Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Ton of Fun at Douglaston

I used to wonder if it would be better to enter seminary right after high school or wait a year so I would be able to get the 'normal' college experience. I was worried about missing out on activities like sports teams, music ensembles, or even the chance of getting extra sleep in the morning. Nevertheless, I still decided to enter the seminary right after graduating from Honesdale High School. However, I never would have guessed that apart from getting extra sleep in the morning, I wouldn’t be missing a thing. Although the seminary may have more on the schedule for someone than the average college student, there is still plenty of time for fun.

One of the best days of the year is when Douglaston (college seminary) plays Dunwoodie (major seminary) in soccer and softball in the fall and basketball in the winter. Many days go into training for these games so the winners can take home the coveted “Holy Wars” trophy. These sports days are such a great and fun way of building fraternity. Everyone comes together as a team in hopes of winning the game. Fortunately, through dedication and prayer, Douglaston won all three games this fall- soccer and the two softball games. Practice for basketball will begin for the winter. Hopefully this year can be a clean-sweep for Douglaston.

Douglaston verses Dunwoodie in soccer & softball

There are also other fun events that take place in house. This year we are having some tournaments including ping-pong, Fifa, billiards, and more. Some of these tournaments can be especially fun, like when you have to pick a theme song to walk into the room for ping pong. Pretty much anything you can think of you can make into a tournament for the house.

with some friends 

We also have time for other recreational activities. There is an indoor pool at the seminary which is open a few times a week for swimming. There is a common room on the first floor with a ping pong table, pool table, and foosball table. In that common room, there are also two televisions. One of those televisions has multiple gaming systems, controllers, and most importantly, a copious amount of games.  

One of my passions in life is music and I love to sing. I am so happy that I am able to continue with this passion. At the seminary, I am a cantor and a member of the choir. The seminary choir practices Monday nights with a local choir director, and we have two concerts. For these concerts, the director brings her parish choir with her to sing with us. Because of this, we are able to have four voice parts- soprano, alto, tenor, and bass compared to just tenor and bass if it was only guys from the seminary. We sing once at Christmastime, in early December for Lessons and Carols, and once in Lent on Laetare Sunday.

Lessons and Carols December 2015
Now, before I finish, since New York City is such a diverse place, I probably should mention the fun that has to do with the prime location. There is always something to do at any time of day. If we want to hop on the train into Manhattan, we are just a few minutes away from the train station. If we want to go to St. John’s University for a campus event, we are only five miles away from campus. If we want to go to a baseball game, we can just hop in the car and drive to Citi Field. If we are hungry for any type of food, all we have to do is hop in the car or walk and we can have whatever we desire within minutes. If we want to see a movie on a Friday night at midnight, we can because there are movie theaters that are still having showings at that time. Trust me, you can do anything at any time because those examples were all true. The list of things to do goes on and on!

Citi Field 

There are many fun things we are able to do in the seminary. If you think God may be calling you to enter the seminary, but you’re worried you will miss out on having fun, don’t let that be the reason you don’t enter. There is plenty of fun at the seminary, and a wide variety of things to do on a daily basis. The seminary is a lot of fun, and I’m glad I entered right out of high school because I don’t feel like I am missing a thing.

Nicholas Jennings, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, just started his second year at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, Douglaston, New York. He is from Honesdale and is a member of Saint John the Evangelist Parish. He loves to sing and spend time with his family and friends.

Picture: Seminarians Nicholas (left) and Rob Dogal at a Christmas Sweater Party.

Monday, September 26, 2016

One of the Happiest Days

As Vocation Director for the Diocese of Scranton, one of my ‘happiest’ days in ministry was Wednesday, September 21. The local church of Scranton honored Bishop James C. Timlin, Bishop Emeritus for the Diocese, with a special Mass and reception. At 89 years old, he celebrated 65 years of Diocesan Priesthood and 40 years as Bishop. What a great example for all, especially young people struggling with the ability to commit to their vocation.  A dedicated servant of God, Bishop Timlin gave beautiful witness and testimony to a standing room only cathedral filled with priests, religious sisters, lay faithful and many students from Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese.

