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.