They come from near and far; from within the state and outside of state. Each has a different journey, varying educational background. Some were raised in another faith heritage. They appear at the monastery door each August at the outset of their annual retreat. They come with the director of vocations and his formation team. They are a dynamic group of young men aspiring to the priesthood. A few may be discerners living at the House of Formation located in our parish. Others may be finishing a college course to obtain accreditation prior to theological studies. Some have just completed summertime ministry in one of the parishes and are eager to share their experiences. They join with our bishop and concelebrants for Mass in our monastery chapel.
We nuns behind the grate to the side of the sanctuary provide the music program and instrumental accompaniment. On a few occasions some of the hymns are in English and some in Spanish and likewise the selected readings and homily. As our Vietnamese seminarians and priests increase in the diocese, a first or second reading may be spoken in this language. Joining in the Eucharist with our seminarian brothers binds us together in unity and reinforces the nun’s special hidden apostolate of a life of prayer given us by our mother, St. Teresa. Located in the extern sacristy on a side bulletin board is a poster with pictures and name of each diocesan seminarian. Below this, can be seen a typed list with month and day on which that particular seminarian and priest is specially remembered. During the first gathering of the community at Morning Prayer and leading off the intercessions, the prioress calls by name those listed for that day. This provides an apt reminder to the community to be mindful of those mentioned and to be spiritually present to them as we go about our daily tasks and gather for other community acts.
As spiritual sisters to our seminarians and priests, it is one way of laboring alongside of them as together we seek to grow in holiness and wholeness for his kingdom. Gradually, over a period of several years, it has become a community custom to have this Mass followed by a shared luncheon in the monastery reception room. At a given signal from the director of vocations, we each rise in turn for brief introduction, providing name and present status. It is interesting to see the growth and maturation as they continue their journey on the way to priesthood. Interacting across the tables, the room is soon filled with laughter while the volume swells. Before departing, a new group picture is taken in our chapel and soon they are making their way to the chapel entrance to board buses for their week long retreat before returning to studies.
This year there were a number of changed assignments among the priests and deacons due in part to the great blessing received as gift, eight newly ordained priests! Gradually, a culture of priestly and religious vocations is permeating the whole diocese. Together, priests, deacons, religious and laity in numerous and creative ways endeavor to send laborers into the harvest for the building up of the kingdom. The breath of the Spirit is sweeping across us!