9/19/12 | 765 views
Mass of the Holy Spirit Opens ‘New Chapter’ at St. Joseph’s Seminary
St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, made history last week with its Mass of the Holy Spirit marking the start of the academic year. It was the first opening Mass since the launching of a program that made St. Joseph’s the site for the training of seminarians from the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Cardinal Dolan offered the Mass on Sept. 5 and spoke in his homily of the historic moment it represented.
“We’re not only beginning a new academic year, we’re beginning a new chapter in the distinguished history of priestly formation” in the three dioceses, he said. “We’re grateful to God for the promise and hope that characterizes this fresh start.”
The reorganization of St. Joseph’s Seminary is the result of an interdiocesan partnership with the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses that began with talks in 2009 on how to collaborate in seminary education. The three dioceses merged their priestly formation programs; seminarians now begin with philosophy studies at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Queens and then go to St. Joseph’s, the major seminary, for theology studies.
Msgr. Peter Vaccari, a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese, became rector of St. Joseph’s July 1, succeeding New York Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, now vicar for clergy. Both were among more than 30 concelebrants. Attending the Mass were 100 seminarians, along with faculty members, board members, staff and guests.
Cardinal Dolan welcomed all and offered a special welcome to the seminarians.
They are “part of history” because they are the first to study at the newly reorganized seminary, he said. He compared them to the seminarians who returned in 1948 to the North American College in Rome—his own alma mater—to reopen it after World War II. That class still is referred to as “the pioneers,” and St. Joseph’s current seminarians likewise will be remembered with gratitude as “part of this fresh start,” the cardinal said.
The cardinal also noted that it was the feast of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who died Sept. 5, 1997. Mother Teresa, together with Pope John Paul II, “will be given special credit for the renewal of the priesthood in the Church Universal,” Cardinal Dolan said. He then cited “six lessons” from Mother Teresa’s life and teaching.
The first was prayer, and the cardinal told a personal story to illustrate the point. In June 1976, traveling home to be ordained, he happened to be on the same Air India flight as Mother Teresa. He approached her and asked, “Mother, will you sign my breviary?” She replied, “I’ll sign it if you’ll say it.”
“She was urging me to prayer, to the consistent, daily rhythm of prayer with the Church in the Divine Office,” he told the congregation. He stressed the central place of the Mass and Eucharistic adoration in Mother Teresa’s life.
The second lesson was the call to personal conversion and “humble openness” to interior change. The third was perseverance, which Mother Teresa practiced in the face of severe spiritual dryness; the cardinal compared her suffering to Christ’s when he cried “I thirst” from the cross. Yet Mother Teresa “never, ever gave up,” he said. The fourth lesson was trust in divine providence; the fifth was maintaining “a sense of joy”; and the sixth was “sacrificial love for God’s people,” a requirement for priesthood, the cardinal said.
During the Mass, the faculty members took the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium, proclaiming their belief in the teachings of the Church and their promise to uphold them.
At the end of the Mass, Msgr. Vaccari thanked Cardinal Dolan and the heads of the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Bishop William Murphy, respectively, for their “vision” in bringing about the joint program at St. Joseph’s Seminary.
Msgr. Vaccari, in an interview, remarked on the diversity of the seminary’s enrollment, which includes men from Latin America, the African Union and Myanmar. There also are Eastern-rite seminarians from the Syro-Malankara Exarchate.
“We’re blessed with a very rich expression of the universality of the Church through the body of seminarians,” Msgr. Vaccari told CNY. He noted that the seminary system includes the Sacred Heart Institute for Ongoing Formation of Clergy in Huntington.
“These are all the pieces that are part, hopefully, of a seamless garment that will be in the service of the Church throughout the New York Region and beyond,” Msgr. Vaccari said.
The seminary, like its chapel in the late afternoon, seemed to be filled with light and serenity.
“We’ve only been here for a week,” Carlos Velasquez told CNY, “and we’ve already begun to see the fruits of this merger, just by the sense of joy and the sense of unity among all the seminarians from all three dioceses and the religious orders.” Velasquez is in his third year of studies for the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Richard Marrano of the Bronx, a third-year seminarian for the New York Archdiocese, said that it’s good to have nearly 100 seminarians in residence. “It’s a different atmosphere; it’s more lively,” he said. He added, “There are wonderful guys here. I have to say they’re the greatest group of gentlemen. They’re all joy-filled, they’re all kind. It’s been a wonderful transition…It actually feels like we’ve been with these guys the whole time.”
Kareem Smith of the Bronx, a first-year seminarian of the archdiocese, said, “It’s wonderful to see the chapel full and hear everyone singing and praying together.”
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