Archive for August, 2011
From the Week: Mexican Parish Week 4
Last Saturday was our last catechetical session with the catechists for our parish. It was a lot of fun and it seems like they will miss it as much as we will. My part of the session was on the role of the laity in the life of the Church, focusing on the mission of the laity within the Church and then outside the Church.
It was quite interesting to hear what more they wanted to see happen in the Church and the challenges they faced outside of the Church in sharing the Gospel. I asked them what methods have been effective in sharing the Gospel with non-practicing Catholics and non-Catholics. In the short time I had, they did not respond with any! It seems there is much we must do to properly equip lay people to realize their specific mission in the world which only they can accomplish, evangelizing in their families, among their friends, at their work, and among their children’s activities where parental attendance is often expected.
I gave them 6 tools that I believe work – invitation, personal testimony of God’s action, prayer (obviously!), personal acts of charity for others (holiness of life), creating small communities of Catholic families where you can invite other families to join, and learning the faith so that you can respond to questions from non-Catholic individuals about why we believe as we do. I have used most of these myself.
That said, I think it was a good session and will hopefully bear fruit in the near future.
Sadly, World Youth Day is over but the evangelical spirit is not. Anyways, anyone up for Rio de Janiero in 2013? I am hoping to be there if everything works out right. Our Holy Father had an address specifically to seminarians. Here is a quote below:
To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14).
That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.
Please say a prayer for the repose of the souls of Rev. Jorge Gomez (just recently ordained) and seminarian Stanley Kariuki, both of the Diocese of Tulsa, who were killed in an auto accident on Sunday. Their obituaries are listed on the diocesan website.
General Sherman is not so well liked in the South if I remember correctly but I am not mentioning him because of his actions during the Civil War. Rather I mention him because his son became a Jesuit and had these words to say:
People in love do strange things…. Having a vocation is like being in love, only more so, as there is no love more absorbing, so deep and so lasting as that of the creature for the Creator. What a grand thing it is to be, as it were, shooting straight at one’s mark, living every hour, performing every action in preparation for the great hereafter.
You can read the whole article here.
From the Week: Mexican Parish Week 3
The parish life is finally picking up for me or at least the weekends. Friday, Fr. Idar, one of the parochial vicars here, took myself and a couple altar servers (also known in spanish as monaguillos) and their mom out towards Cuernavaca to visit a pyramid and a pueblo which has a church dating back to the arrival of the Franciscans soon after the conquest of Mexico and right around the time of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a lot of fun and a nice hike up the side of a hill.
Saturday was a day full of Spanish speaking. In the morning the other seminarian (Victor) here and I taught a 3 hour class on Ecclesiology to catechists. In the afternoon we had another Grupo de Oracion with some people from Cantera. I have been using the Gospel of John for a bible study type session and it has been reaping all kinds of fruit. The people love it. They feel like they are encountering Jesus in a deeper way and knowing the Scriptures more completely.
Afterwards Victor had the great idea of visiting some of the friends of the Grupo who do not attend Mass regularly. So we spent another hour wandering around the neighborhood chatting with people and visiting with them. As we were ending our walkaround we ran into another parishioner who is super involved in the parish and ended up having coffee there for a couple hours. Finally we made it home only to find out we were going out to eat some amazing Mexican food at a local family’s restaurant. The food was ridiculously amazing – gorditas, bombasas, enchiladas, some soup, and more. I am preparing to go back this Saturday.
Tuesday Fr. Brian and I went to visit Jesus, Jorge, and our new seminarian Edgardo at the Seminario Hispano which is just about a block from my parish. We had lunch and then went out to play basketball and soccer with them at the nearby Seminario Conciliar. The Seminario Hispano was created about 10 years ago by the Archdiocese of Mexico City to train Mexicans to be priests in the U.S. Many of the men currently studying there have lived in the U.S. for sometime and either struggle with the English language or perhaps have to work out some immigration issues. But they are trained in American culture and English so they can adapt easily into the dioceses in which they will serve. They are currently close to capacity with 38 guys, the most they have ever had. We currently have 3 guys there. I think there are about 10 from dioceses in California. Seminario Conciliar is the Archdiocesan Seminary.
