A Priest, a Rabbi, and Two Seminarians Walk into the Hospital…

While the above statement sounds like the start of a joke it is in fact true, and something that happens often at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC here in Pittsburgh.

These chaplains, my fellow seminarian, and myself are all part of the spiritual care department at Magee. We visit those who ask for spiritual care which involves listening to patients and perhaps offering an encouraging word, distributing Holy Communion to those who are Catholic, and other such activities.

This activity is my assigned apostolic work for the year, which is only a small part of my formation at St. Paul Seminary. My experience of what happens inside the walls of St. Paul’s is the topic of this particular blog post.

The twelve students, three priests and one bishop that make up our community have truly become one family even in the short month that we’ve been living together.

In fact, the idea that we are all one family is the overall vision our new rector, Fr. Tom, has been actively implementing in our time here, all through the intercession of St. Joseph, who has been chosen as our patron this year.

 

St. Paul Chapel-1-2
The statue of St. Joseph in our chapel at St. Paul Seminary.

What has this family life looked like in the past month? I’m glad you asked…

Orientation Week

Things kicked off on August 12 with move-in day, the returning seminarians (or veterans as Bishop Zubik calls them) eagerly helped us (the rookies) carry belongings to our rooms, which was followed by a wonderful cookout and bonfire with our new family.

The rest of the week was packed with activities to set us up for success while living the seminary lifestyle. These activities included praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Holy Mass, talks and conferences, sharing our stories, wonderful meals and engaging activities.

A few of these activities included a Pirates game (which unfortunately was a little soggy so we left early), and a competitive scavenger hunt all around the city of Pittsburgh. We ventured to Kennywood, Pitt’s campus in Oakland, PNC Park, PPG Paints Arena, Point State Park, Station Square and a few other locations.

Scavenger Hunt - St. Paul Cathedral
Our small group posing with St. Joan of Arc (and a new friend who jumped into the picture)

Each team was made up of our small groups for the year, so this activity was not merely to send the seminarians away for a few hours so we could run around the city (although it was this too). The seminary faculty wanted us to bond with each other, to become closer to one another and hopefully also grow closer to God. The fact that my team bonded the closest is evidenced by the fact that our team won the competition.

Later that evening was a wonderful meal prepared by our rector Fr. Tom, Fr. Brian and Fr. Mike (spiritual director and vocations director respectively) Sr. Cindy (Apostolic Works Coordinator) and Bishop Zubik. It was an incredibly humbling experience to be served by the faculty, and it became a teaching moment as well. Service to one another can be done in small ways, and this was a perfect example of just that.

2017 Opening Mass
At the front is our rector Fr. Tom (probably making a joke) with Bishop Zubik looking on.

After the foundation of our family had been built in this week of orientation, our new daily schedule set in after celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Duquesne University.

The Day to Day

We start the day off with Adoration, Morning Prayer and Mass with breakfast to follow. We then go to our various classes, work on homework, go to meetings with the priests here or otherwise. Those of us who may not have class at Duquesne until the afternoon have lunch at the seminary, which I’ve found to be one of my favorite parts of my life here, and it’s not just the amazing food served by our beloved chef Gary (who just started RCIA, by the way).

St. Paul Seminary is also home to some of the diocesan offices, so I have the chance to speak with priests and diocesan staff, about various topics and issues happening in our Church. While this may not formally be part of our formation program it is certainly forming me to think about the needs of the people of God.

The afternoon brings more class, the occasional nap, and telling myself I’m going to do work that somehow doesn’t manage to get done. As afternoon turns to evening we again turn to prayer. Our formal prayer together serves as bookends for each and every day, which helps us to be aware of the presence of God throughout the day, and draws us closer together.

It sounds like a lot but we manage to squeeze in fun activities too! We play volleyball when we get a chance, watch the Steelers games and last week we all went to the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. There was great food and drink, fun Gaelic bands and I had the opportunity to see a few other friends who were celebrating Ireland too.

Intellectual Exercises

The more formal formation certainly comes from the six classes I’m taking this semester. At Duquesne I’m taking Later Modern Philosophy, Logic, and a class on St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles called ‘God and Being.’ Circles seem to be an overarching theme in these classes… In modern philosophy we study people who think in circles, in logic we diagram circles (Venn Diagrams more specifically), and in God and Being I draw circles to keep awake because the class is at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

For the moments when I’ve managed to keep my eyes open, this class is quite fascinating. I’ve never gone this deep into a particular work. How deep did we go? We spent one class just on the title of St. Thomas’ work. We learned how it came about, what each word means, and whether or not Summa Contra Gentiles is a fitting title for this work. Now we’re carefully combing through the text, examining not only the text itself, but St. Thomas’ intention behind them, what was going on at the time, and how it all plays a part in how this work is composed.

The other three classes I’m taking are taught here at St. Paul Seminary. I’m taking a course on the third part of the Catechism which deals with Christian moral living, a Latin class, and an ethics class.

I’ve found the ethics class to be both interesting and helpful, because we are reading philosophical works that setup a framework for Christian ethical beliefs and we’re discussing modern day ethical issues, such as LGBT, same-sex ‘marriage’ and how our society today views ethics overall. This class dovetails quite nicely with our catechism class since both are dealing with similar issues.

Sr. Ann Rosalia, IHM, teaches our Latin class, and not only knows her Latin, but she quickly learned about us as well. She asked us to give her a few details about ourselves. The next class Sr. Ann Rosalia then used these details to call on us in class, e.g.: “the digits of this person’s phone number add up to 48.” “The initials of this person’s younger siblings are G and C.” I found this to be quite clever, and it certainly improved my mental math skills!

These are only the highlights of this last month of seminary life. I’m grateful to God for what he’s given me as I continue to listen to his will for my life. Be assured of my prayers for you, and I ask that you continue to pray for me.

Blessings,

John-Paul

 

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