The Diocese of Des Moines
Seminarians

April 11, 2014
Written By: Reed Flood, Seminarian of the Des Moines Diocese

Day 3: Caribbean Worship

 

Marian shrine outside the churchAfter witnessing the astounding joy within the walls of Bethlehem, I questioned the appearance of true beauty. Is there truly something more beautiful than what I can see and touch? Is beauty physical, or was it hidden within the souls of the children and brothers in Bethlehem? I pondered these questions as we drove to Mass at the local parish for day 3 of the mission trip. As it just so happened, the church was located directly above the Bethlehem center I had served at the previous day. Coincidence?

 

As we drove through the gates, I noticed an enormous crowd of Jamaicans congregating to the chapel upstairs. It appeared as if the entire neighborhood would be joining us for Mass! I stepped off the truck and was immediately greeted by a grey-haired, jolly Jamaican man bearing a massive grin. He reached out his hand and introduced himself, “My name’s Junior man, I’m 46 years old. It’s great to see you man!” (It’s true, Jamaicans use “man” in nearly every sentence). I grabbed his hand, and immediately a surge of delight flooded through my entire body. “Welcome to Jamaica man!” Although we only spoke for a few minutes, we became like two childhood friends; laughing, shaking hands, and patting each other on the back. Eventually, the time had come for Mass to start so I bid him farewell and returned to our group. It was only later when I discovered that Junior had contracted the AIDS virus earlier in life. He was living as a patient at one of the centers. Yet after our joyful encounter, his ailment didn’t degrade my view of him in the slightest. It wasn’t Junior’s disease which defined him, it was his inner joy.

 

Parishoners offering produce to altarWe continued into the chapel and dipped our fingers into the conch-shell holy water bowl by the entrance (a clever idea in my opinion). We were invited to sit towards the front with the children from the Missionaries of the Poor centers. Sure enough, the boy who held my hat from the day before sat next to me. When he saw my face, his eyes lit up and he began clapping his hands. I couldn’t help but reach out and grasp his little fingers. In the United States, we refer to the mass as a celebration. Well, in Jamaica, they literally “celebrate” during mass. The celebration began with a progression of guitar, keyboard, and of course the bongos! People sang loudly, clapped their hands, and I’m pretty sure I saw some Jamaican ladies dancing. When the priest asked for the gifts to be brought forward, people didn’t pass around baskets for pocket change. Instead, members of the congregation stood up and brought forward their own baskets! Each basket was overflowing with fresh fruits, house supplies, and homegrown vegetables. What a sight! I personally enjoyed the Eucharistic hymn “Roll over the Ocean.” The priest on stage began dancing and pointing to the Host singing, “It’s Christ! It’s Christ! It’s Christ who builds community!” I’ll admit, I wasn’t used to all the holding hands and dancing, but I’m incredibly grateful for experiencing beautiful celebration in an entirely new and refreshing light. After the two hour service, the priest invited us up for a blessing and bid us farewell. As we loaded into the truck, I noticed a man waving and running toward us. It was Junior! When I looked at Junior, I saw through the sickness and realized I was gazing into the eyes of Christ. He put on a big Jamaican grin and shouted, “God bless ya man!” Once again, my heart leapt with delight.

 

 

We returned to the compound, slightly worn out from the vibrant celebration. We spent the afternoon napping and collecting our energy. The brothers had challenged the seminarians to a game of football later that evening, so we’d need as much rest as possible. Of course, when I say “football” I mean soccer. A game I hadn’t played since the 2nd grade. I played American football all my entire life and I considered myself a pretty decent ball player. Unfortunately, tackling and blocking will get you nowhere in Jamaican football. Regardless, I laced up my tennis shoes and jumped into the truck. We drove through the city until we reached a massive open lot where numerous small Jamaican children were running wildly and kicking soccer balls. We parked the truck on the corner of one field and hopped onto the grass (what was left of the grass). The field primary consisted of dirt, rocks, and shards of rusty metal. Despite the rough terrain, the brothers tossed the ball onto the field and began playing. Some weren’t even wearing shoes! In the end, the brothers outscored us 5-2, and the seminarians returned to the compound beaten and sunburnt. In spite of the beat down, I enjoyed every minute of the fast paced action.