In his homily, Bishop Timlin focused on three points: Saint Matthew (whose feast day it was), his ordination to the priesthood, and his gratitude to everyone. Matthew was called by Jesus to follow him. Matthew, an ordinary man, a sinner and not well-liked because he was a tax collector ended up being a great apostle and evangelist. This reminds us that God calls many individuals from all different walks of life, loving us in our sinfulness and giftedness. We need to stay open to an encounter with Jesus that can be transformative. The Bishop reminded us that he is from an ordinary family in North Scranton and Holy Rosary Parish. God has blessed him in many wonderful ways.

Bishop Timlin went on to say his ordination to the priesthood was the transforming moment in his life. “One of the greatest days of my life was when I was ordained a Priest.” He thanks God everyday for calling him to be a priest.  How wonderful is this personal witness of service! He also went on to thank God for his parents, his family and everyone who has blessed him throughout these many years.

I couldn’t help but think that Bishop Timlin has as much energy today as he did thirty-two years ago when I lived with him at the Cathedral. The celebration was the best possible commercial for God and the People of God. "It doesn’t get better than this!" Congratulations Bishop Timlin and thank you on behalf of everyone in the Diocese of Scranton.

Ad multos annos!

Father Don Williams is the "recycled" Vocation Director for the Diocese of Scranton, serving in the role from 1997-2002 and 2013-present. 

He is in residence at Saint Paul Parish in the Green Ridge section of Scranton. 

In November, he will celebrate thirty-three years of Priesthood. 

He is the third oldest of eleven children. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life in a Parish

I am approaching the fourth month of my pastoral year assignment at St. Matthew’s Parish in East Stroudsburg.

For me, the gift of this pastoral year is being able to take a step away from the seminary setting in order to be immersed in the life of a parish faith community in the Diocese of Scranton.

At Quo Vadis Days 2016 with participants from St. Matthew's Parish
During my time at St. Matthew’s, it has become abundantly clear to me that no two weeks in a parish are the same – for that matter, no two days are completely the same, either! A sampling of a day in the life of a seminarian in the parish looks something like this:

Wake up. Go to Mass. Drink coffee (two cups). Pray Morning Prayer. Visit parishioners in the hospital. Update parish website. Train Altar Servers. Eat lunch. Meet with couple preparing for Marriage. Pray with daily Scripture readings. Plan Confirmation retreat. (Third cup of coffee!) Dinner. Hit the gym. Bake cake for college students. Pray Night Prayer. Go to bed tired, but fulfilled!

At times, I am tempted to become so immersed in the work of the parish that I don’t always maintain a strong spiritual foundation. It is easy for me to check many “tasks” off the list of parish duties. It is less easy, however, to sit in silence, to be before God in all honesty and openness. The results of prayer are not always immediate; the transformative movement of prayer is often slow. Prayer is our realization of the patient work of God within us. It is not so easy to check this off of a list!

Catching up with a student at Light the Fire

Yet, this is exactly the point of my pastoral year at St. Matthew’s Parish! My continuing steps towards Holy Orders must first and foremost include time in prayer with God. Only from this foundation in prayer can I move forward as one called to minister in the name of Jesus.

It’ll continue to be a busy year at St. Matthew’s! There will be much to do. The parish is bustling with activity. I know I will continue to learn much from Fr. Jerry Shantillo, Fr. Joe Mosley, and the People of God here in the Poconos. Along with the business of parish life, there will be many opportunities for silence and prayer. And I look forward to all of it.

Ryan Glenn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, completed Theology III at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. 

During the 2016-17 year, Ryan will reside and minister at St. Matthew’s Parish in East Stroudsburg, PA. 

