Today, marks my last day in the States for the summer. This evening I am flying back to Rome to continue my studies and formation for the Priesthood. This academic year will be a big year for me. At the end of the school year I will finish my STB (Sacred Theology Baccalaureate) at the Gregorian University. Next year, I will begin my STL (Sacred Theology Licence) in Sacred Liturgy at the University of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce). The STL is a two year program. This means I will be studying in Rome for a total of three more years. My last year in Rome will (God willing) be my first year of priesthood. A licence in Liturgy means that I will specialize in the liturgical rites of the Catholic Church (beyond what a normal priest is trained in).
Beyond being a big year for academic progression, I will be (God willing) ordained to the Diaconate at the end of the school year in the diocese. So this is an important year of prayer and discernment to make sure that I am prepared to advance towards Holy Orders. I ask for prayers for my classmates and I this year, for our perseverance and growing in understanding God’s will in our lives. Pray also for the diocese and our bishop.
This weekend I finished my eight weeks assignment at Sts. Philip and James in Phillipsburg, NJ. I had a great summer living and working with the people of the parish. It was truly refreshing to be back in the parish and with the people of God after being away for so long. I have learned so many things being here.
I need to thank my pastoral, Fr. John Barbella for his guidance and witness during this summer and to Fr. Leo Salvania even though we only over lapped at the parish for a short period of time. Also, a thanks to all the many priests of the diocese that visited the parish throughout the summer. It was a pleasure to get to know you all better. A thanks to the deacons of the parish for your guidance this summer. A very special thanks to the ladies that help at the parish; Sandy, Cindy, and Nancy. Between entertaining my “help” at the office, taking care of us at the rectory, and everything in else you do for Fr. John and I, and the parish I am deeply grateful. And finally, to the parishioners, I thank you for your love and accepting me into your community. I thank you for your stories and our conversations.
Know of my prayers as I return to Rome. Please pray for me and my classmates that we might all become the holy priests that the Church needs and deserves.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
When we think about the return of Christ what do we imagine? Probably striking scenes of battles and strife. Maybe fire raining down from the sky while angels and demons engage in combat. In short we probably imagine the apocalypse. And there is good reason to have such images, the Revelation of John is vivid in end times imagery.
It has been great being home and starting to catch up with everyone. Since returning, people have asked a normal series of questions: How have you been? (Good) You have been away for how long?! (Yes, it was two years) Do you speak Italian? (Sì, ma certo) How is it living in Italy? (Quite a bit different that home) and the list could go one. But, the most interesting question for me to answer is: what is something I have taken away, or someway I’ve grown. During my time abroad, the best experience, and most profound take away is experiencing the Church in her unity and universality (or as we say in the creed on Sundays as One, … , Catholic, … Church).
Classes are finished and finals completed for the semester. Bag were packed and and taxis ridden in. I’m at the airport waiting for my flight to depart for America soon. After two long years in Rome, I am finally returning home for the summer. It has been a good two years, though trying at moments. Needless to say it is great to finally get to see my family and friends again, and to be back in the diocese. See everyone States side!
This semester I have been taking a seminar on the notion of sacrifice in the old testament. The final for the class was a group project, presenting on some topic from the class in whatever fashion you wanted. So, my friend Jakob and I made a three part mini podcast series on sacrifice, called Roamin’ Bulls. You call listen to all the episodes down below.
Finally, after two long years, I will be returning to the states for the summer. I return Saturday June 15, unfortunately a little to late for the diaconate ordinations of my brother seminarians. Happily though, I will be present at the priesthood ordinations this year. This summer I am assigned to the parish of St. Philip and St. James in Phillipsburg, NJ. I’ll be starting in the parish at the end of June after helping out at the Diocesan discernment retreat, Quo Vadis. It is a large and busy parish fairly close to home (~40 minutes ignoring traffic). The assignment is also something of a homecoming for me. I was born in the city and baptized at this parish (though my family moved from the town while I was still an infant.) Needless to say, I am quite excited to be back this summer and serve in the parish. See everyone in a few weeks.
Postlude: The long time secretary at St. Philip and St. James, Cathy Steigerwalt, recent tragically died in a house fire, so please take a few moments to say a prayer for the repose of her soul, and the consolation of her family and the parish.
Since coming to Rome I have picked up a couple hobbies. As I’ve posted a few times, I’ve gotten quite into hiking and backpacking while over here. I think half my travels since moving here have involved hiking in some fashion. Along the way I discovered that it is quite difficult to get decent maps for many of my hikes. So I embarked to learn how to make maps. They started fairly simple, but have progressed to where I am currently working an a topological map for all of Italy. In the process I have developed an appreciation for the art of map making. However much I would like to talk more about that, the hiking maps will have to wait for another day.
Today my class and I were installed as Acolytes. This is the last ministry that I receive before petitioning for Ordination to the Deacon, God willing next year. You can see the pictures for the Mass here. An Acolyte receives the responsibilities of serving at the altar, or professional altar servers if you will. That is, the Church has now entrusted me with serving in assistance to the priest and deacon at Mass. I am also an extraordinary minister of holy communion through-out the whole Church, and I can in exceptional circumstances expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration.
This past semester was a long and busy semester. Tomorrow starts the spring semester. So I wanted to take a few moments to let everyone know what I’ve been up to these last several months.
This past summer, as I referenced in a post at the beginning of the summer here, was filled with many great opportunity. First, I had a wonderful backpacking trip on the Via Francigena in Northern Italian, more on that in the coming weeks. In the mean time here are the pictures. Right from the trail I had a great week and a half studying Italian in Verbania, which is on Lago Maggiore near the Swiss-Italian border. After studying Italian, I flew to China for a month to teach English. You can see pictures from my month here. After China I arrived back in Rome to help with orientation for the incoming class of seminarians here.