Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pics from Budapest, Vienna and Prague

St. Matthews in Budapest.  
The Cathedral in Budapest.

Shot of the Parliament building in Budapest.  This place was amazing.
Yeah, enjoying the Hungarian food.
Farkas' people know how to cook.
Turns out they like President Regan as well.  This was at the edge of the city center market in Budapest.
Here are some long haired pigs.  Guess it is so cold there that they started growing long hair.  The pigs in
Michigan could use some of these genes right now eh?
Again, compliments to the Hungarians.  The biggest skating rink I have ever seen in my life.

Hmm.  Who is that guy looking off to nowhere in the booth at the Opera?  Yes, I admit it.  I went to the Opera. 

The Cathedral in Vienna was amazing.  Reaching to the heavens!

This was a pretty cool march of the soldiers in the palace in Prague.

The back side of the Cathedral in Prague which was inside the Kings palace walls.

Waiting for directions.
Know that I prayed for all of you as we visited all the holy spots in Budapest, Vienna and Prague.   Especially before the statue of the Infant of Prague.  I am ashamed to say that I do not have a picture of the real statue because I did not have a camera and my travel partners forgot as well.  But, the baby Jesus took joy in the prayers we prayed before Him for all of your intentions and for blessings upon the Diocese of Gaylord.  In a special way may the Carmelite nuns in Traverse City who have as their patron the infant of Prague be blessed.  They support our Diocese in prayer and we should thank God for that gift.  
In Jesus through Mary and Joseph, may you all have a fruitful Lent.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Unum est necessarium

Sometimes you begin to wonder - day after day and month after month - what can make sense of our lives…what can make sense of everything. Sometimes if we stop and examine our lives, if we stop long enough to hear the stinging silence we find ourselves confronted by some real questions. Where do we go to satisfy, to find answers? Unum est necessarium – Only one thing is necessary…Faith.

"Here at the altar of Corpus Christi on 09.22.1823
in the early morning was the first Mass of Servant of God
 Frederick Baraga, Missionary Bishop to the Native Americans.
Ven. Bishop Frederick Irenaeus Baraga (1797-1868) took this phrase from the Gospel according to St. Luke (10:42) as his motto when he was made the first bishop of Marquette. I don’t know how many of us are familiar with the life and ministry of this great and heroic pastor who lived and ministered in northern Michigan so many years ago. However, one could surmise that this great pastor was struck to the core by Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke’s Gospel. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk 10:41-42). Maybe he heard these words addressed to him or maybe he knew in his heart that Jesus’ was inviting him to go deeper in faith. As he traversed northern Michigan in snow shoes in the dead of winter this phrase must have strengthened him to put one foot in front of the other regardless of any doubt…by the power of faith. Unum est necessarium – Only one thing is necessary.

Main altar of the cathedral where Ven. Baraga was ordained.
Many of us have been moved by the pastoral ministry of Ven. Baraga and left with the question: Where does faith like that come from? So, we decided to go and find out. Msgr. Gallagher, Dcn. Matthew Cowan, Chris Jarvis and I, priest and seminarians of the diocese of Gaylord, decided to make a pilgrimage to end the Year of Faith by going to Slovenia and tracing the footsteps and discovering the roots of Ven. Bishop Baraga. We wanted to set out to not only pray for the diocese, to pray for our new bishop, whomever it may be, but to ask the Lord to strengthen our faith so that we with Ven. Bishop Baraga could say… Unum est necessarium – Only one thing is necessary.