There, he will continue to pray and discern his vocational calling. Ryan will also be involved in multiple parish ministries, including Catholic Campus Ministry at East Stroudsburg University. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Grace-Filled Summer

As we begin a new academic year of seminary, I can’t help but think back with great gratitude in my heart for the good Lord’s gift of a truly graced-filled summer. I approached each day the same way I try to do every day in the seminary—in humble gratitude for the gift of time, for with time we all get the opportunity to know God better in hopes of falling ever more deeply in love with Him. But as many of us all too well know, life in the “real” world, as opposed to that of the seminary, often demands that we move from one thing to the next without ever really pausing to think about and absorb the wonder of the moments we experience in the here and now. So I am deeply thankful that I was approached to write this brief reflection, as it gave me the opportunity to actually think and absorb how momentous this summer has been in my journey towards the priesthood.

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:21). The words of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel are a fitting starting point for this reflection, for I found a treasure of immeasurable value in the parish of St John the Evangelist in Pittston, my parish of assignment for nine weeks.  The treasure of St John’s parish manifest itself to me in what I call “the three G’s”:  gospel, generosity and gratitude. 

Students from St. John's Youth Group at their Summer Bazaar 
The Gospel of Christ is alive at St John’s, living and breathing in the hands and hearts of all who so proudly and wonderfully call it their home. I found a place where the Gospel message rings true:  from the dynamic and dedicated pastor Monsignor Jack Bendik, to the committed and professional pastoral team and administrative staff, to the many welcoming and compassionate volunteers who give of their limited time to serve the needs of the poor and underprivileged in the Greater Pittston area, this parish believes in the transformative power of the Gospel. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:16).  These are not just words at St John the Evangelist parish; they reflect a genuine commitment to living the Christian way of life. I saw the Gospel living in the relieved look of young parents coming out of a visit with their sick child to the parish free pediatrics clinic. I saw the Gospel living in the warm and welcoming smiles of the many volunteers who carried sorely needed groceries for the many needy families who visited the food pantry weekly. I saw the Gospel living in the dignity of a funeral Mass made more personal in the words of a priest who put in the time and effort to get to know the deceased and their families just a little bit more.

Every expression of the Gospel abounds in a deep sense of generosity.  From the countless hours so many parishioners give to the operation of the Kid’s Clothes Closet, Food Pantry, parish bazaar, Vacation Bible School, Bereavement Support Group and Family Choir; to the seemingly endless stream of bags, boxes and cans of food that daily pour into the parish office for the food pantry; to the funds raised for missionary communities and outreach ministries, one could not help but be in awe of the boundless generosity of so many parishioners in the gifts of their time, talent and treasure.

Blessing before going to One Bread, One Cup at St. Meinrad's Abbey

All of this took place within a profound spirit of gratitude. Monsignor Bendik is a man who truly appreciates the power of the spoken word, and, in his own words, loved to make “a short story long!” In the many words I heard him spoke throughout the day, the two I heard him say most often are two of the most transformative in human language:  thank you.  I saw numerous expressions of humble gratitude from the many parishioners I visited on communion calls to area hospitals, nursing homes and shut-ins. I saw gratitude in a simple blessing bestowed on a faithful, lonely wandering man by one of the parish priests or deacons. I saw gratitude in the shared meals, warm fellowship and uplifting conversation of day-to-day rectory life. I saw gratitude in the eyes of the children and teenagers who sang from the depths of their hearts and souls of the love of Christ during Vacation Bible School, One Bread One Cup youth liturgical workshop we attended at St Meinrad’s Abbey in southern Indiana and Light the Fire diocesan youth rally at Misericordia University. I saw gratitude in the everyday simple and humble expressions of Christ’s love that I was so blessed to witness each and every day.

Light the Fire Youth Rally at Misericordia University 

All of us at One Bread, One Cup with Steve Angrisano

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  I will treasure always the inestimable gift of nine summer weeks at an amazing parish home in Pittston.

Kevin Miller is a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton. He is from Wilkes-Barre and is a member of Saint Nicholas Parish.

After retiring from serving thirty-two years in the military, he is now in Theology I at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. 