 

After the amusing day of worship and play, I retired to my mosquito netted bunk and thanked God for this brief hiatus amidst the strenuous rushing and volunteering. Starting on Monday, we’d begin serving full days at the centers. The work load would increase and so would our prayer. I knew a demanding week lay ahead, but deep down I could still sense Junior’s delightful energy stirring somewhere within me from when we shook hands. My soul tingled when I thought of holding the twisted fingers of the boy with the hat. Through these encounters, I could see God grasping my hand and leading me deeper into His hidden abundance of warm joy. I knew He’d provide the energy. I knew He’d provide the joy. Most importantly, I knew I’d see him face-to-face in the days to come.

 

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me rest when I ask for it. I appreciate your beauty in its abounding variety. I pray Lord that I may full participate in the beautiful plan you’ve laid out for me. Help me to see your face in my companions. Take me by the hand and lead me into your arms so I may rest in warm embrace. Amen.




April 11, 2014
Written By: Reed Flood, Seminarian of the Des Moines Diocese

Day 3: Caribbean Worship

 

Marian shrine outside the churchAfter witnessing the astounding joy within the walls of Bethlehem, I questioned the appearance of true beauty. Is there truly something more beautiful than what I can see and touch? Is beauty physical, or was it hidden within the souls of the children and brothers in Bethlehem? I pondered these questions as we drove to Mass at the local parish for day 3 of the mission trip. As it just so happened, the church was located directly above the Bethlehem center I had served at the previous day. Coincidence?

 

As we drove through the gates, I noticed an enormous crowd of Jamaicans congregating to the chapel upstairs. It appeared as if the entire neighborhood would be joining us for Mass! I stepped off the truck and was immediately greeted by a grey-haired, jolly Jamaican man bearing a massive grin. He reached out his hand and introduced himself, “My name’s Junior man, I’m 46 years old. It’s great to see you man!” (It’s true, Jamaicans use “man” in nearly every sentence). I grabbed his hand, and immediately a surge of delight flooded through my entire body. “Welcome to Jamaica man!” Although we only spoke for a few minutes, we became like two childhood friends; laughing, shaking hands, and patting each other on the back. Eventually, the time had come for Mass to start so I bid him farewell and returned to our group. It was only later when I discovered that Junior had contracted the AIDS virus earlier in life. He was living as a patient at one of the centers. Yet after our joyful encounter, his ailment didn’t degrade my view of him in the slightest. It wasn’t Junior’s disease which defined him, it was his inner joy.

 

Parishoners offering produce to altarWe continued into the chapel and dipped our fingers into the conch-shell holy water bowl by the entrance (a clever idea in my opinion). We were invited to sit towards the front with the children from the Missionaries of the Poor centers. Sure enough, the boy who held my hat from the day before sat next to me. When he saw my face, his eyes lit up and he began clapping his hands. I couldn’t help but reach out and grasp his little fingers. In the United States, we refer to the mass as a celebration. Well, in Jamaica, they literally “celebrate” during mass. The celebration began with a progression of guitar, keyboard, and of course the bongos! People sang loudly, clapped their hands, and I’m pretty sure I saw some Jamaican ladies dancing. When the priest asked for the gifts to be brought forward, people didn’t pass around baskets for pocket change. Instead, members of the congregation stood up and brought forward their own baskets! Each basket was overflowing with fresh fruits, house supplies, and homegrown vegetables. What a sight! I personally enjoyed the Eucharistic hymn “Roll over the Ocean.” The priest on stage began dancing and pointing to the Host singing, “It’s Christ! It’s Christ! It’s Christ who builds community!” I’ll admit, I wasn’t used to all the holding hands and dancing, but I’m incredibly grateful for experiencing beautiful celebration in an entirely new and refreshing light. After the two hour service, the priest invited us up for a blessing and bid us farewell. As we loaded into the truck, I noticed a man waving and running toward us. It was Junior! When I looked at Junior, I saw through the sickness and realized I was gazing into the eyes of Christ. He put on a big Jamaican grin and shouted, “God bless ya man!” Once again, my heart leapt with delight.

