Monks and the Seminary

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Classes in the seminary began on Monday and we have 99 seminarians this year. The summer certainly went by quickly but the monastic community too is ready for another academic year. There are 25 monks involved in some aspect of seminary formation, which might include serving as a professor, chaplain, spiritual director, or other member of the faculty. Conception Seminary College is our primary work, so it takes a lot of energy and resources to ensure proper seminary formation.

This year I was appointed as a part-time spiritual director in the seminary. I have six freshmen for spiritual direction. For the past few years, some of the college students from Northwest Missouri State have also been seeing me for spiritual direction. I appreciate the opportunity to see God’s grace at work in other people’s lives.

The past few days have been cool and comfortable, with temperatures in the 70s. It is pleasant weather for the seminarians as they adjust to a new schedule, and for some, a new environment altogether. Monday evening the monastic community was outside for the recreation period which is from the conclusion of supper until Compline (Night Prayer) at 7:15 PM.

During monastic recreation, the monks enjoy one another’s company and usually sit on the benches or on the porch on the east side of the monastery building. At that time in the evening, the monastery shields us from direct sunlight and we can enjoy the outdoors without heating up under our black habit. While life gets busier for many of the monks involved in the seminary, it is still important for us to foster a healthy community life and relax in good company.

I took these pictures below on Monday evening at recreation.

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Mary: Our Hope and Our Comfort — Conception Seminary College

For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people. (Preface for the Assumption, Roman Missal, Third Edition) Mary is our hope and our comfort! As we celebrate the Solemnity of […]

via Mary: Our Hope and Our Comfort — Conception Seminary College

Solemnity of the Assumption

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Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the monks, it is a special feast day for another reason. Many of the monks professed vows on this day, including me. Today is actually my 10th anniversary of profession.

Here is a list of the monks who celebrate the anniversary of their profession on August 15.

Br. Thomas, 1969
Br. Bernard and Fr. Martin, 1970
Br. Justin, 1973
Br. Jude, 1986
Fr. Frowin and Br. Jeremiah, 1997
Br. Elias, 1998
Fr. Pachomius, 2002
Fr. Guerric, 2003
Fr. Macario, 2004
Br. David and Fr. Victor, 2005
Fr. Paul, 2006
Br. Placid, 2008
Br. Maximilian, 2009
Br. Etienne, 2010
Br. Luke, 2015

It is also an exciting day since all of the new students will arrive on campus by 5:00 PM. Some of the seminarians from the orientation team are already back and welcoming the new seminarians to campus. Please pray for a good school year!

Des Moines

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For the past two weeks, I have been filling in for the pastor, Fr. Aquinas, at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, Iowa. Fr. Aquinas has been taking these days away for vacation. I was able to help out at this beautiful parish last summer as well. It is one of the highlights of my summer these past two years. The Basilica church, as you can see below, is stunning, and the people are wonderful. I have enjoyed their company and many nice dinner invites during these past two weeks. I was responsible for celebrating the daily Mass at noon, Saturday Vigil Mass at 4:00 PM (1 hour of confessions beforehand), Masses at 8:30 and 10:30 AM on Sunday. Fr. Aquinas returns, so I return to Conception Abbey this afternoon.

Below: The interior of the Basilica of St. John.

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I also took the opportunity to visit Iowa’s State Capitol recently. The gold dome is clearly visible to the east of downtown. I was able to go inside and take some pictures of this amazing architecture.
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Above: Ornate wooden staircase and railing.
Below: The inside of the dome.

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Below: The Capitol’s Library is particularly remarkable. I really enjoyed seeing the spiral staircase.

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Below: The Cathedral of St. Ambrose is in the heart of downtown. It is another beautiful church in Des Moines.

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Below: The Sculpture Garden right near downtown Des Moines is another nice place to walk around. There were many people at the park playing Pokemon Go. I, however, was not.

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Below: The last thing I really wanted to see was the famous High Trestle Bridge at night. I biked the trail to the bridge last year, but that was during the day. At night, many people walk to the bridge to see it lit up with fluorescent blue. It was worth the drive north of the city near Madrid, and the mile walk.IMG_5995

In Flight

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A few evenings ago, I took to the skies with the aerial drone to capture some beautiful pictures of campus. The generous rains have kept everything nice and green. Br. Etienne used the camera to take pictures of the drone in the air. It’s a pretty awesome invention.

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Monastic Recreation

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During these beautiful summer months the monks go outside after supper as a community. Many times we simply sit outside or walk around the sidewalk and enjoy one another’s company. It is a time to relax, let the food digest, before we return to the Basilica for Compline, our final prayer of the evening.