Miller (far right) is pictured at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland with seminarians Jonathan Kuhar and Andrew McCarroll. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Young Church Alive at World Youth Day

A few days ago, I was shown a video on YouTube from the Night of Mercy Festival at World Youth Day’s Mercy Center. I had the privilege to be at that event which included, among other things, Eucharistic Adoration presided by Bishop Robert Barron. I could go on at great length describing that evening, the very real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the gathered community who united more than 25,000 young members of the Church in praise and adoration. Every detail remains very real in my memory.

Night of Mercy at Tauron Arena in Krakow, Poland 
After watching this video, what I recall above all else is that group of thousands who surrounded me. While I was having a profound experience of God’s presence, I could not help but watch the young adults around me. I could see conversion happening in real time. I could see surrendering and healing happening right before my eyes. I could see real thanksgiving being expressed through word and song. But I also experienced a peace-filled silence in what would later that night become the loudest place in Krakow.

After the event, I was walking back to the hotel and thought about the critics of young adults—those who say my generation is self-absorbed, out of touch with the values express by the Church, unable to quiet down, ungrateful, or unable to worship in a “fitting way.” These things, without a doubt in my mind, are also sometimes said with a pessimistic eye to the future of the Church. I thought to myself, “I wish those people were able to experience what I just experienced.” Well, thanks to technology, now they are. I would challenge those pessimists to watch what I saw that night in Krakow, Poland.  I would challenge them to find one person in that video who could not quiet down, who was not expressing in their own way deeply grateful hearts, who did not look like their worship was moving them closer to their God.

As I said that night, “The young church is doing just fine.” It’s time to give young adults a break and let them do what the Spirit of God is moving them to do for the Kingdom of God. They won’t disappoint.

Bill Beechko is a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton. He is from Mayfield and a member of SS. Anthony and Rocco Parish in Dunmore. He is in Third Theology at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Role of the Parish in Discernment

Priests come from parishes. If your parish is not creating a culture of priestly vocations, supporting and encouraging men to become priests, where will priests come from to serve parishes in our Diocese? Sometimes it seems that there is a fundamental disconnect.

Here are some observations about parishes that have priestly vocations:

-Parishoners love their priests, and they are not afraid to express it.

-The Parish is prayerful and active.

-Parishoners identify men who would make good Diocesan Priests, and they encourage them to consider a vocation to the priesthood.

-Their faith is not just about Sunday. They are committed to live out their faith in the world.

Confirmation students from Epiphany Parish in Sayre made
care packages for Diocesan of Scranton seminarians in the
fall of 2015. 
-They love their Catholic faith and are not afraid to stand up for it and share it.

-There is a zeal for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration.

Saint Ann Parish in Williamsport holds Eucharistic Adoration for Vocations
weekdays for the entire Williamsport area. 
-A true belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist permeates the Parish.

-There is a love for the Diocese and the Universal Church. Faith is bigger than my Parish.

To learn more about how your parish can create a "culture of vocations," contact the Diocesan Vocation Office at 570-207-1452.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Quo Vadis Days 2016

Our office once again hosted Quo Vadis Days at Misericordia University June 26-29. The camp brought together men of high school age who are committed to their Catholic faith and actively involved in the life of their parishes.

Group photo 
The name Quo Vadis (Where are you going?) poses the question that every person faces as their life unfolds and they make decisions about their vocation, be it as a single or married person, or someone called to serve as a priest or religious.

Quo Vadis brought together 40 young men plus seminarians, young adult volunteers, assistant vocation directors, and priests from around the Diocese of Scranton. The camp offered participants an opportunity to reflect on and deepen their faith, learn more about all vocations, and better discern God’s call in their lives through dynamic talks, games, prayer, sports, activities, music, liturgy and much more.
Participants listen to a speaker

Ropes Course

Evening Prayer
Bishop Joseph C. Bambera visited on the first day and presided at evening prayer. He shared the story of his own call to priesthood and offered insights into the life and ministry of a diocesan priest. Participants were then able to spend time with the Bishop at dinner.

Bishop Bambera offers words of encouragement to the participants

“This was our second year for Quo Vadis Days and our numbers almost doubled from last year,” said Father Don Williams, Diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians. “It was a great opportunity for young people from across the Diocese of Scranton to gather, pray, and grow as disciples of Jesus. We look forward to our follow-up gatherings throughout the year and the vocation camp next June.”

