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 . . .  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Month of our Mother Mary

This is a picture from the door of my room. 
During this month a statue of our Lady of Fatima has been processing to different areas of the building here at the North American College.  She stays on each hall for a few days.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday have been the days she has been on my hall.  The following are some pictures of our Lady as she stands at the end of the corridor.

As the end of the month of May approaches let not forget to ask for our Ladies prayers for our Diocese of Gaylord, for our Parishes and for our families.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Patron of the Diocese of Gaylord, pray for us!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Laurel leaves

The family: Selene, Raniero, Babbo (Dad), Maurilio, Dalila, Mamma
Congratulations to my good friend Maurilio who gradated last week from Sacro Cuore University in Rome with a degree in the Economics of Healthcare. I've come to know the Impagliatelli family pretty well since last summer they hosted me in their home while I was doing some work in a nearby parish.

The whole family came to Rome for Maurilio's graduation. Luckily I was able to join them for the festivities. This was my first graduation I've been to in Italy. The basic idea is the same, but some of the ceremonies surrounding the graduation differ. For example, the newly graduated doesn't wear a cap and gown, but rather wears a laurel crown. And of course, in order to celebrate such a grand occasion in Italy it is necessary to share a meal together. Now this wasn't just any meal. Lunch began around 1:30. By around 4:30 I had to leave to go to my afternoon class at which time the first desert was being served. Now get this, when I called Maurilio after my class was over around 7:00 they were just leaving the restaurant to return to the hotel. Can you imagine a 6 hour long lunch? 

The Aunts and Uncles
After class I went back to their hotel to wish them well and say good bye. I stayed around a for a little bit, of course before saying good bye. As I got to up to go, Maurilio's aunt stopped me and told me I couldn't possibly leave without eating dinner. I laughed and pointed at my belly, "How can I possibly eat dinner after a lunch that lasted all afternoon." But sure enough I stuck around for a few extra minutes to eat dinner, which by the way at this time it was already 9pm. Now you might be thinking that we'd go out to get a quick bite to eat. But no in fact we didn't need to go out. They had literally cooked enough pizza to feed an army and brought it with them from their home in southern Italy to Rome. The pizza was great. But, I had to laugh. Not only had they brought enough pizza for a three day trip, they brought fruit, and drinks, and little cookies, and home-made wine, and even their own supply of olive oil. I said to Maurilio's mom, "Now, you know you can buy food in Rome." She looked at me with total seriousness and said, "Buy food in Rome...Are you crazy? The food is so much better in Puglia." . . . And after a summer there, I can't argue with that.

Boston Marathon

Four years ago I was a Religious Brother for the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in Boston, which is located on Boylston street, the same street the explosions took place yesterday April 15th near the finish of the Boston Marathon. When I was in Boston four years ago I decided to go to the Boston Marathon because that is one of the biggest events in Boston. I was able to get within 50 yards from the finish line and there you were always touching 3-4 people because everyone was so packed near the finish line. My prayers are for all the people who were hurt by the explosions, for their families and for the doctors who are trying their hardest to keep them alive. May Jesus our Divine Physician work through the doctors to bring about healing.

Here are some pictures I took at the Boston Marathon,

      You can see the flags, that is where the first explosion happened.

This is right past the finish line, where the runners get water and then get on the bus to get to their hotel.

Please keep praying for those who have died and who are injured.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


It all started on Tuesday of Holy Week.  Three of us, a Deacon, and two seminarians, flew from Rome to Marsielle France were we rented a car.  We drove from Marseille up to Avignon were there is a Palace in which the Popes lived for some time in the 14th century.  After a night there we drove north east to the Benedictine Monastery of Le Barroux.  To the left is a picture of their chapel on Holy Saturday.  As you can see, the Cross is exposed but the statue or our Lady on the left is still veiled.  We arrived on Wednesday of Holy Week and were able to pray and take meals with the monks.  It was a great way to enter into Easter as they chant and pray so beautifully, but also to fast and prepare for the Feast of Easter.  Click here to get to a short video of the life of the monks there at Le Barroux.  It was an amazing experience.