Here are a few pictures of the monks during the recreation period.

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Picturesque II

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The past few weeks have been very busy. I helped out with the Companion Camp Reunion, then departed for Wichita and Oklahoma City to visit a monastic vocation guest and attend the priesthood ordination as the seminary representative for alumnus John Paul Lewis. The monks have 14 days of vacation each year, so I spent a week with my parents and had an enjoyable and relaxing time. Today I will head to Pennsylvania to attend the wedding of a friend. I did my theology studies in Latrobe, PA and was assigned to Sts. John and Paul parish in Wexford, PA. I made many friends during my year as a deacon as I was formed in such a positive way by that parish. It is always a great experience to go back and visit them. I will celebrate two or three Masses there this weekend.

Here are some of the photos from the past week or so. Br. Etienne has been helping share the photo taking while I have been away. Some of the photos below are mine and some are his. The weather has been warm, but we have received some generous rain lately to keep everything green. Peace and blessings!

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Glass Work

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I was back in the stained glass shop last week working on a couple of projects. I paused from the windows that I am working on in the monastery in order to work on a personal project. I made a design for the half circle window opening in my monastery room. The top of most windows in the renovated monastery has a 26.5″ wide and 12.5″ tall semi circle. I recently acquired glass from a shop in St. Joseph, Missouri, so that I could work on this project.

Take a look at the progress. Above: The design worked up in Adobe InDesign.
Below: Beginning the assembly (the “rays” are a clear, frost-like glass pattern).
    Below: My project for the monastery chapter room is in progress.

Companion Camp Reunion

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A Benedictine monastery and a seminary college is an important place for high school boys to visit. A positive experience at such an impressionable age, even if only for the weekend, lends the opportunity to strengthen a young person’s faith and help cultivate and sustain their relationship with God. I know this because I have seen it happen year after year. That is the reason I have willingly subjected myself to weeks of planning and a tiring weekend of energetic campers and activities.

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This past weekend was the 19th year for Conception Seminary’s Companion Camp. But, this year was a bit different. For years we have welcomed 6th, 7th, and 8th grade boys for a weekend camp focused on faith, fun, and fellowship. We have also invited high school boys to come and help out as part of the camp staff and serve as role models for the campers. Throughout the years, the attendance varied between 30 to 80 campers. In recent years, however, many dioceses have begun their own summer camps, which often conflicted with the scheduled dates for Companion Camp. Seminarians who were normally free to come and assist with our weekend camp were sometimes not available because of camp duties in their home diocese.

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The Director of Admissions for Conception Seminary College typically assumes the responsibility for Companion Camp. Brother Luke, having professed monastic vows on August 15, 2015, was assigned to this role as his first year in the Admission’s Office. When the future of Companion Camp came into question, Brother Luke did not want to see the event simply disappear. For the past two years, he, too, witnessed the excitement of our high school staff for whom camp had become their annual summer tradition. Brother Luke’s idea was to have this year’s camp specifically for the high school staff who have been so dedicated to attending camp and helping out—some participating for as many as 6 or 7 years.

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The high school boys arrived Friday afternoon and stayed through Sunday lunch. The weekend was filled with many of the familiar activities of previous camps— individual and group challenges, board games, ice breakers, and their favorites: dodgeball and an epic water balloon battle.

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The smaller group of eleven high schoolers and a few monks, allowed for more flexibility with the schedule and the activities. Father Brendan, the President-Rector of Conception Seminary College, met a couple times with the group to teach them lectio divina. They joined the monks for prayer regularly and, on Saturday evening, there was a Holy Hour and the Sacrament of Reconciliation was available. We wanted them to deepen their relationship with Christ. That would be the best gift we could possibly give them for the weekend.

 

Two seminarians who are working on campus this summer were able to share their vocation stories and answer the questions that the high schoolers had about seminary life. Some of the young men said they have considered the priesthood and they are trying to discover God’s will in their lives. It was especially important for them to interact with the seminarians and monks, meeting and hearing the stories of men who are striving to respond to God’s call daily.

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We hope to welcome more young people to campus to experience the peaceful environment, prayer with the monastic community, and fellowship with one another. Next summer, Father Brendan intends to host a weeklong conference, One Bread, One Cup, at Conception Abbey and Seminary College. High school students and college age men and women will be welcomed to enter into the rich tradition of Benedictine prayer and spirituality. We are very excited about extending such an invitation to our former-campers.
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