Father Don Williams tells participants about Quo Vadis Days 

For more information about the Quo Vadis program, please call 570-207-1452.  

"Quo Vadis was a retreat like no other I have attended. You have time for prayer and discernment, and you have time for fun and games. It is also a great opportunity to get to know our diocesan priests and the seminarians. Being surrounded by other Catholic youth from the diocese was also a great experience."
-Scott, participant 

"Quo Vadis was an incredible faith-filled experience. As a small group leader, it was wonderful to watch the participant's excitement for their faith grow as the retreat went on. Quo Vadis is such a great retreat for young men to bond with prayer, sports, and discernment. I was truly blessed to be able to share my experiences of growing in faith throughout high school and my first years of college with the guys. We were also blessed to have many wonderful seminarians and priests, who are all extraordinary examples of what it truly means to be a man of God."
-John, young adult volunteer and speaker 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hearing God's Voice During a Silent Retreat

Greetings from Nebraska! This summer I am at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska where I am participating in the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF). The program began at the end of May with a brief introduction class explaining how to prepare for an eight day silent retreat. And then, the retreat began! It has been a few weeks since the retreat has ended, and I have had some time to begin processing everything that happened. As the summer continues, I will continue to unpack this wonderful experience. To make this a little easier, I will first outline my "daily schedule” and then explain what the retreat was like for me personally.

The schedule below is how I structured my days on retreat:  
6:45 a.m. –  Wake up, Morning Prayer, and get ready for the day
7:45 a.m. –  Holy Hour #1
9:15 a.m. –  Spiritual Direction
10:45 a.m. – Mass
11:30 a.m. – Lunch
12:15 p.m. - Holy Hour #2
1:30 – 3:00 p.m. – Exercise and Relax
3:30 p.m. – Holy Hour #3
4:45 p.m. – Dinner
5:45 p.m. – Evening Prayer
6:30 p.m. – Conference
7:30 p.m. – Read
8:45 p.m. -  Holy Hour #4
10:00 pm – Night Prayer and Bed

Each retreatant’s schedule varied, but this is how I was able to develop some structure and balance to each day. The retreat structure itself was very basic and included Mass and an evening conference. Every other aspect of a retreatant’s schedule was tailored to them. As you can see, I met with my Spiritual Director once a day and followed the recommendation of praying four holy hours a day.
The schedule I created allowed me to see more clearly how God was working throughout my day. In order to enter into the silence of the retreat, I gave my phone and laptop to my Spiritual Director. This was not easy to do, but it eliminated any distractions and made entering into the silence much easier. The silence which I feared before the retreat truly became a blessing as the week progressed. 