After Le Barroux we drove up to Ars on pilgrimage to St. Jean Vianney's tomb.  We met Father Joseph Bergida from the Diocese of Arlington, a fifth year priest studying here in Rome.  Since Father Bergida is in his first year of priesthood we were able to set up Mass at the tomb of St. Jean Vianney with his chalice.  I was able to serve the Mass.  In fact, one of the greatest blessings of the trip was the fraternity and unity of the four of us in the prayer of the Church; the Mass and the Divine Office.  I served or sang every day for Father Bergida's Mass at a different shrine or pilgrimage spot.  It was a great blessing.  To the right is a picture of me standing next to St. Jean Vianney's first Mass alb and stole in his old house.
After Ars we made a stop at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere.  A link to the wiki page on this shrine is here.  It was beautiful with many awe inspiring mosaics.  To the right is a picture of a huge statue of our Lady looking over the city of Lyon France which the Basilica stands above.  They purposely made her hands extra large as they are outstretched in intercession for the people.   One interesting side note, the architect and designer of the Basilica, Pierre Bossan, converted to Catholicism because of his interaction with St. Jean Vianney.

ANNECY FRANCE: Our next stop was Annecy were St. Francis de Sales is buried.  It is an absolutely beautiful area in the foothills of the French Alps.  These pictures were taken on the hillside during a picnic stop we made after Mass in the crypt of the Church where St. Francis de Sales is buried.  There are shrines to our Lady all over the place.  

Mount Blanc:
Mont Blanc means "white mountain".  It is a very popular skiing spot and the highest peak in the European Alps at 4,800 meters... over 15,000 ft.

This is a chapel which as you can see is inaccessible due snow covering the road.  

Another Marian shrine in the Mountains in Norther Italy,  Our lady of Oropa.  This was up in the mountains and has been there for hundreds of years.  There are references to it by Pope Innocent III in 1207.  JPII made a stop here during his pontificate.  It was also one of Pier Giorgio Frassati's favorite Marian Shrines to visit.   Here is a link to more information.  


This is a picture of the sanctuary of the shrine in a small mountain village called Santo Stefano d'Aveto.  We stayed in an agritourismo right behind the shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  You are probably asking the same question I did, why is there a shrine to our Lady of Guadalupe in the mountains of norther Italy.  Well, the leading family from the 12th century onward in the northern part of Italy, especially the huge port city of Genoa, was the Doria family.  They had a summer residence (a castle) in this small town (there are still parts of it standing).  In the 16th Century one of the Doria family served in the military and took part in the battle of Lapanto.  Here is an excerpt from Encyclopedia Britanica: "In the 16th century the emergence of the greatest member of the family, Andrea Doria, opened a new period in the history of Genoa and of the Dorias, bringing them once more to the political fore. Giovanni Andrea (1539–1606), Andrea’s grandnephew, was his lieutenant and heir, serving as Genoese admiral against the Turks in the War of Cyprus (1570–71). He took part victoriously in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), which ended the threat of Turkish supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean."  This victory was attributed to our Lady of Guadalupe because an image of her was in the state room of the ship of Giovanni Andrea Doria.  It was given to him by King Phillip II of Spain.  Thus, after the victory, he brought the Image back to his family and people and in this small town of Santo Stefano d'Aveto built a shrine to her and a devotion began.  It has remained ever since.  There is a huge statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the highest peak near the village.  It was a great blessing to be in this small village and experience the kindness of the local people.  It was off season in this ski town, so there was not much open, but, one of the restaurant owners opened just for us.  He and his wife served us.  Wonderful people.
This is me standing in front of Christopher Columbus's house in Genoa.
I was the driver for the entire trip.  I forgot how much I missed getting behind the wheel as you can see in my eyes.

