Story by Reagan Scott
SEWARD (SNR) — This semester, St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward (SGGS) has offered a brand-new elective centered on the Second Vatican Council. The class is taught by none other than Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz, who was in Rome for the monumental event.
At the invitation of Father Lawrence Stoley, the academic dean at SGGS and pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Friend, Bishop Bruskewitz agreed to teach the class, and it became the most popular elective at the seminary.
Currently, 18 students are taking the class—11 for credit, and seven auditing. Bishop Bruskewitz teaches the class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has lunch with the staff.
“We’ve talked about having Bishop Bruskewitz teach a class since he retired, and he had given lectures on Vatican II in the past,” said Father Jeffrey Eickhoff, the rector at SGGS. “He’s able to give a first-hand account of Vatican II, and he can speak from experience.”
Bishop Bruskewitz was in Rome during the ante-preparatory stage of Vatican II (which preceded the preparatory stage of the council) as a seminarian before returning to Wisconsin. In 1965, he returned to Rome for graduate studies and was present for the last session of the council.
All of the student priests in Rome at the time of the Second Vatican Council were ushers, and many of Bishop Bruskewitz’s duties involved passing out ballots and collecting them, as well as helping the bishops in attendance with various tasks.
“There were 3,000 bishops there, and we needed to be available for them,” Bishop Bruskewitz said. “We helped them find their place and accompanied them if they needed to leave the room. Any needs they had, we attended to.”
While Bishop Bruskewitz can talk about his own experiences, most of the class is based on the knowledge that he has acquired in his studies of the event.
The class is split into three sections: the origins of the council, the activities of the council, and the results or aftermath of the council.
Bishop Bruskewitz said, “There were some good results [of the council], but there were also some not-so-good things as a result of the media.”
The class will also cover important documents from Vatican II.
“The council has issued 16 documents which are of significant importance in the history of the Church,” Bishop Bruskewitz said.
These documents include four constitutions, nine decrees and three declarations. So far, the class has studied the first of the constitutions and have moved on to the second.
“I hope that they learn the history of the Second Vatican Council and that it enriches their lives and their current studies,” Bishop Bruskewitz said. “I hope that it comes along with more joy than they would have had before they took the course.”
The fact that Bishop Bruskewitz was at the council also helps to add a more personal touch to what the students are learning in class, and Father Eickhoff said he hopes that this adds to the students’ interest of the course.
“I hope that they will get a more accurate account and idea of what really happened at the Second Vatican Council because he was there and can explain what their teachings really were,” Father Eickhoff said.
Father Eickhoff also noted that Bishop Bruskewitz is teaching in one of the new classrooms which was named after Father Joseph Costanzo, of whose memorial foundation the bishop was a founding member. This foundation gave a significant donation to the seminary for building the new wing.
While it is unclear whether Bishop Bruskewitz will teach the class again in the future, Father Eickhoff said he knows that this class is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students taking it, and is grateful to the bishop for his willingness to share his knowledge with the young men in formation at the seminary.