Creighton University 
          This retreat was like none I had ever gone on before. Not only was it very serious, but I took the time and changed my attitude to be on “vacation with God” rather than just being on a “vacation.” This initial attitude adjustment allowed me to refocus my attention from selfish motives to a posture of being receptive to what God has in store for me. Thankfully I did this because God sure had a lot to share with me over the eight days! I received many graces from God during the retreat. In the weeks following, I continue to receive those many graces. I am so thankful that I had this experience to slow down from the business of seminary life and to focus exclusively on my prayer life. 
I learned how to pray a holy hour on the retreat, not just one but four. Before I got here I could barely make it through one holy hour without trying to “fill up the time.” In my time before endeavoring into the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I conceived a Holy Hour as a time that was restricted to sitting before the Blessed Sacrament struggling to find words to say to God. During the retreat, my eyes were opened to find Christ around me at all times as He is with us always. This expanded view of a Holy Hour that is not limited to sitting in a set environment each day, but rather admiring the beauty of God’s creation. Now that the retreat has ended I do one holy hour a day and am committed to making that full hour happen every day. As I have learned, prayer is all about relationship. 
When it comes to relationships, we know that expressing our thoughts, feelings, and desires are important. God is interested in hearing us share with him our own thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Personally, I am not one to talk about my feelings, let alone even try and find words that describe them. On retreat, I was able to change this struggle of mine by finding a new vocabulary in which to express interior movements and deepen my relationship with the Lord. By sharing with the Lord what was happening in my life, I became even more aware of how present He is during my day. I was then faced with a tough question: Do I really want to be this close in relationship with the Lord or do I want to turn back to my old selfish ways that have always left me feeling empty? In all of our lives, we have a choice to make: turn to God in the good and the bad times, or turn to ourselves and our egos. God has the power to heal us, but we have to give him permission to do such things. We have the ability and freedom to reject His love and try to self-medicate. The truth is, in our free surrender to the Lord, newness of life can come forth.
Therefore, I find myself contemplating a question that Jesus poses in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Put simply, what do I desire? The Gospel says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). During the retreat, I came face to face with this startling question. Do I truly desire God, and God alone, or do I turn to myself and my own selfish wants and desires that I know cannot and will not truly please me. We all have a desire to be loved and a major first step in our prayer life is to accept that God loves us. When we truly accept this, we realize that God is desiring to enter more deeply into relationship with us. Therefore, we may also enter into a deeper relationship with Him. 
The retreat for me was allowing God to love me and building a solid foundation on which my relationship with the Lord stands and is rooted. This relationship with the Lord has allowed God to love me, heal me, and change my heart so that now I can say I desire what Saint Paul describes which is to “put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator” (Colossians 3:10). The retreat has given me a strong desire not only to be Catholic but to be a Saint.  As I continue on this journey of faith, I will always take with me the many encounters I had with our Lord during this retreat and the weeks that have followed. I ask the Lord and pray that the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – may continue to teach me how to pray so that I may always do the will of our loving Father.

Creighton University 

Robert Dogal, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, just finished Pre-Theology II at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, Douglaston, New York. This summer he is at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska for the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF). 

He is from St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, Kingston. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Desires, Hopes, and Prayers of a Pilgrim

“The art of the pilgrim is to travel light, needing only what one can carry. The secret which makes this easy is that the real essentials can be carried in the heart which has infinite capacity. The paradox is that the more richly laden is the heart with worthwhile treasures, the more lighthearted is the pilgrim.”

"Welcome to our retreat!"
On Wednesday, June 8th, I, along with the young (and not so young) adults of the Church of Scranton participating in the 2016 World Youth Day pilgrimage to Poland gathered on retreat in order to get know each other, share a meal, review the itinerary for the trip, and spiritually prepare our hearts for this once-in-a-lifetime journey of faith.

St. John Paul II

St. Faustina Kowalska

Pray for us!

World Youth Day, first held by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1986, gathers young Catholics from every corner of the globe with religious, priests, bishops, and the Holy Father. For six days, the young Church celebrates our common faith in Jesus Christ. This year’s world-wide gathering takes place from July 25th-31st in the city of Krakow and includes opportunities for catechesis, prayer, cultural immersion, and the celebration of the Eucharist with Pope Francis. Even though this will be my first time participating in World Youth Day, I find myself extremely excited for this journey of faith.

The group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Scranton will be led by Bishop Bambera and includes Catholics of all walks of life. One retreat activity in particular highlighted the similarities as well as the unique qualities of each of our respective faith journeys. All of us were asked to describe how our own pair of shoes represented the various paths that we have been walking in our relationship with God. The different footwear – whether Army boots, stylish sandals, or running sneakers – revealed the beauty of our diverse paths amidst the unity of our shared faith in Jesus.

Shoes that pilgrims brought to the retreat
Our time together in retreat has allowed me to begin reflecting on the desires, hopes, and prayers of my heart for this upcoming pilgrimage. First, I desire to revel in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Poland and enjoy this opportunity with my friends and fellow pilgrims. My hope is that my heart will be open enough to see how it is that our God is at work in the lives, the cultures, and the faith of the millions of other pilgrims gathered from throughout the world. And finally, I pray that this pilgrimage will deepen my faith, that I will appreciate how the grace, the love, the peace, and the mercy of the Lord Jesus is active and ever-present in my own life.