 

 

We returned to the compound, slightly worn out from the vibrant celebration. We spent the afternoon napping and collecting our energy. The brothers had challenged the seminarians to a game of football later that evening, so we’d need as much rest as possible. Of course, when I say “football” I mean soccer. A game I hadn’t played since the 2nd grade. I played American football all my entire life and I considered myself a pretty decent ball player. Unfortunately, tackling and blocking will get you nowhere in Jamaican football. Regardless, I laced up my tennis shoes and jumped into the truck. We drove through the city until we reached a massive open lot where numerous small Jamaican children were running wildly and kicking soccer balls. We parked the truck on the corner of one field and hopped onto the grass (what was left of the grass). The field primary consisted of dirt, rocks, and shards of rusty metal. Despite the rough terrain, the brothers tossed the ball onto the field and began playing. Some weren’t even wearing shoes! In the end, the brothers outscored us 5-2, and the seminarians returned to the compound beaten and sunburnt. In spite of the beat down, I enjoyed every minute of the fast paced action.

 

After the amusing day of worship and play, I retired to my mosquito netted bunk and thanked God for this brief hiatus amidst the strenuous rushing and volunteering. Starting on Monday, we’d begin serving full days at the centers. The work load would increase and so would our prayer. I knew a demanding week lay ahead, but deep down I could still sense Junior’s delightful energy stirring somewhere within me from when we shook hands. My soul tingled when I thought of holding the twisted fingers of the boy with the hat. Through these encounters, I could see God grasping my hand and leading me deeper into His hidden abundance of warm joy. I knew He’d provide the energy. I knew He’d provide the joy. Most importantly, I knew I’d see him face-to-face in the days to come.

 

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me rest when I ask for it. I appreciate your beauty in its abounding variety. I pray Lord that I may full participate in the beautiful plan you’ve laid out for me. Help me to see your face in my companions. Take me by the hand and lead me into your arms so I may rest in warm embrace. Amen.




April 10, 2014
Written By: Reed Flood, Seminarian of the Des Moines Diocese

Day 2: Bethlehem

 

Reed Flood and Resident Volunteer at Bethlehem MissionWhen I think of the Missionaries of the Poor, I can’t help but think of their intensely devout, and joyful prayer. Throughout the trip they revealed the effectiveness of prayer and why it’s a necessity to their work. Prayer is potent. I discovered this first hand on day 2. At 5:45 in the morning, we were stirred from our sleep by the high-pitched ringing of small church bells. After untangling myself from the obnoxious mosquito netting, I rolled out of my bunk and began to dress myself for Morning Prayer. While praying, it was tempting to innocently doze off in the muggy chapel, but the brothers kept us alert with their Caribbean renditions of the liturgy. The brothers put on a beautiful Morning Prayer, Mass, and Holy Hour with nothing but a beat up guitar, a rickety keyboard, and a set of bongos (my personal favorite). The 2 hours of prayer were exhausting, but I could sense the energy and love of Christ brewing within my soul. He was strengthening me for the service to come, and I’d need all the strength I could muster for my first assignment.

 

Riding in the Truck

Our seminarian trip leader divided us into our service groups. My first assignment was Bethlehem; the children’s center. Bethlehem sounded friendly enough. It was a children’s home and the name of Jesus’ birthplace. How bad could it be? A truck pulled into the compound and blared its horn. It was time. We anxiously piled into the back of a gated truck bed. Our transportation seemed more suitable for livestock than it did human beings. Regardless, we were able to see the city and enjoy the fresh breeze. Besides, what teenage guy doesn’t enjoy riding in the back of an open truck? We stopped at each center to let out a load of volunteers. The metal doors to the centers would briefly open and we’d rush a group of 5 volunteers into the compound before bolting the door shut behind them. It was an intimidating ordeal, like some sort of military operation. Finally, the truck driver pulled up to the last center. “Bethlehem!” he shouted. I made the sign of the cross and entered through the rusty gates with my group.

