeing the Papal Nuncio, a native of Italy, embracing a bit of the American culture by donning a Texan style cowboy hat given to him by a group from Nashville, Tennessee. 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.
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.
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.