Wednesday was our day off and Ronald and I visited Fr. Brian as his parish, Santos de America. Below is a picture of his parish church. It reminds me a lot of St. Catherine’s in Vallejo.
And this is from right to left – Ronald, Fr. Francisco (Fr. Brian’s pastor at Santos de America), Fr. Brian, and myself.
Obviously some of the biggest news is that this week is World Youth Day or as we say in Mexico, Jornada Mundial de la Juventud. Let’s pray for some vocations to the priesthood and religious life – quite a few young people seem to find their vocation there. And for those who were unable to go, the video below might give us some of that spirit of WYD.
And now something on the priesthood. This is a blog post from a priest who left seminary 2 times before being ordained! Talk about a rough road. But now ordained, he definitely has a great point about discernment. In his main point he asks how he could feel such a draw to the priesthood and marriage at the same time. Archbishop Flynn gave him the answer. “If you would not make a good husband or dad, you will not make a good priest. It is the same foundation, different building.” Amen! It helped me to answer my call to the priesthood as well. I have never stopped desiring to be a husband or father but I realize how God wants to use that desire as a priest to serve the flock entrusted to my care. We always have to be careful not to pigeonhole candidates for the priesthood. I recently read a comic where a guy was trying to talk to a girl and totally blew it. He asked a friend how he did and she responded, “Well, it’s okay if you want to be a priest.” Or it is like the person who says this guy is a loner and has never dated, he will make a great priest. This is the worst idea ever. Priests must be healthy and well-formed individuals. Being a loner is unhealthy. Being unable to communicate to the opposite sex does not help either. We need men who understand what it means to be men and are willing to make the sacrifice of becoming a priest. That’s it. Not easy but God prepares those He calls.
Lastly, Kindly Light Media recently made a video on the Angelicum, my former university of study in Rome, that I think is quite well done. Many of the professors on the video were my teachers and many of the students my classmates. Check it out.
From the Week: Mexican Parish Week 2
Saturday I had my first chance to get out to one of the Grupos de Oracion that meet every week or every 2 weeks to discuss different topics of the faith or delve deeper into the richness of the Scriptures. What I did not realize is that they expected me to lead. Thank God I brought my bible. :) So with a few faithful followers we started in on one of my favorite passages, chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, St. John’s take on the multiplication of the loaves. We spent a good hour and a half on it and it was well worth the time. Wednesday I met with another Grupo and I have a different one this Saturday.
Check out this site which has the audio recording of the vocation story of Fr. Rich Mastrogiacomo, recently ordained for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. For those as confused as I am about locations on the east coast, Rockville Centre is in NY. :)
Our annual Diocese of Sacramento Seminarians’ Retreat was this week held at the Passionist Retreat House in Citrus Heights. It is one of the few chances for most of us to get together – though this year I am missing out as I am still in Mexico working on the Spanish. From the sounds of it, it went quite well.
Thursday was a gathering of the entire presbyterate of the sixth vicariate of the Archdiocese of Mexico City as they were meeting their new auxiliary bishop. Ronald and I also attended with our pastors and spent time meeting some of the priests and deacons. It was amazing to see the diversity, Africans and Colombians, as well as a majority of Mexicans.
Below I have added some pictures of the main parish church building, San Pedro Apostol, and our outdoor chapel in Cantera. This first one is an evening shot of San Pedro Apostol. It’s a beautiful yet simple church so we get a lot of quinceaneras and weddings.
Below is the rectory and office building with a nice courtyard and garden out front.
Lastly we have the outdoor chapel in one of our neighborhoods called Cantera. It is actually a nice setup because a lot of people pass through there around Mass time so it is a good reminder for them on what they are missing out on.