 

Upon walking into the Bethlehem children’s center, the very first thing I noticed was the smell. The place reeked. It had a bitter stench which reminded me of a petting zoo. Secondly, I could hear wailing and high-pitched shrills resonating throughout the whole center. The blood curdling screeches made my heart sink. Throughout the overwhelming chaos; however, I could sense an inner warmth coming from within my chest and spreading throughout my whole body. God was leading me into this center and I knew he was protecting me. Thank God for the morning prayers. A kind-faced brother from Africa welcomed us and ushered us into a room. He sat us down and gazed into our eyes with a heart-warming look. My fear and anxiety from the frightful arrival began to melt away. The peaceful brother began to speak, “There’s a difference between pretty and beautiful.” He motioned toward the door, “Pretty does not live here. You will not find it.” He turned back to us, “But beauty, true beauty thrives here.” He went on to explain how it was the job of the Missionaries of the Poor to live as Christ for the children at the Bethlehem center. “We are Christ to the children, but we also encounter Christ in the children. This is where our happiness comes from.” After hearing this wisdom, I was ready to see Christ.

 

Bethlehem Center outsideWithin minutes of walking into the boys’ room, I was handed a diaper and directed to a bed where a naked, deformed teenager was sitting. They had just rinsed them off in the showers and he was shivering from the cold. I had never put on a diaper before… and he was naked, but I could feel Christ within me reaching out to help this struggling boy. I did my best putting on the diaper and then clothed him with a tattered shirt and old swim trunks. I continued this procedure for the next 30 minutes, clothing disfigured children anywhere from 8 to 26 years old. Their arms were like toothpicks, frozen in a bent shape which made dressing them a challenge. While helping one boy, I noticed his eyes glance up to my old favorite fishing hat I wearing. He strained to reach the camouflage ball-cap with his twisted fingers. Noticing his effort, I took off the hat and placed it on the boys head. His face sprung to life! His big brown eyes opened wide and an enormous smile spread across his face. He peered into my eyes and began to clap his little hands wildly. He reached up, grasped the hat off his head, and pulled it in close to his chest. He moved jaws in a speaking motion, but no words came out. Yet, I could understand him clearly. The boy’s external display of joy mirrored my internal gratification for seeing his delight. I stepped back and thanked God for letting me see pure joy in this child. The warm feeling in my heart flooded through my entire body. It felt like God was giving me a big warm hug. After serving all the children, we were allowed to play with them. Each reaction was the same as the boy with the hat. No matter how disabled they were, no matter how much they drooled, and no matter how much they flailed, each child’s face lit up with joy! I felt like a parent watching their newborn son playing for the first time. The warmth from my heart rose to my eyes and I had to blink away the joyful tears. The brother was right. True beauty lives here.Volunteers with boy at Bethlehem center

 

After a couple hours we left the center. As I walked out, I could no longer detect the harsh smells from before. I now realized the loud screams were really just boisterous laughter coming from the children. When I first entered the center, I thought I was descending into the pits of Hell. Yet after witnessing the innocent joy in the children and experiencing God’s encompassing love, I now realized I had just received a very real taste of Heaven. I left my hat behind.

 

Prayer:

Father, thank you for filling my heart with love. Help me to empty myself entirely, so you may fill me completely. Grant me the grace to courageously seek you out and the faith to trust in wherever you will lead me. Thank you for bringing me joy Lord, so I may share it with others. Amen.




April 9, 2014
Written By: Reed Flood, Seminarian of the Des Moines Diocese

Reed FloodI’m pleased to let you all know I’ve arrived back in Saint Paul, Minnesota following my extraordinary mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica! I was unable to keep you informed while in Jamaica due to the lack of internet at our compound, so this upcoming week I plan on sending you one update for each day in Kingston (8 total).

