by Michael McHale, seminarian, St. Gregory the Great in Seward
There is a “new springtime” of fraternity in the Lincoln Diocese this academic year, one manifesting a timeless truth of our Church – that our unity as one Body is marked not by uniformity, but by unity amidst diversity. (CCC #1209)
In December, on her patron’s feast day, the Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Denton hosted the young men, priests, and religious sisters of St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward for its annual celebratory fiesta. More than 160 seminarians from two different traditions together sang Latin Vespers (Evening Prayer), watched towering fireworks, and cheered as piñatas gliding and rising on a rope-and-pulley system poured forth candies at the blows of priests and seminarians. And that’s not to mention the Mariachi band and pre-Vespers basketball game between the two seminaries inside Our Lady of Guadalupe’s new full-size gymnasium.
Then in February, on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, St. Gregory’s returned the hospitality by hosting more than half of the seminarians and priests from Our Lady of Guadalupe for an evening of Sunday Vespers led by Bishop James Conley, a three-course dinner prepared by our skilled religious sisters, along with games, tours, and a social hour.
These visits marked an unprecedented exchange of formal gatherings between the young men and priests of our two local seminaries – each with its own distinct tradition and mission. More than 80 seminarians at Our Lady of Guadalupe are preparing for ordination in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, with a particular mission to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass) for Catholics across the globe. The seminarians at St. Gregory the Great, of course, are preparing to serve as parish priests across the Lincoln Diocese.
Yes, there are differences: The Latin Vespers and sprawling campus in Denton. The resounding organ and intimate atmosphere in Seward – where, for example, shared dorm rooms are the norm, not the exception.
But the similarities are greater: The heavy training in Latin – though of longer duration in Denton. The instruction in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy – especially in the early years. The brotherhood and community life – where seminarians are real people who whoop and holler, pray and cry, study and work and strive to live their vocations.
Of course, the love of Christ and the beauty of His Church is the ultimate foundation. It can be easy to take for granted that so many young men are pursuing the priesthood at this time, and that despite their particular missions, the One who calls them is the same.
But the seminaries in Seward and Denton have provided unique opportunities for reflection this year. Truly the gathering of such a mass of seminarians, in prayer and at table, under one roof in our little corner of the world, has been a sight to behold.
A “new springtime” is indeed upon us. May the beauty of Christ in all its diversity continue to draw us together, so that we might know Him all the better and bring others to Him, our One Lord and God.