During Vespers on Sunday February 19, 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 deaconate, made both the profession of faith and took the oath of fidelity to the diaconal office to which they will soon be ordained. Meanwhile, the fourth year deacons took the oath of fidelity to the sacerdotal office which will be bestowed upon them at their priestly ordination in a few short months. Prior to the profession of faith and taking of the oaths, the Mount’s rector, Msgr. Steven P. Rohlfs, gave a brief ferverino expounding upon the meaning and importance of an oath. The taking of oaths, Msgr. Rohlfs explained, is the most profound witness that one can make to his belief and dedication to a cause. Consequently, 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 orders.
On Mary’s Mountain
At the conclusion of the oath of fidelity and profession of faith during Sunday Vespers on February 19, the seminary celebrated with the final Slavinskas Feast. For the past six years, the family of Deacon Jonathan Slavinskas from the Diocese of Worcester, MA has hosted a grand feast for the entire community. Over the past half a decade, the seminarians have grown accustomed to the fine Italian dining provided by the Slavinskas family each spring. The occasion this year did not leave anyone disappointed either in the quality of food or in the generosity of the Slavinskases. With Deacon Jonathan set to be ordained a priest at the conclusion of this academic year, the feast this year was “the last supper” the Slavinskases will host at the Mount. This is an event that the veteran seminarians will surely miss in the coming years, though everyone is grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this great tradition and witness of Christian charity by the Slavinskas family.
Once again the seminary community hosted the Mount 2000 and Beyond 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 over 1,500 participants braved the Winter cold to travel to Emmitsburg and spend the weekend growing in their relationship with the Lord. Of particular note, seminarian Clayton Thompson (S’13, Lafayette-in-Indiana) was the chairman of the 2011 retreat, bearing the burden of coordinating, planning, and working to ensure the smooth running of the retreat and the best possible experience for all involved. To read more about the Mount 2000 retreat, visit the online website at www.mount2000andbeyond.com.
In lieu of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recent decision regarding mandatory contraception coverage by employee insurance policies, Mount St. Mary’s University president Thomas H. Powell designated Friday, February 10, as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Religious Liberty. In conjunction with this designation, a Gathering of Prayer for Religious Liberty was held at 12:30 in Founder’s Plaza on the Mount campus. President Powell and university chaplain, Fr. Brian Nolan, also stressed the need to heed the advice of St. Timothy who recommended in his first letter that fasting is the “soul of prayer”. The prayer gathering was attended by many of the seminarians and college students who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to take a stand against the proposed injustice in our land.
Along with millions of other Americans, Mount St. Mary’s seminarians gathered in the rec room en masse on Sunday, February 5, to partake in the annual Super Bowl party. The class of third theology was enlisted this year to provide the food and drinks for the rest of the house as a class fundraiser, and they did not disappoint. Highlights of the evening included three different versions of Jason Burchell’s (S’ 13, Arlington) famous chili, one of which was made with deer meat. While the seminary community includes both Giants and Patriots fans, perhaps the most passionate spectator was Paula Smaldone, the Executive Assistant to the Rector. Paula, a New Jersey native, was elated with the New York Giants Superbowl XLVI 21-17 defeat of the New England Patriots. Unfortunately the handful of Patriots fans in the seminary were not as thrilled with the result.
This past week the Mount community participated in the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. The seminarians joined hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to protest the culture of death on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As in previous years, a number of seminarians traveled to the nation’s capitol on Sunday night to join in the 33rd annual National Prayer Vigil for Life which began with a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, 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 Donald Cardinal Wuerl held at Washington’s Verizon Center. Those not at the Verizon Center were a part of the schola which sang at a Mass held simultaneously at the D.C. Armory and celebrated by Cardinal DiNardo.
After the Masses, the seminarians made their way to the National Mall where they marched 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, sixteen 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 John Williams, the seminary’s coordinator of pastoral activity. 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 had a five day canonical retreat in anticipation of the reception of Holy Orders in the Spring. Their 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 14. 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. The trip marked the first time the deacon class has had the opportunity to make their canonical retreat in the Holy Land, and the seminary is hoping that it will soon become a tradition to which each class may look forward as they approach Holy Orders.
After a three week Christmas break, the seminarians returned well rested in time for the annual mid-year silent retreat held January 9-13 at the seminary. The Most Reverend William E. Lori, bishop of Bridgeport, a 1977 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s, returned to his mountain home to be the retreat master.
Bishop Lori held two conferences each day on the topic of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary which were introduced by Pope John Paul II ten years ago in 2002. Aside from the liturgies and the conferences, strict silence was maintained throughout the week to allow the seminarians to enter into the desert with the Lord. At the conclusion of the retreat, the community welcomed two new seminarians from the Dioceses of Wichita and St. Augustine
The Most Rev. William Skurla, Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, returned to the Mount on November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, to celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The annual liturgy was begun a number of years back 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. Aside from his work at the seminary, for the last seven years, Fr. Gross has celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Byzantine Catholic mission of Montgomery County in MD. With assistance of clergy and parishioners of Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church in Annandale, VA, the Divine Liturgy has become a much anticipated event held each year on November 30, and in recent years, the community has been blessed to have Bishop William grace us with his presence.
About thirty seminarians who remained at the Mount partook in the annual Thanksgiving feast hosted by the Knights of Columbus Fr. McKenna Council from Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, MD. Numerous guests and Mount faculty joined the Knights and seminarians for the sumptuous feast. In all, about sixty people participated in the holiday events. The entire seminary community is grateful to the Germantown Knights for their generous hosting of different events for the seminarians each year.
Many other seminarians spent the break in an interesting fashion including three men (Tony Visintainer S’16, Savannah, Neil Kirchoefer S’15, Peoria, and Jacob Toliver, S’15, Peoria) who traveled with Alexander Buder (S’15, Washington) to his family’s island home on Martha’s Vineyard, MA. Meanwhile, the 9 seminarians from the Diocese of Lincoln enjoyed their annual Thanksgiving trip to the ocean of Avalon, NJ where they joined their diocesan brothers from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.