Here is the sweet Kia that we rented.  6 speed manual transmission.  And yes, it was a diesel. 
Here is a picture of the fellowship as we stand on the Italian side of Mount Blanc.  From left to right Deacon Spencer Howe from St. Paul Minnesota, me, Father Joseph Bergida from Arlington Virginia and Michael Hendershott from Knoxville Tennessee.
As always.  I want to thank everyone back home for your support and prayers.  I cannot come close to being able to express how grateful I am for the opportunity to experience the Church and her history in this way and with so many different people and cultures.  I am humbled by the blessings which you all make possible.  Thank you so much for your prayers and know of mine as well.  Happy Easter!!  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Amazing Picture of Divine Mercy

This shows how God works through the Priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  A few days ago I spoke to the students at Immaculate Conception in Traverse City and I said that the Sacraments are truly amazing and they should go to Mass daily and also go to Confession at least once a month and this picture shows just how amazing Confession really is. One of the examples I gave the kids was that of a boy that fell off his bike, the kid was cut up, bleeding and in pain. The kid then went to his mom and his mom comforted him and took him to a doctor to heal his wounds from the accident. The doctor then wrapped up his cuts and gave him an ice pack and said in a week you will be back riding again but next time wear a helmet. Likewise when one sins our Blessed Mother will help us get to Confession and her son Jesus, Our Divine Physician will heal and remove the sin from us with the words of absolution and then the Priest will give some advice like pray the rosary, which is like the doctor saying wear a helmet.

So ....... when was the last time you went to Confession?    

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Holy Week in the Parish

Christ is Risen!

Happy Easter to you all. 
I hope that these past two week, Holy Week and Easter Week, have been grace-filled.

If you will permit me, I want to step back a bit and give a few reflections from my experience of Holy Week. Classes were suspended for Holy Week and Easter Week giving us the opportunity to travel and spend the holiest time of the year with our communities, families and friends. This year I have become close to a parish here in Rome that I often frequent whenever I can on Sundays. The parish is named in honor of a 6th century Roman Noblewomen Saint Galla, who was known for her service to the city's poor and a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary which she entrusted to the Pope John I. The parish of Saint Galla is outside the city center somewhat near St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls and was built in 1930's to accommodate Rome's expanding population.

Giorgio, A friend of mine from Rome introduced me to the pastor of the parish back in the fall and I found myself welcomed into the community. With Holy Week approaching I was trying to figure out where I should go either to San Giovanni Rotondo where I spent my summer or to some other place in Italy or some monastery. Around that time, my friend came to the NAC for Mass and he asked if I would be willing to help out at the parish during Holy Week. I took him up on the offer and decided to stay in Rome.

Holy Week started out with the Mass of the Lord's Passion on Palm Sunday. The parish has a quaint little garden set apart from the busy street that provided the perfect place to begin the procession. In the garden there were even a few olive trees and palm trees which provided a few of the faithful some extra branches when the supply of olive branches ran low. Luckily the trees were tall enough so as not to lose all their branches. The Masses were packed that morning as people came to have their olive branches blessed. I smiled when Don Paolo assured the people that their branches were indeed blessed even if the holy water didn't reach them. In the afternoon I enjoyed lunch with the family of my friend. They just live across the street from the parish. Then later that evening the children who are to make their First Communion this year put on a little play. It was quite good.

Holy Thursday started  with a delicious lunch with all the priests of the parish, the pastor (Don Paolo) and the associate pastor along with three or four student priests from other countries who lend a hand during the weekend. The lunch was a beautiful time for us to thank the Lord for the gift of priesthood conferred on the apostles that day. I was impressed by how the priests made themselves available to hear confessions that week. I always saw at least two of them in the confessionals during the day while I was setting things up in the church. I asked the young associate pastor if extra hours of confessions made him tired. He replied simply saying "This is why I became a priest." What a great example...

Good Friday was beautiful as well. The liturgy of that day is quite impressive and moving as you all know well. During the adoration of the cross, I was really stuck by the universality of the Cross of Christ. I have such strong memories of holding the cross as an altar server as a boy. Now thousands of miles from home I see that same beautiful gesture of kissing the wood of the cross. It is a good reminder for me that the Cross of Christ is universal. It is for all.  Then I went with Giorgio to the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum led by Pope Francis.

