I guess anything that is the first time in our life, whether good or bad, is something that we always remember. My first year of seminary life is an especially powerful and unforgettable experience. There were many things that I have encountered that helped me to grow and follow Christ. Being at Pope Saint John XXIII Seminary allowed me to discover new things and develop new perspectives in my vocation as well as in my ministry. There are four important pillars in seminary formation that guided me in my journey: community, studies, pastoral work, and prayer life.
One thing that is very strong in our seminary life is community, in spite of the fact that we come from different backgrounds in at least thirty various dioceses in the country and abroad. We have a wonderful support system and brotherhood. We help each other whether personal or vocational concerns and the word “competition” is not in our vocabulary. Some of the seminarians were doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, military men, and businessmen in their past life and yet everyone is just very humble and we don’t need to prove ourselves. The community is filled with joy, wisdom, and life experience. We all know that we are there to be formed and to learn, so we can be well equipped as ministers of God’s people.
Studies is an area that is significant in our formation. As future ministers, we need to be abreast in theology so we can respond to the demands of parish life. As a third year theology student I took Medical Ethics, Ecclesiology, Canon Law, Liturgical Preaching, Liturgy Practicum, Sacraments of Initiations, Parish Work, Theology of Priesthood, Ignatian Spirituality, RCIA, Spanish, and others. Each seminarian is unique and so we follow a slightly different formation depending on each one’s academic background and needs. The academic program is tailored to our background and it combines rigor and pastoral approach.
I really enjoyed my pastoral assignment at St. Michael’s in North Andover, MA. I was assigned as a deacon in this affluent parish and I had a great time doing baptisms, preaching, and teaching in the faith formation program. I come in the parish every Sunday whether it’s snowing or not! The parishioners, clergy, and staff were absolutely very welcoming and supportive in my vocation. They have given me all the opportunities to minister and learn some best parish practices from the Archdiocese of Boston.
The most vital aspect of my formation is prayer life. The individual and communal prayers were irreplaceable times of communion with God that were my sources of strength, clarity, and direction. I have learned to follow a routine and the discipline of praying that somehow I overlooked before because of the “busyness” of my life. But with the grace of God I came to realize that there is no substitute for silence and prayer. This is why the seminary structure and community support really worked very well for me. The daily Masses, Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration, various devotions, retreats, meditations, spiritual direction, and others have helped a lot in my spiritual growth. I always look forward to participate and serve in various religious services as a normal part of our seminary life. For me, prayer life is the most crucial and center of my formation that I have discovered and learned this past year and that is why I always look forward to just be with God!
I would like to thank all of you for your continued trust and support in my vocational journey. God willing this will be my last year in the seminary. In closing, a parishioner asked me the other day: “What do you really need?” I responded: “Nothing EXCEPT prayers”! Peace and good,