 

It’s a privilege to share this eye-opening experience with everyone who supported me through donations, prayers, and your words of encouragement. This trip will forever change my perspective on the poor and It’s my intention, through these reflections, to invite you all to see the world through the beautiful eyes of Christ.

 

Day 1: The Journey Begins

 

After spending the whole night jamming my backpack full of clothes, sunscreen, and bars of soap (requested by the Missionaries of the Poor), we seminarians departed from Saint John Vianney Seminary at 4:00 in the morning. We reached the airport and succeeded to board our flight to Miami, Florida. Upon arrival, we were met with a two hour layover. We seminarians filled this break with typical seminarian activities; playing cards and hacky sack. Finally, the time had come to board our flight to Kingston. We eagerly filed into our narrow seats and patiently waited for the hour-long flight to bring us to our destination.

Ben Baker

 

Finally, we arrived in Kingston! As we stepped outside the Kingston airport, we were welcomed by a humid wall of sunny, 80 degree weather. Following the subzero temperatures and artic-like conditions of St. Paul, Minnesota, I felt quite comfortable in Jamaica! While waiting for the bus to take us back to the Missionaries of the Poor, we played more hacky sack and drank from fresh coconuts we purchased from a friendly Jamaican vendor across the street. I could hardly understand the thick Jamaican dialect of the joyful woman who sold it to us, but the coconuts cost a mere $2! I wasn’t complaining. Additionally, a gorgeous view of the towering mountains caught everyone’s attention and took our breath away. It was paradise! After an hour in Kingston, I determined this trip was going to be just like a vacation. It had sunny weather, beautiful views, friendly Jamaicans, and cheap coconuts! However, my brief assumption of a week in paradise would soon be turned upside down.

 

The brothers arrived at the airport and packed us into a large Toyota van. I clenched the seat cushion in front of me as we sailed down the left side of the road. I determined traffic laws in Jamaica were replaced Riding in the Truckby car honks, as opposing drivers carelessly careened by us while blaring their horns. The roads became filthier and riddled with litter as we approached the city. We spotted goats wandering aimlessly through the streets as well as several Jamaican men taking uncomfortable naps on the concrete sidewalk. The houses we passed by began to appear less and less structured, until the “buildings” were nothing more than plywood and sheet metal hammered together. I wondered how any human being could ever inhabit one of these rusty shanties. Just then, a half-naked and sad-looking toddler wandered out from one of the shacks. It took our breath away.Compound Gate

 

After an eye-opening journey into the city, we reached the Missionaries of the Poor compound. Massive concrete walls surrounded the building, protecting it from the dangerous outside slums. We pulled up to the gate and blared our car horn (car honking is the secondary language in Jamaica). Sure enough, a brother dressed in a white robe with a blue sash opened the large gate and we entered the compound. Strangely, the inside of the compound appeared to be a stark contrast to the rundown city. It was quite beautiful! The brightly painted building stood out against the grey streets, while various flowered shrubs brought life to our safe-haven within the walls. It was an oasis in the desert.

 

Compound Flowers

 

It wasn’t long before we joined the brothers for evening prayer, Stations of the Cross, and a rosary. After leaving prayer, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, they pray a lot!” Yet as I laid down in the upper bunk of my mosquito netted bed, while listening to the blaring car horns, dog barks, and miscellaneous screams coming from the city, I couldn’t help but reflect on the necessity of prayer in this environment. I didn’t know what to expect for tomorrow, our first day of service, but I knew prayer was essential. As it turns out, our prayer would prove more vital than I could ever imagine in the days to come.

 

 

 

Prayer Reflection:

Father, help me to see through the masks which hide the suffering around us. Protect me from ignorance, so I may better recognize the poor and needy. Fill my heart with love, so I may share it with those who need it most. You are my refuge and my oasis in this world of death. Let me seek you out Lord, and walk with you in this journey of life. Amen.