Corpus Christi altar where Ven. Baraga
celebrated his first Mass
We started our pilgrimage setting out from Rome by plane to Trieste in the northeast corner of Italy. From there we drove an hour and a half to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Msgr. Gallagher has a priest friend from the Vatican who made arrangements for us to stay with the Jesuits in Ljubljana. They were most hospitable. The next morning the four of us celebrated Mass in the small but beautiful chapel of the Jesuit house. Then we walked around the town in the wind and the rain. Just on the natural level, the town was striking. There was an ancient castle built on the hill overlooking the convergence of two rivers. We weaved our way through the cobblestone streets to the largest church in the city town which we discovered was the cathedral of the archdiocese. Ven. Baraga was ordained a priest there on September 22nd 1823, and then the next day he celebrated his first Mass at the Corpus Christi altar which is the first side altar on the left. We stayed there for a while to pray until the sacristan who was busy preparing the church for Sunday jingled his keys and signaled for us that is was time to leave. It was powerful to pray there. It was a real gift to be able to see the place, to be able to pray at the altar where Ven. Baraga was ordained from where his gift of service to God’s people flowed. 

Our Lady of Consolation - Brezje, Slovenia
After visiting the cathedral we walked a few paces to the seminary where we had been invited to have lunch. The rector invited us in, showed us the seminary, and introduced us to the seminarians. A few of the young seminarians spoke to us about their devotion to Ven. Baraga and his example of priestly zeal. Praise God, their seminary is full to the brim.

Bishop Frederic Baraga, missionary among the
Indians in North America was active
in the church as a chaplain
during the following years 1824-1828
After lunch we got back in our tiny Fiat and headed north along the highway. We stopped at two important sites in Baraga’s life: Brezje and Kranj. Brezje is an important pilgrimage site where one finds a beautiful image of Our Lady. You can imagine that Baraga would have stopped there sometime on his travels, maybe when going to Vienna for university. The town of Kranj is where the young Fr. Baraga first served as an associate pastor in St. Martin’s parish from 1824-1828. In the dark and in the rain we managed to find the parish just as the priest was reading the Gospel during Mass. We stayed for the remainder of the Mass. The church was full and the choir was made up of little children singing like angels in the choir loft. It would have been children of that age who Fr. Baraga taught catechism as a young priest. We drove back to Ljubljana and enjoyed a good meal in a quaint mom-and-pop restaurant.

The house where Ven. Baraga was born.
Sunday morning, we celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of Christ the King at the Jesuit’s chapel. Dcn. Cowan served as deacon, which was pretty awesome since he was just so recently ordained. After packing our bags and saying our thanks and goodbyes we went east further into Slovenia. This time we headed out to discover where Ven. Baraga was born. First we went to the village of Trebnje. We’d read that his family, who were of lower nobility, had some sort of castle or villa in Trebnje. It was apparently destroyed in the world wars and the foundation was made into a park and war memorial. However, the parish was still just down the road. Again we stumbled upon a packed church during Mass. 

Statue of Bishop Baraga outside
 the parish church of Trebjne,
While waiting outside we discovered a statue of Baraga and a few other plaques. After Mass I went into the sacristy to talk to the priest. He was older and I doubted he spoke English, but I tried anyways. He didn’t speak English or Italian so we weren't able to communicate very well. However, as a last effort I said. “BARAGA” with a more pure open ‘a’ vowel sound as the Slovenians say it. Sure enough his face lit up and he smiled and responded nodding his head “BARAGA”. Luckily, Msgr. Gallagher came around the corner and tried a few more languages until they spoke to each other in German. He expressed surprise and excitement that we had come from Michigan to Slovenia.

The baptismal font where Ven. Bishop Baraga was baptized
on June 29th, 1797 - the day of his birth.
We loaded back into the car and went five kilometers down the road to Dobrnič. Along the way we saw the childhood home of Baraga where he was born. In Dobrnič we found the church, rebuilt in 1777, where Baraga was washed in the waters of Baptism. In the rite of Baptism, the minister asks the parents, “What do you ask for your child?” and they respond, “Faith”. So there we were. We traced our way back to the very moment where Ven. Baraga was given the supernatural gift of faith in the sacrament of Baptism. From that font the living waters of eternal life flow in the sacrament. From there Ven. Baraga received the gift that made is possible for him to serve God and his people as a pastor of souls and as a missionary in a foreign land and in a foreign tongue. From that gift of Faith he later could hear the verse from the Gospel, “Unum est necessarium” , and know and believe that the one necessary thing in our lives, no matter the hardships, is Jesus Christ. Unum est necessarium

