An integral part of a seminarian’s priestly formation is his summer assignment. Each summer, upon returning home from the seminary, our seminarians are assigned to different parishes in the Diocese for eight weeks of pastoral work and experience. This time in the parish is important for them. It serves to assist them in developing pastoral competency, it teaches them about pastoral leadership, and it provides them with opportunities for collaboration with others. Most of all, it helps them become true shepherds after the heart and example of Jesus Christ.
Just before returning to the seminary this Fall, I asked the men to share with me (and with all of you) what their experience in the parish was like. This is what they said:
Deacon Jacob Ramos, fourth year theologian, was assigned to the parish of St. Michael this summer. He wrote: “Coming to serve the Community of St. Michael’s Parish has been an incredible experience. It has been the summer of many firsts. I had the solemn responsibility to assist at funerals and perform the rites of committal at grave sites. I shared the joy of baptism with several families as I was able to welcome their children into God’s family. I had the privilege to accompany a young couple and receive their vows on behalf of the Church at their wedding. Since being ordained a Deacon, it has been a whirlwind of new experiences, but during this time the Lord Jesus has been with me every step of the way. There is real joy in this vocation, and I am so grateful for the Lord’s call. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful people who helped form me this summer. The Parishioners who attend Mass at St. Thomas More, St. Michael the Archangel, and St. Mary’s, have been so hospitable and welcoming. It has been a Joy to be with you all this summer.”
Dharen Brochero, third year theologian, was assigned to the parish of St. Brendan the Navigator this summer. He wrote: “After this summer experience, the fire in my heart has gotten stronger after I witnessed how thirsty people are for God and how much I want to help God quench His thirst for those who are away from His divine love. I look forward to the day I can help my brothers and sisters get closer to the well of living water who quenches the spiritual thirst. “
Ruben Garcia, third year theologian, was assigned to the parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace this summer. He wrote: “Pope John Paul II says in Redemptoris Missio ‘Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!’. I can say with certainty that my faith was strengthened while serving in the Our Lady Queen of Peace parish community during summer assignment. It was the opportunity to share again with the community that I met a couple of years ago while studying English as a second language. Serving in this community allowed me to see the Lord Jesus through the people with whom I had the opportunity to talk and work; I can say that my call to the priestly ministry was also strengthened as I shared with them. I also highlight the accompaniment and closeness of Fr. Jonathan Ficara, it will always be good to have the example and testimony of a priest who strives to work for the extension of the Kingdom of God.”
Julian Cuervo, second year theologian, was assigned to the parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace this summer. He wrote: “My summer assignment at Our Lady Queen of Peace parish has been an invaluable experience. Stepping into the day-to-day life of my pastor has been special because it’s allowed me to witness the consolations and challenges of parochial ministry. From participating daily in the sacred liturgy to being present to the sick and the homebound, I’ve experienced the powerful witness that comes with being a priest of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, it has helped me grow in appreciation of the indispensability of a strong interior life, which lies as the foundation of a parish priest who serves his flock as teacher, spiritual father, and intercessor.”
Eric Hosmer, second year theologian, was assigned to the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes this summer. He wrote: “As my summer assignment comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the beauty that we all share in our Catholic faith. The clustering and organization of two parishes with another is a difficult process to say the least. However, my interactions with the people have never been more supportive in ensuring that they have continued access to the Sacraments and fidelity to attending liturgical events is all the more inspiring. World events and occurrences at times seem bleak, but the people maintain a hopefulness for the Kingdom of God here on Earth.”
Alex Pandolfe, second year theologian, was assigned to the parish of St. Patrick in Mystic this summer. He wrote: “I've had a wonderful pastoral experience at St. Patrick's this summer! As I've learned during these past two months, many people from throughout the Northeast come to Mystic for various tourist attractions, but as I've experienced, the true gem of Mystic is St. Patrick's Parish. Under the guidance of Father Kevin and with the welcoming embrace of the people of the parish, I've gotten a taste for parish life for which I am truly grateful. Serving baptisms, weekday and weekend Masses, funerals, and weddings has allowed me to witness some of the most important moments in the lives of the people, bringing communion to those in the local nursing home has given me a renewed sense of how precious each person's life is and how precious a gift the Eucharist is, and spending everyday moments with the people of the parish has quite simply been a joy. I am so grateful for this experience and for the ongoing support of priests, religious, and laypeople throughout the diocese who make such an experience possible.”
Mark Johnson, first year theologian, was assigned to Blessed Sacrament parish this summer. He wrote: “I greatly enjoyed serving in Blessed Sacrament Parish this summer. I was able to experience a wide variety of pastoral settings and begin to sample the responsibilities involved in successfully running a parish. From serving Masses to sitting in on committee meetings, from distributing Communion in retirement homes to preparing bagged meals in the soup kitchen, Fr. Rick had me do it all. This summer was a great learning experience and has helped me to put my seminary learning into perspective. Overall, I would say that I am a better person because of this work, and I thank Fr. Rick for giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow.”
Thank God for our seminarians! Let’s continue to pray for them as they begin another year of formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. May the Lord who has begun a good work in them bring it to completion!
By Father Ficara