Holy Saturday always seems like such a long day. Maybe it is the anticipation of that evening's vigil. Whatever it is, time seemed to go slowly. I spent the morning cleaning the chapel's at the NAC as part of my house job. We had our rehearsal for the Easter Vigil in the early evening which went smooth. Sometimes I felt like I was more of a burden then a help when it came to serving the Mass. The servers knew exactly what to do and are well trained where as I struggled sometimes just to understand the instructions let alone give any guidance. Fortunately, even though it was obviously all in Italian the Mass is the same. The Vigil was as beautiful as ever. My favorite moment is when during the Gloria I could hear the bells in the bell tower ringing. There is nothing like the sound of bells to announce the Easter Joy. The Vigil lasted until about 1 AM at which point I was exhausted, but so was the young associate pastor who was still kind enough to drive me home so that I didn't have to attempt to use the night buses. So much joy!

Easter morning I slept in and went to the Papal Mass in St. Peter's Square which was spectacular. The sky was so blue with the sun shining. Perfect weather. I also stayed in the square for the Pope's Urbi et Orbi blessing to the city and to the world. Then I went back to the NAC for a big Easter lunch with a few of the other seminarians who were still in Rome.

I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful way to spend Holy Week. It was so good to be in a parish for all the liturgies during Holy Week. As a young altar server, I grew up serving the various liturgies during Holy Week. It is there I really fell in love with the Mass, the mysteries of our faith, and the priesthood. So it was a great blessing to be once again in a parish setting, albeit not the same as being at Holy Family Parish in East Tawas. My thoughts and prayers were focused often on everyone back home and in the diocese. Nonetheless the experience of being in a parish in a different cultural setting is unforgettable and will hopefully prepare me for the future.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The first days with our new Holy Father

We waited for the smoke... The picture on the right is the night I had my camera... The night of the white smoke I did not even bring a camera because I was sure there would not be an election so early.  I was wrong!!  Habemus Papam!  But who??  Many of us, when we heard the announcement, George..  Then we heard the chants.. "Francesco"... I thought, no way, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago..  But soon I realized, it was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.  I still thought out loud, "WHO??"   It was an amazing night in the square but I apologize, since I did not have my camera I have  no pictures to share.  I can only say, it was a feeling of anticipation I have never felt before and will never forget.
Here you can see the Holy Father praying the Angelus with us from the window of the Papal Apartments.  Well you can't really see him very well, but trust me, its him. 
This is a picture from the Inaguration Mass.  The seminarians from the North American College were able to assist by escorting the priest who were distributing Holy Communion to the people in St. Peter Square.  If you watched the Mass on television you would have seen us carrying the white and yellow umbrellas.

From left to right:  Sean Grismer (Diocese of Rockford), Cardinal Raymond
Leo Burke (Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura),
yours truly (Holy and Venerable Diocese of Gaylord),
and Adam Potter (Diocese of Pittsburgh)
 Here is a picture with Cardinal Burke before the procession in with the palm branches.  I was blessed to be able to be very close to the Cardinals and the Holy Father for this Mass as you will see in the pictures below.  This was my first time meeting Cardinal Burke and I was deeply touched by his kindness, patience and loving character.  He generously gave us 5 minutes of his time when we just walked up to him in the midst of all the Cardinals in the back of the procession line before Mass.

As you can see we had pretty darn good seats. After processing out to the middle of the square surrounding the obelisque, we continued with the palms to process up the middle of the square  to the alter in the front of St. Peters Basilica.  We had no idea we were going to be sitting so close.  Our seats were about 40 or 50 yards from the Holy Fathers chair and the altar.  After Mass we were able to walk up behind the altar, as you can see in the following pictures, thanks to the Blessed Mother who has helped me almost every time I have been to these type of events.  If you remember, it was her direct intercession that I was able to serve for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on New Years Eve at Vespers.  Ave Immaculata! 

Here the Papal MC, Guido Marini, kisses the Holy Father's ring after Mass when he escorts him into the open air Mercedes for his drive through the square.  

We were able to walk right out to the Altar while the Holy Father was driving through the square.  Here you can see the sisters and some other personnel already dismantling the altar. 

Here is a picture of me with our Lady undoer of Knots.  Pope Francis has a great devotion to our Lady under this title.  He brought this devotion and grew it amongst the people of Argentina.  Please click here to learn more.