Students, Staff Glad to Return to Seminary for Academic Year

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Auxiliary Bishop James Massa welcomed seminarians, faculty and staff for the 2020-2021 academic year as he celebrated the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie Sept. 3.

“The Church is always celebrating Pentecost, always calling down the Holy Spirit upon the world,” said Bishop Massa, rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary and an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, opening the Mass.

“Tonight, we call down the Holy Spirit upon our seminary community to pour out the gifts, the blessings that they need to begin our new academic year.”

Bishop Massa, in his homily, reflected back on Paul in a reading from Corinthians and Peter the fisherman in the Gospel from Luke, explaining in the first part of his homily what Paul may have to offer seminarians, faculty and staff at the start of an academic year.

“I believe Paul would caution us about oppositional thinking,” the rector said. “Our identity, Paul reminds us, comes not primarily from what we are against but from who we are for. We are for Jesus, His truth, His love, His Church.”

In the Gospel, Peter caught no fish one night and was asked by Jesus to take his boat back out into the water and drop the net. Many fish were caught, nearly sinking two boats.

“Here is the question I put to you and to myself in this opening year Mass of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Massa said. “Do we believe because the nets are full? Do we believe because God answers our prayers? Or do we answer the call of Jesus because we put our trust in His word whether or not our prayers are answered?”

In closing, Bishop Massa asked St. Paul, St. Peter and Jesus to guide seminarians, faculty and staff in the new academic year.

“So let the passionate wisdom of Paul and the bold faith of Peter be an inspiration to all our studies, to all our works in this community, to every bit of service we make to this community,” he said.

“The apostles Peter and Paul pray for us, pray for the students, faculty and staff of this seminary. Lord Jesus be in our soul this night and always.”

Matt Breslin, 25, is beginning his final academic year at the seminary and prepares to be ordained a priest in 2021.

“I thought it was beautiful how he used the image of St. Peter casting the net even though Peter could have argued he knew more than Jesus” about fishing, Breslin said of Bishop Massa’s homily.

“Jesus always has something to teach us.

“The beautiful message of casting that net wide is we can bring in as many faithful as we can to our Lord, even realizing not to so much count the fish we have but to serve them, and not to worry about how many we have but to minister to those who are there with us.”

The seminarians returned to St. Joseph’s after being sent home in March for remote studies to conclude the 2019-2020 academic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are 60 seminarians, 15 from the archdiocese, registered for the 2020-2021 academic year. Twelve seminarians, five from the archdiocese, are scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2021. 

Students are wearing masks and practicing social distance at the seminary.

“It’s one thing to have classes online, but there’s something about being in the same space together, praying together, learning together, bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other,” said Savio Paul, 27, a fourth-year seminarian from Yonkers.

“You always appreciate what you don’t have. With the seminary that was definitely the case.”

Bobby Carolan, a fourth-year seminarian from Yorktown Heights, said he’ll reflect back in his final academic year at the seminary.

“I’m just going to take it all in and, for me, just take it one day at a time and relish this house, my brothers and do a little more reflection on how I got here and to this point,” the 36-year-old said. 

“God willing, we’ll be ordained deacons in November, and, God willing, we’ll be ordained priests in May. I’ll have a little more gratitude for all the moments where the Lord has me and all of us together because I know this is going to help us in our ministry in the future.”

Steven Gonzalez, 27, of the Bronx is ready to continue his journey with God to serve people.

“Throughout this journey, God has walked with me and I’ve learned so many lessons just being here or being at the parish that will serve me well for serving people in the parish,” he said.

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