Shannon Kowalski talked about her past two World Youth Day pilgrimages.
These heart-filled desires, hopes, and prayers will only begin to be realized as I make the first step of faith with my fellow pilgrims!


Ryan P. Glenn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, just finished Year III of Theology at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland. Ryan has begun his Pastoral Year assignment at St. Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg. There, he will be able to spend time in prayer, become familiar with the various ministries at the parish, and reside with the pastor, Father Jerry Shantillo, and incoming assistant pastor, Father Joseph Mosley.
He is from St. Jude Parish, Mountain Top. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My First Year in Seminary

Fellow seminarians at Cathedral Seminary House
of Formation, Douglaston, New York.
I find it difficult to believe that a year ago, almost to the date, I was accepted by the Diocese of Scranton to be their newest and youngest seminarian. Looking back, when they tell you that times flies in the seminary, they are certainly not kidding. From the first day of morning prayer, to convocation on the last day, and with the Pope visiting NYC, flying to Rome with other seminarians, and all the other blessings in between, my first year has come to a close.

The transition from Honesdale High School to St. John’s University and Cathedral Seminary was not as overwhelming as I originally expected. Starting from the first day, we were out exploring New York City (Be careful, NYC is not exclusive to Manhattan. The other New York seminarians will call you out on that, in a friendly way of course). From going to a small town to the bustling streets of Queens, I found I adjusted quite well. Of course I was homesick the first two weeks, but after that I felt quite comfortable driving with friends to get a late night Saturday snack, or roaming Times Square in December. According to my new friends at the seminary, I was an honorary New Yorker.

Myself with other seminarians
Not only was I an honorary New Yorker and Diocese of Scranton Seminarian, but I also was now a college student. The undergrads at Cathedral Seminary, with the exception of a few, attend St. John’s University in Queens. The required major is Philosophy, but you are free to double major or minor in other areas that interest you (Keep in mind, whatever you choose, has to be able to be completed in four years). The classes are a decent size with approximately thirty other students in your class. Depending on class schedules and requirements you have to fill, you may or may not have other seminarians in your class. So far, both semesters of my first year I had at least one class without other seminarians. 

Along with academic studies, you also have a set schedule for prayer. The day begins at morning prayer, bright and early, at 6:45 a.m. The next scheduled thing that everyone has is evening Mass at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and evening prayer in the chapel. After that, the set prayer schedule is over. This leaves time to go back to your room to study, play pool in the common room, play sports in the gym, and so on and so forth. After these activities around 10 p.m, Rob Dogal and I would go to one of the four chapels to pray Night Prayer as seminarians from the Diocese of Scranton. This was a great way to build fraternity and also unwind after a long day. That is one of the best things about the seminary; you build such close bonds with the other men that you truly feel like brothers.

Cathedral Seminary House of Formation

Pilgrimage to Italy 
There is also a lot of time for fun at the seminary. I was able to continue my interests in music by being in the seminary choir, cantoring at Masses, and playing clarinet with other guys there that play musical instruments. We also were able to attend Vespers and Mass when the Pope came to NYC in the fall. The Papal events were such an incredible experience, being a part of something so big and seeing how alive the Catholic Church is. Then during spring break, myself and others from the seminary went to Assisi and Rome, Italy on a pilgrimage. We got to have authentic Italian cuisine, walk to Eternal City, tour the ancient churches, and so much more! It was such a great experience that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Rob Dogal and I at the ugly Christmas sweater party

Halloween gathering

Christmas Concert 
All in all, my first year was, well, great! It went by extremely fast, but was worth every second. I am excited to see what is in store for my sophomore year at the seminary. Until then, I get to work,  relax, and enjoy time with family and friends.

Nicholas Jennings, a seminarian for the Diocese of Scranton, just finished his first year at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation, Douglaston, New York. He is from Honesdale, and is a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish. He loves to sing and spend time with his family and friends. 

You can listen to Nicholas singing "O Holy Night" by clicking on the link below: 
Nicholas Singing "O Holy Night"