December 3, 2013
Written By: Zach Daly

Trevor Chicoine & Zach DalyThe day after Thanksgiving, one year ago, Bishop Pates asked me if I would consider applying to the North American College in Rome for at least four years of study in theology in preparation for the priesthood.  I agreed, thinking it would be a difficult experience; and it has been difficult. Theology, difficult in any language, requires even more concentration when it is being taught in Italian, and the seminary is very far away from home.  I miss all the families I met in parishes around the Diocese during my three years of work in the Totus Tuus program, and I of course have missed my own family – especially as holidays come and go.  It has been difficult but I can say I’m happy here.

 

I’m happy for many reasons: one is because I am deepening my love for God by being immersed in the history of our Faith.  There is a very large church called Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which is on one of the routes I take to get to the University; this church houses the remains of the great mystic St. Catherine of Siena.  I will usually stop at this church to pray for those who are close to me, and I often think to pray for all the faithful of the Diocese of Des Moines (since I come from the Italian part of Des Moines, I guess I have a bias towards Italian saints).  All of the churches here are virtual graveyards, with many people (sometimes hundreds) buried in them.  This can be seen as morbid or, as our Faith would suggest, a beautiful sign that these brothers and sisters who have gone before us are still united with us through the Church which is the Body of Christ: “I am sure that neither death, nor life… nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

I am also happy to turn my full attention to theology, which I am studying so that on one level I may know God Himself better and to serve Him more completely and then, building on that foundation, that I may serve the people whom I believe I am called to serve more effectively.  Our Faith is one that loves Truth and reason; St. Augustine once said “if faith does not think, it is nothing.”  Learning the deep theology of the Church is something that I take very seriously, and something that I see as being bound up with the ministry of the priest.  Our God is real, and we can always learn more about Him; and learning more about Him can stir our hearts to love Him more.  I am looking forward to the time when I will return to Diocese; in the meantime, pray for me – everyday if you can.  I am always in great need of your prayers. Thank you all the support you give to us!




January 7, 2013
Written By: Zachary Daly

Discerning my call to the priesthood in the Diocese of Des Moines has been a long process that has involved a lot of study and prayer.   I began to think that I may be called when I was fourteen years old, but my non-religious upbringing made this a difficult prospect for me.  My parents raised me with a passionate love for truth and learning, but as both had drifted away from the Church by the time I was born I was not baptized when I was an infant.  Anticipating that expressing an interest in the priesthood would cause friction in my family, I turned my mind to other careers as diverse as education, music composition and performance, social work, and professional entertainment.

 

                Though I could easily see myself performing the skills necessary for any one of the fields above, the priesthood is unique because it is not just a career; it is an entire lifestyle.  The lifestyle of the priest, expressed in celebrating the Eucharist, being with people in the most important moments of their lives, teaching the truths of God, and living the celibate life continued to appeal to me during my first year of college.  After much time considering the possibility, and quite a bit of time in prayer, I applied to the Diocese for formation to the priesthood.

 

                This brings me to the present-day.  I am in my last year of what is called “minor seminary.”  This means that I am completing my four-year philosophy degree, and that I am approaching an important event known as “Candidacy” – which is a public expression of my own discernment, as well as the Bishop’s acceptance of my hope to be ordained.  At this point in my discernment, I am experiencing a deeper understanding of the priest-as-father.  I am finding that everything which initially attracted me to the priesthood as a young teenager is now being integrated into a notion of spiritual fatherhood. The priest, like the father of his children, provides food for those under his care through the table of the Eucharist, and hear the confession of those his loves and extends forgiveness – which is also done in the name of God the Father.  The priesthood is a unique vocation, and a special union with God’s own Fatherhood.  I sincerely hope to be able to live this life fully and publicly for the good of all of God’s people.

