SEWARD (SNR) - Home to 46 men who are discerning calls to the priesthood, Saint Gregory the Great Seminary is simultaneously a house of prayer and a typical college. The men hurry to classes and pause for prayer throughout weekdays, and they divide weekend hours between worship, work and socializing.
Doug Daro, a College 3 seminarian who hails from St. Mary Parish in David City and Cole Kennett, a College 4 seminarian from St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln described a typical day at "Saint Greg’s."
5:30 a.m. Mr. Daro awakens and starts to get ready. It’s considerably earlier than what he was used to as an engineering student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but after two years there, he felt that God wanted something more from him.
"Not that anything I was doing was bad," he noted. "I just felt God was calling me to do something extraordinary."
6:00 a.m. As the current sacristan, Mr. Daro is in the chapel, turning on the lights and getting everything ready for Morning Prayer. Each of the seminarians has a "house job" that serves the entire seminary and prepares the men for many of the duties they will have as priests.
6:10 a.m. Mr. Kennett has the luxury of rolling out of bed with only 20 minutes to spare. He and Mr. Daro had been classmates at UNL, but one day at Mass their freshman year, Mr. Kennett said, "I finally put the question out there, and the response was that I would give this a shot."
His decision to study for the priesthood was not without some anxiety, but the Mass reading about Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-23) made it clear. "Jesus said, ‘Take courage; it is I,’ and that really struck me," Mr. Kennett recalled.
6:30 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, the seminarians gather in the chapel for 15 minutes of silent meditation. On Fridays and Saturdays, they begin at 7:15 a.m., and on Sundays, they start at 7:45 a.m., with the rest of the morning time slots shuffled accordingly.
6:45 a.m. Morning Prayer begins.
7:05 a.m. Mass begins, Mondays-Thursdays. (Mass is at 5 p.m. on Fridays). The seminarians agree this is their favorite part of the day. "We’re here [at the seminary] first to encounter Christ," explained Mr. Kennett. "And because of that encounter, we can use all that we learn here to be the light of Christ."
7:45 a.m. Breakfast in the dining hall is typically cereal or toast.
8:30 a.m. Classes begin. Mr. Daro’s morning classes include English Literature, Latin, Spanish, History of Ancient Philosophy and Ancient History. Mr. Kennett’s mornings are filled with Ethics, Philosophy and the History of Education, Greek, Sacred Scripture, etc.
"They want us to be well-rounded men," Mr. Daro said.
9:00 a.m. On Saturdays, the seminarians are hard at work on basic chores: washing windows, vacuuming, lawn care and the like. Not only does this help the seminary operate on a tight budget, it’s another way to prepare the men to manage a parish someday.
10:00 a.m. On Sunday, Mass begins. The whole schedule is far more leisurely on Sundays to observe a day of rest.
10:20 a.m. Mr. Daro has a break on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But if they’ve just received a Latin assignment, he and a few other seminarians will sit down for an unofficial study group. "We all push each other in a good way," he said.
10:30 a.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Mr. Kennett is heading into Metaphysics, a type of philosophy that examines "being" as related to humans, the natural world and God.
"It’s a hurdle," Mr. Kennett sighed. There are several such classes that inspire "fear and trembling" among the seminarians, but they help each other through.
12:05 p.m. The dining hall opens for lunch. Three religious sisters prepare tasty meals twice a day for the men to enjoy while they take a break from studying.
On Saturdays, the men have lunch at 11:30, and then they’re free to leave campus until 10:15 p.m. Many go home to visit family and friends. During football season, Mr. Kennett rounds up some of the out-of-towners who are in priestly formation for other dioceses and brings them to Lincoln for a Holy Hour at the Pink Sisters’ chapel, followed by watching games at his parents’ house.
"We have guys from Oregon, California, Illinois, Kansas City, Wisconsin, Colorado, North Dakota…" Mr. Kennett said, "You see that Christ is working in so many places."
1:00 p.m. The weekday afternoon classes are in session. Mr. Kennett has contemporary philosophy on Mondays and Fridays. Mr. Daro has biology with Father Christopher Kubat on Tuesdays and Thursdays, including lab work at Concordia College, three-and-a-half miles away.
"We’re not studying to go to med school, but we do have to know how the human body works, so we can explain things like contraception," Mr. Daro said.
The rest of the week, both men have free time to study, do homework, work out in the small gym, go to the chapel for a private Holy Hour, or just relax. Mr. Daro savors this time. "I can really just get done what I need to get done," he said.
2:00 p.m. On Wednesday afternoons, the men have apostolates at nearby parishes. "You’re planning on being a priest, and as a priest you’re going to teach," Mr. Daro explained. "I’m getting more of the experience that I want."
3:00 p.m. Mondays are slated for community recreation, which could be football, baseball, ultimate Frisbee, or some other activity.
4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, men gather for a Holy Hour in the chapel. On Mondays and Wednesdays, there’s a penance service and confessions with the seminary’s spiritual director, Father M. James Divis, V.F.
During the first week of the month, a guest confessor comes in to speak and hear confessions, and during the third, a guest priest will lead a penance service. On top of the core staff of priests and lay professors, at least a dozen other priests come to lead these services or teach classes throughout the year.
5:30 p.m. Evening prayer begins in the chapel.
6:00 p.m. Dinner is served in the dining hall, another chance to foster priestly brotherhood. This is Mr. Kennett’s favorite time of the day, because he can "just hang out" with the other seminarians.
7:00 p.m. The schedule varies, but there might be a spiritual conference with a guest speaker, the rector, Msgr. John Folda, or the academic dean, Father Jeffrey Eickhoff. On Fridays, it’s community night coordinated by Mr. Kennett (his "house job" this semester).
8:00 p.m. Time to complete the day’s studies, either in one’s room or in the library. When somebody is stumped, there is always help nearby. Mr. Kennett said. "It’s very easy to walk down the hallway and into another guy’s room and say, ‘Hey, can you help me out with this?’"
The rooms are small, but equipped with a bed, desk and drawers. Each man can bring in a few personal items. This year, there are three new rooms to accommodate the growing number of men who wish to enroll at Saint Gregory the Great Seminary.
"We converted a classroom," Msgr. Folda said, happily adding a word of thanksgiving that the rooms were completed just in time for the academic school year to begin again.
9:15 p.m. The men return to the chapel for evening prayer.
10:15 p.m. By this time, Mr. Kennett is usually heading to bed. Mr. Daro might have beat him to it by a few minutes. The drastically different sleep schedule is probably the biggest adjustment both men have faced since going to seminary, "But when you have to get up at 5:30…" Mr. Daro grinned.
11:00 p.m. Grand Silence begins… if any of the men are still awake to observe it.
"We’re just human beings who are trying to be formed in the life of image of Christ," Mr. Kennett said. "It’s really a daily unspoken task to all of us to be Christ to one another and also to come to know Christ on a daily basis. If we fail at that, we’ve failed at what the seminary is all about."
Mr. Daro agreed. "You have to first change yourself before you can help others. You can’t give what you don’t have."
St. Gregory the Great Seminary hosts "Visitor Sunday" events throughout the year, so members of the Diocese of Lincoln may visit and tour the seminary. The "Visitor Sundays" this fall will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 23, Oct. 21 and Nov. 18. St. Gregory the Great Seminary is located 3.5 miles North of Interstate 80. Use the the Hwy 15 exit.