My Theology I classmates and me, with Bishop Wilkerson, after the Candidacy Liturgy.
So we were pretty busy down here at the Seminary this last week. First of all, we had our midterms all week, with all the fun stuff that includes: papers, exams, and meetings with teachers. On Friday I was received by the Archdiocese as a Candidate for Holy Orders to the Diaconate and Priesthood. On Saturday, our 2nd Year guys received the Ministry of Reader at a special Mass, calling them to proclaim the Word. On Sunday we welcomed the Young Ladies Institute to our home for Mass and lunch (the great thing is that for more the most part that name is a misnomer, most of the Ladies reminding me of really sweet Grandmothers!). The guys from my seminary community of the last three years, Juan Diego House, were visiting too. And the whole weekend, we were holding a Priestly Discernment Retreat for men who were discerning whether or not they should join us here at the Seminary. And I was involved in all of it!
So, yes, there is a lot to be responsible for here than just school work. I knew that I was going to have to juggle midterms and Candidacy when I signed up to help as a small group facilitator for the PDR. But I had no idea the retreat was going to take up so much time. So much time, in fact, that I had about a half-hour total to spend with my family before and after the Candidacy liturgy. I mean, I had been waiting for three years, since I entered Juan Diego House, for my own Candidacy. I got to see dozens of guys accepted by the Bishop to become official Candidates to the Priesthood, I got to see them celebrate with their families, and I got to see them worry about nothing else for that little bit of time.
I, on the other hand, was suddenly distracted by the prospect of meeting these men who were in the midst of a hugely important decision (I would know, I’ve been there before!). I was worrying about how much time I would get to spend with my family, knowing the retreat started merely twenty minutes after the ceremony was set to finish. Honestly, I was thinking, let’s get this over with so I can celebrate with my family before I have to get to work! Sure it was a beautiful liturgy; sure I got to have some of the people (but not all) that I love most in this world here with me; and sure the Holy Spirit was definitely moving that night. But it was all so different and rushed for me than I had expected and hoped for it to be.
Because of all of this, I felt the need to write a thank you letter to my family, which I would like to share a part of with you. I’ve really had to pray about sharing this with you, because it meant so much for me to have them with me that night, and I really had to pour myself into sharing this with them. But I don’t think there is any better way to share with you how spectacular the weekend was and how great God’s grace is:
I wanted to hold back from this retreat so I could spend more time with you all tonight, but that is not what my candidacy is about. We can celebrate this and many other things ahead for me at any time. But for this day and the days to come, my candidacy is about being with these men, offering them a listening ear, an insightful word, or just any little thing that will give them the confidence they need to know if the path I have chosen is meant for them too. I learned this way of leadership and selflessness not from anything I’ve done on my own, but from all of you and the ways you have raised me, taught me, or simply been my friends.
So I spend this time I wish I was spending with you all, with these men who are on the verge of the most important and perhaps most difficult decision of their lives, and all I can ask is why me? Who am I to think I can lead these men through this time in their lives? The only answer I can give is: I am who God has made me to be, by your love, by your prayers, and by your honesty to me.
So we will continue to celebrate at another time, but for now, there’s some work to do. Pray for us!
And what an amazing weekend it was! Not only did I get to be a witness to the love these men have for the Priesthood, they helped to fire me up again. And they reminded me of what Candidacy and the Priesthood is really about: it’s not about me, it’s about everyone who has helped make me who I am, and everyone who will be affected by my ministry, as long as I keep my focus on Christ, following Christ, letting Christ guide me. And that means all of you too! Sure, you weren’t here at the seminary for the ceremony, but you were all on my heart that night, knowing how much I owe my vocation to each and every one of you.
So let us spend this week, in the midst of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, remembering that we are not alone, especially when we feel overburdened by homework and other responsibilities. And I’ll just keep on saying it, when we love, we are never alone! I felt a little alone not getting to celebrate that night with my family. But the truth is that the chance I was given to experience God’s grace and to love these men who are struggling to discern God’s will for their lives, I have never been more connected to what it means to serve. God can work love into our hearts, especially when we feel overburdened, we just have to make ourselves available to God, and He will make us able. After all, God calls us to do nothing else but to love Him and one another. There is nothing else we are called to do!
– Tim (ST)