 

The most important part of my “vocations story” is that I have had no dramatic moments.  I didn’t hear the Voice of God telling me what to do; I didn’t see the Holy Spirit descend; St. Peter didn’t appear to me in a dream.  Instead, I am where I am today only because of my love of God and the truth, and because of a long period of prayer and discernment.  I am grateful for the time that I’ve spent in seminary formation thus far, and I look forward to the future full of hope and confidence in God’s Will.

 

~Zach Daly will graduate Saturday, May 25, 2013 from Loras College, St. Pius X Seminary. With Zach the Office of Vocations thanks his dear parents, family members, future brother priests, and all those who support him by their love and prayers. He plans to receive the Rite of Candidacy on Sunday, June 16, 2013 at Christ the King in Des Moines at the 11 AM Mass. All are invited. ~




October 20, 2011
Written By: Fabian Moncada

Indeed the summer of 2011 will remain in my memory as a manifestation of God

working through the events of everyday life.


The summer began with the Catholic Ministry of the Sick and Suffering Practicum, a

newly created program of 9 weeks by the Seminary of St. Paul. In fact, the program

was designed to allow each participant to deepen the theological foundation of the 

spirituality  of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and then put it into practice through a silent

retreat of ten days. This silent retreat was a powerful experience of the encounter

and union with the love of God that showed those participating the weaknesses and

areas in one's life requiring special attention on the spiritual, moral or ethical. Being

able to dialog daily during the retreat with the Spiritual Director was a great grace.

Overall, the retreat was a wonderful experience of silence and contemplation.

 
The next step was an inside look at the practical stage of preparation for the priesthood; to do the work of ministering to the sick in hospitals, to discover Jesus in the person who is suffering and needing consolation, compassion and mercy. Indeed, ministering to the sick and sharing in their suffering with them through their ailments, their loneliness, and their hope that so often is dissipated in medical diagnostics, led me to find in intercessory prayer the most compassionate and merciful way of pleading for not only physical health but the spiritual health of souls to which I was ministering. I discovered the face of Our Lord in the sick and suffering. I was able to see beyond the smells, the medical instruments, and the interpretation of science to the humanity of  the fragility, small size, and defenselessness of the sick and suffering. 

 
The hospital experience touched my soul in three ways: the first was "Humility" and I refer specifically to where I disappeared completely so that our Lord Jesus was the one doing the visit, it was God’s work through me. A clear example of this were the moments when the silence was the most effective way of communicating the action of God and the expectation of His Divine Will. The second aspect was "Charity," defining the act of unconditional love, to go beyond the defects or sin and to use the example of the Prodigal Son who was left to regain the joy of God in the life of the sick before stopping to judge their errors. This example may be a tangible source of the peaceful coexistence and friendships I fostered with patients of different beliefs or who simply expressed disbelief. The third way this experience touched my soul was "hope" that in spite of the circumstances in which science has a verdict on a disease, God our Lord may come and go beyond the ordinary, to manifest his love in an extraordinary and prodigious way that ultimately is what every soul awaits.


As a candidate for Holy Orders of the Diaconate and the Priesthood I feel that this experience should be an indisputable requirement for those seeking to consecrate their lives to the service of building the kingdom of God.


Finally, the summer ended with ten days at World Youth Day in Madrid Spain, a meeting filled with culture, youth, and a deep desire to live with the Holy Father. At WYD, the living spirit of Jesus in our midst was evident in  the positivity and enthusiasm of countless young people that came from various corners of the world to meet with the Vicar of Christ and discover the universal Church. This is the Pope's Youth! Again and again we were reminded that we are sheep led by Pastor of Christ, Benedict XVI.

 

But I especially want to highlight these words spoken by His Holiness during the keynote address at the World Youth Day:


Dear friends, be prudent and wise, build your lives on the firm foundation that is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you shake your heart and peace will reign. Then you will be blessed, blessed, and your joy contagious to others. You ask for the secret of your life and find the rock that holds the whole building and it sits on your whole life is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God made man, which gives consistency throughout the universe. He died for us and rose again so that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father is still alive and close to all men, continually watching love for each one of us.