From the Week: Mexican Parish Week 1
I arrived in my new home in Mexico City on Saturday. San Pedro Apostle is located only a couple miles from my last residence. The parish is not that big compared to some of the parishes I have seen and where Arnold, Ronald, and Fr. Brian are currently located. It has a couple chapels in parts of the neighborhood that celebrate Mass on Sundays.
I am still slowly settling into the parish and getting a sense of how I will be helping out. A major adjustment is moving from doing to learning. I have quickly realized that there is not as much going on currently. I assume things will pick up in the next week or so. I have already learned a lot from simply watching how the people pray, the traditions they follow, and the activities that bring life to the parish. For example, the first day of the month in Mexico is a day when lots of people attend daily Mass. As well, Mexicans do not seem to do hymnals. They just know their songs. Plus they have programs I have never heard of before like el Grupo de Evangelizacion or Escuela de Pastoral.
I am also reading a great book on Our Lady of Guadalupe entitled La Verdad de Guadalupe by Fr. Eduardo Chavez. He was the main promoter for the cause of San Juan Diego which makes him quite an expert on the history and theology of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sorry for any non-Spanish readers as this book does not have a translation into English yet.
Below are a few pictures from events I attended this week. First is the Parish of La Esperanza de Maria en la Resurrecion de Jesus. This was the welcome Mass for an auxiliary bishop of Mexico City who is taking over our Vicariate of San Pedro.
This is a shot from behind the scenes. A couple seminarians of Mexico and I showed up and ended up helping out with a few things. Here Bishop Crispin, the new auxiliary, speaks some words.
I also went to the annual priest retreat celebrated around August 4th, the feast of St. John Marie Vianney, Patron Saint of Parish Priests. Out of some 1,000 priests of the Archdiocese, there were quite a few at this event. Here we are during one of the conferences.
This week we also have our annual seminarian retreat with our new vocation director Fr. Francisco, formerly pastor at St. Isidore’s in Yuba City. Fr. Francisco and our very own Bishop Soto will be visiting us poor exiles in Mexico City at the end of August. It will include a final exam of sorts in Spanish so we are doing our best in preparation. :)
One of our seminarians has been holding out on us. I found his vocation story on facebook. Enjoy!
My dad was in the Navy and my mother was an accountant. Life with my older sister, parents and both grandmothers was rich with memorable experiences: great meals, spontaneous vacations, board game nights – I truly felt I had a good foundation of love. I was in Little League, volleyball and martial arts; played trumpet, sang in choirs and was heavily involved in theater. At 14, I assembled my first computer, which led to my later attempt at a computer science and engineering degree at the University of California.
My family always went to Sunday Mass together and prayed the Rosary, but it wasn’t until I was challenged on my faith that I grew deeper in love with it and with the Eucharist. I began to notice my grandmother’s deep faith, and it inspired me. I met great young priests and youth ministers, and people encouraged me to pursue the priesthood.
But the priesthood wasn’t necessarily attractive to me; my girlfriend, on the other hand, was. She and I were introduced by a dear mutual friend; we went to prom together, and during college we happily prepared for a future together. She was going to be a nurse, I an engineer. We were going to have two kids, one dog, and season tickets to the San Diego Super Chargers. That was our plan. That was my plan.
It wasn’t His.
After our breakup, I thought again of the priesthood, but part of me said “wait”. Soon after, I went to Cologne, Germany to celebrate World Youth Day with the Holy Father. Part of the pilgrimage took us to Lisieux, home of St. Therese. As I prayed there, the words of the saint echoed in my heart, “At last I have found it …My vocation is love.”
For three more years, I dove back into my work. Then during a Lenten retreat in 2008, more of St. Therese’s words came to me: “I fear only one thing—to keep my own will. Take it, my God, for I choose all that you choose.” Through His grace, I am now a seminarian for the Diocese of Sacramento.