Irenaeus Frederick Baraga born in the castle Malavasi 29.Jun.1797 and baptized the same day in the parish church. After very fulfilling time in Vienna and the seminary in Ljubljana he was ordained a priest on 21.Sept.1823 chaplain in Šmartnem and Metliki. From 1831 he was a missionary to the Ottawa and Ojibwa Indians in Michigan, N. America. He was ordained a bishop on 1.Nov.1853. He fell asleep in the Lord 19.Jan.1868 in Marquette.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I believe...Credo

It is the last few weeks of the Year of Faith, which was announced by Pope Benedict XVI and carried forward by Pope Francis. These last few weeks it may be good to ask ourselves: How has the year born fruit in my life? What graces have I received? How has the Year of Faith prepared me to continue on my journey?

Last Sunday, I had a pretty cool experience. Pope Francis has asked all the parishes of the Diocese of Rome to make an Act of Faith by making a mini-pilgrimage to one of the four major basilicas in Rome and as a parish community profess the Creed. The parish that I help out in went to St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome to make their profession of faith. I was impressed by the number of people from the parish who made the trip from Santa Galla parish to St. John's (especially considering it was raining and there was a major soccer game on the TV). 

We all met outside the doors of the cathedral and the pastor explained the significance of what we were doing. The associate pastor began chanting the Litany of Saints as we processed into the church all they way to the main altar. From there we heard a reading from the Gospel, prayed the intercessions, and then together prayed the Apostle's Creed. 

Afterwards the associate pastor led the parishioners on a tour through the basilica. But instead of focusing on the history of the architecture he used passages from scripture to highlight the meaning behind the building itself. 

I was really moved by the experience. It's powerful to profess our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith in one of the most important churches. And to think for everyone else there, they were just a 10 minute bus ride from their local cathedral. One lady even asked me if my cathedral is like theirs. I smiled and said, "It may not be as big or as old as yours, but it sure is important for all of us!" 

The whole thing just highlights the universality and the vibrancy of our faith. God is good!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Barbarati Victores!

The theology house here at the Josephinum has a trivia night every semester, an event usually taken seriously by only a handful of seminarians (and faculty ringers).  The rest us of us play for the fun of it, many with our brothers from our home diocese.  This year, shockingly, diocesan teams dominated the periodic score updates, led by your very own, the Barbarati (Bearded-Ones) of the holy and venerable Diocese of Gaylord.  A one point lead, fiercely defended over the course of the evening turned into a decisive victory in the final round!

The noble few: Rob Pahlkotter. your humble scribe, Brad "the Movie Man" Nursey, Mitch Roman, and Ben Rexroat.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Go Forth to Preach the Gospel

On Thursday October 3rd, 41 seminarians studying at the North American College were ordained deacons. The Diocese of Gaylord's own Matt Cowan was ordained. 

What a really beautiful week! Over 50 pilgrims from the diocese made the trek across the pond to come join in the ordination in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. For most of them it was their first time in Rome. For me it was really awesome just reliving my love for this city through they eyes of so many friends coming to see it all for the first time. We also were joined by Fr. Don Geyman, director of vocations for the diocese, and Fr. Peter Wigton, parochial vicar at St. Mary's Cathedral. A neat moment was when Fr. Peter, Dcn. Matthew (freshly ordained) and I got to reconnect. It was the three of us who started seminary together all those years ago in Columbus, Ohio. 

Friday, the day after the ordination, the Gaylord contingent celebrated Mass all together at a church in Rome special to Dcn. Matthew, San Luigi dei Francesi. There you can find Caravaggio's famous painting: "The Call of St. Matthew". Archbishop Hebda celebrated the Mass and Dcn. Cowan served as the deacon. He even preached his first homily! You can ask any one of the pilgrims and they'll tell you that he did a great job.

Dcn. Matthew, having been ordained a deacon, is scheduled to be the next priest ordained for the Diocese of Gaylord in June. So please pray for him and pray for all of us seminarians.