Benedict XVI - Plaza de Cibeles Madrid 19/08/11


To conclude, this hot summer was not only one of high temperatures but also one in which  the action of the Holy Spirit that prevailed in my life at different times and ways.


What Joy! What joy! And what responsibility I feel to serve, love, and give everything to Jesus Christ our Lord and God!

 




December 9, 2010
Written By: Ross Parker

I would like to express my thankfulness to all the people who donated to this years diocesan Seminarian Appeal.  Your generosity is truly humbling.  Without your help I would not be able to continue in formation.  I know that all of you work extremely hard, and that times are tight.  I just want you all to know that I am working hard to be the best I can be every day.  Although there are many ups and downs through seminary formation, it is nice to know that people really take an interest and support me in this process.  Thank you again, and know that you all will be in my thoughts and prayers.
 
Yours in Christ,
Ross Parker
 
 
*Ross Parker is a seminarian of the Diocese of Des Moines studying Theology at St. Meinrad Seminary, Indiana.      



June 24, 2010
Written By: Ross Parker

 

We have only been going for three weeks, but IPF has been a very positive experience in my life thus far.  In seminary we learn about God, but don’t spend as much time learning about deepening our relationship with God. The classes and working with my spiritual director at the Institute for Priestly Formation has really helped me to grow in my relationship with the Trinity.  
 
The summer began with an eight day silent retreat, which has been the most positive experience of the program thus far. Being silent for eight days really helped me to get in touch with what was going on inside of me, and gave me much more time to discern the interior movements of my heart.  
 
The program talks about being a novitiate for diocesan seminarians.  I think that is the best way to describe the program.  This program is exactly what I need in this time of my formation. Again, the main thing is that I am growing in my relationship with the Trinity and Mary. Everything that I do flows from my relationship with the Holy Trinity, and that relationship will one day God willing help me to be a good priest.
 
In Christ,
Ross Parker



April 2, 2010
Written By: Adam Westphal

This January I had my first experience of "J-term" at the St. Paul seminary. It contains a 3 credit hour class crammed into one month. Our class this J-term was "spirituality of a diocesan priest" and focused primarily on the importance of maintaining an active prayer life once ordained.  This is especially hard to do given the busy schedule of the parish priest.

The first week of J-term we went to Lacrosse, WI. There is a really nice pilgrimage place, (Link here), and there is also an amazingly decorated church that is attached to a convent. I would certainly recommend the pilgrimage place.

The second week of classes we had a retreat/conference/brotherhood building time at a local retreat center. The talks centered mostly on building a virtue-based pastoral approach; basically, how to build up Faith, Hope, Love (the three theological virtues) and Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance (the four cardinal virtues). We focused first on how encourage the growth of these virtues in our own lives; then, we discussed how to integrate these virtues into parish life.  When classes were not going on, we spent time playing Balderdash and watching Band of Brothers. Great times.

The second week of J-term we spent here at the sem. Same format; class in the morning, afternoons free.

The third week of J-term we spent in Washington, D.C. at the march for life. Very powerful. The spirit of God certainly was moving at that event.  It is amazing to see the fire of the young adults.  300,000 + people marched on Washington to show their support for personal dignity.

I had the chance while there to see many old friends from school, and to tour our nation's capital city. I especially like the National Cathedral, which has the most impressive stained-glass that I've ever seen. Thinking back, it is even more impressive than what I saw in Eurtope!   I also had a chance to tour the national gallery, and am very impressed at their collection of religious art. 

At the close of J-term, we went on a 5 day silent retreat. I've usually been pretty agitated at silent retreats, but this one was different. It was amazing. It was awesome.  It was the best retreat I have ever been on.  This retreat marked the 10 year anniversary of me giving my life to Jesus Chrrist at a Teens Encoutner Christ weekend, and God and I spent 5 days reflecting on His grace in my life over the last 10 years.  

 

 

The retreat was at Broom Tree retreat center, in South Dakota. Well worth doing a guided retreat there. Plus, they have a Coca-Cola fountain machine.

That was J-term.