You can view more photos of Dcn. Cowan on the Diocese's website.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back to School

Well it is that time of year...

All of us have backed our bags and once again said good-bye to northern Michigan as we go back to seminary for another year of formation. The summer was a blessed opportunity for us to reconnect with friends and family and spend some time back in the diocese. For me it was an even extra special summer. It was my first summer home after two years in Rome studying at the North American College.

I was assigned to Our Lady of the Lake parish in Prudenville and St. Michael's parish in Roscommon with Fr. Joe Muszkiewicz as my pastor. I ought to have written on this blog during the summer some of my reflections on parish life, but I just never managed to do that. Sorry about that. But all in all, I must say it was an amazing summer. I knew it would be good to be back in the diocese, but I didn't realize just how hard it would be to say good-bye again to the parishes to head back to school once again. Fr. Joe, Sr. Linda, Fr. Larry, and all the people in the parishes were so good to me all summer. They really welcomed me and made me feel part of the parish community. I know they're praying for me, and I know I won't be soon to forget them in my prayers.

I arrived back in Rome a week ago on Friday. I have to admit it is good to be back. It was especially good to reconnect with my classmates and reconnect with some of my friends in Italy. The good news is the weather is good and the summer heat is already diminishing. I even was able to close my window the other day.

One of the highlights of this past week was the prayer vigil for peace in St. Peter's square last Saturday. I have to admit that I didn't stay for the entire 4 hour prayer vigil (although Pope Francis did - and even was on his knees for most of it!). I did stay for most of it, even though I may have fallen asleep for a minute or two (jet-lag...). It was so incredibly powerful. The whole square was permeated by a sense of prayer, prayer for peace in the world and in Syria. You can read Pope Francis address here.

The rest of the week we spent in the classroom at the college learning about pastoral counseling. We had some awesome presenters from the States who came to share with us their experience of pastoral counseling. We covered some really tough, but important issues. The main thing I took away from the week was that as a priest in pastoral counseling the key is to listen attentively and to bring the mercy of Christ into all situations.

On Sunday I leave to go on a week long silent retreat with the rest of my classmates. Pray for us. Be assured of my prayers for the diocese.

God Bless,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”- Matthew 4:1

Over the years, and more so in the current year(s), I have been meditating upon this infamous passage from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. And sometimes it felt as though that was all I heard . . . “Follow me.” I know that I am not alone when I say, “How Lord; how am I supposed to do this?” And we get scared, frightened, overwhelmed and thus, we run away, we fly to the known and do not want to go down the narrow path that He wants us, all of us, to take. However, the more we all want to flee and hide, Christ cries out to us even louder, He comes back to us more persistent each and every time. We are all called to be disciples, after all, all who are baptized are baptized: priest, prophet, and king.  And sometimes, many times following Christ means venturing to the unknown down the narrow path to do the unthinkable. So we must always follow the light of Christ and completely ‘fear not,’ for God is with us in all that we do. The phrase of ‘letting go and letting God’ is easier said, than done . . . even for a bunch of seminarians. And this is where our summer story of “Follow me” begins.   
Classes ended and summer had finally begun. Freedom was ringing through our ears as we drove back to the motherland; MICHIGAN and the thought of no schoolwork and not being in Ohio for nearly three months became the most beautiful thing to think about. As our assignments were given out, three of us, Brad Nursey, Peter Freundl, and I were assigned the duty of being on a traveling team that will travel across the diocese. At first this sounded like an awesome plan and I was so excited to travel the diocese. But the closer it came to leave for the first location the thought of driving all over the diocese and living out of a suitcase lost its grand luster.

Manistee Catholic Community, consisting of three beautiful churches: St. Joseph, St. Mary of Mount Carmel Shrine, and Guardian Angels, was the first leg of our journey. Even though Manistee is only an hour south it felt like I was driving to the end of the world. When I arrived, Peter and Brad were already there.  As we walked into one of the three amazing churches, we were greeted and announced with joyful spirits not just from the priests, but also by God’s Holy People. This was done at every mass we attended. It warmed my heart to know that here, at the end of the diocese, were people, strangers that had been praying for me on my journey toward priesthood. I remember thinking how spoiled I am, to be from such a beautiful diocese and yet how often I just take it for granted. Throughout the week we followed Fr. John and Fr. Sylvester to every event they went too. We saw a community that was filled with love, joy, sorrow and even pain. Love: they have a deep commitment for God and his faithful. Joy: their happiness from their love of neighbor overflows and gladdens the hearts of those around, especially to those who are in need. Sorrow: those who need consoling have a place to come to, to receive mercy and compassion. And pain: the elderly and the homebound who are cared for, they never complain about their state of life, but they smile with joy when we come to visit and they give me strength. Brad, Peter and I spent time with the High School Youth Group. The group was learning about the blind leading the blind. I was excited about it and the spirit filled me, I was excited about this because these young people were learning about how to be a good Christians for the 21st Century. The question that we challenged them with was, “What are you going to do when the crowd wants you to deny your faith?” It is something that I hope they will meditate on for years to come. Another thing we did was going to the assisted living community for the elderly, where Fr. Sylvester was saying mass. Peter and I sang and played for mass as Brad beautifully assisted Father for the Holy Sacrifice. Personally I have sung for many people at various different venues, large and small, but singing for elderly will always be my favorite. I love singing, but the elderly rarely hear music and knowing that music strikes the soul faster than any other art form; I know that I was able to bring them closer to God through the art of singing during that mass. And for some, that might have been the last time they heard music before they went to meet their Maker. It truly gladdens my heart knowing that they heard beautiful music one last time.
The last thing that we did that I will highlight is their newly developed food pantry. Once a month this community opens its doors to help feed those who are in need. The food pantry had fresh food and canned food, baked goods and everything you can think of that might be in a store. They even made sure that our furry, four-legged pets had food too. The food pantry also carted the food out to people’s cars. How lovely it was to help such a fantastic crew. 
The next two missions I am going to combine into one since both locations –The National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River and St. Mary’s/St. Charles in Cheboygan –
                                                assigned us to help out with Vacation Bible School. Now if you know me, this would not have been something I would have volunteered for on my own. To do this, I would have to be volun-told. How good, no how AWESOME is our God to make me branch out and remind me how much I love being around children. It had been so long that I almost forgot about their since of humor, wit and how many times the insight they have on faith is beyond their years. In both VBS’ we learned about the story of Moses from his birth, the 10 plagues (including Passover), the flight into Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and so on. We sang with full heart and voice, lifting our song into praise of our God. They learned and so did we, the seminarians too, to “fear not,” for God is with us and He will always give what we need at the time when we need it.
We were meant to be there at that time, because God knew that we needed to be there and I left both places filled with joy and love that I thought was long past. In both places we met teams that were hard working, loving, caring, and wanted to give their best to God’s children so that they might be Holy kids of God. And maybe one day, one of them might be teaching us!
All in all: Manistee, Indian River, and Cheboygan were not places that I would have traveled to on my own, but God chose us to come to these various parts of the diocese to see what they are doing. Truly they are all following Him in all they do. As I walked one last night on the beach in Manistee, or a stroll through Cheboygan, or my last walk down to the Cross in Indian River, I was sad to leave all three places because all have touched my heart, and I know they touched Brad’s and Peter’s too.  And excited to journey to the next sight that God had in store for us. 
The Cross in the Woods is a Holy, a place for sinners to come in their brokenness and to be healed by the power of prayer. It is a place where the young, the old, the sick, the dying come to pray before God asking for the intercession of St. Peregrine and the Blessed Mother to pray for them, especially for healing.  At the Cross, we see, and just a small glimpse, how big God really is, and how beautiful He is, too. I went for my evening stroll on one of my nights there and I too found myself drawn to prayer before the Cross asking the Lord to heal my brokenness, because to truly follow Him, I must decrease so that He may increase.

           Stay tuned for Brad, Peter’s and my next adventure . . .