Friday, November 18, 2016

Annual Alumni Dinner

This evening we celebrated our annual Alumni dinner.  Seventy-two alumni joined our seminarians for Holy Hour, a light reception and a glorious dinner, complete with a talk by Deacon Steve Battey and music from the Celtic Clerics.

Bishop Peter Uglietto, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Boston, presided at Vespers in the course of the Holy Hour and delivered the following homily on the Feast of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome.

The stone basilicas in Rome stand as reminders of the living stones that preceded them. The apostles Peter and Paul were martyrs who witnessed by their lives and deaths that the love and mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ is more powerful than death, evil, suffering and sin.

In the mysterious divine plan God did not put us in the first century, but here in this time and place. In our day we just witnessed a national election, the outcome of which stunned many in the world. While many bemoan the great divide between political ideologies as well as the many months of divisive rhetoric, we, as followers of Him who prayed that all might be one, can exercise a role as bridge-builders.

As the doors of Mercy close, the mission of mercy continues. We, as the Lord's disciples, are called to embrace the posture of mercy even toward those with whom we find ourselves in opposition. God's mercy is the foundation for a grace-filled attitude, even toward those with whom we might strongly disagree.

The Lord Jesus relies on his Priests in this day to be the incarnation of mercy for the people of this generation. The mercy of God is our consolation and the reason for our hope.

Pope Francis put it in these words: "Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope. May we be filled with this mercy!" 

May it be the foundation of our ministry! May it provide us with the courage to look to the future with hope!


At the beginning of the dinner I offered these words:

One hundred and thirty-two years ago, one-hundred and fourteen seminarians first began to prepare for Ordination in this house.  Three thousand plus seminarians later, this Holy House now serves one-hundred and thirty-two seminarians from Maine to Rochester and Oakland to Hanoi.

How things have changed, but how much they stay the same!  The same Lord, the same Church, the same need for faithful men, holy men and men with a pastor’s heart.

Thanks to each of you for being here tonight with these great men.  We have alumni with us from Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Fall River, Providence, Manchester and Wheeling-Charleston.  My thanks especially to Bishop Uglietto, Bishop Kennedy, Bishop O’Connell and our proud alumnus, Bishop Samra.  

And by the way, before I offer our opening prayer, I would ask you to pause in silent prayer for our brother Deacon-elect Barrent Pease, who will be ordained to the Diaconate for the Diocese of Springfield tomorrow morning.  He reminds us tonight what this Seminary is all about.

O God, 
who year by year renew the wonders of your love,
look upon these, your sons
whom you formed and consecrated in this holy house.
As you have empowered them to offer
the holy and living sacrifice of your Son,
so give them the strength and holiness
to offer the sacrifice of their lives
upon the Altars at which they serve your holy people.
Bless them, O Lord, Bless this Holy House,
and fill us with your grace,
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Finally, Deacon Steve Battey offered this reflection at the conclusion of the meal:

It has become something of a tradition over these last few years for a reflection to be offered on this night by the deacon MC, a soon to be alumni. It was the perfect occasion for me to spend some time reading Msgr. Sexton's single volume History of Saint John's Seminary; an opportunity to learn more about the humble beginnings of St. John's. Humble as those beginnings were, as I thumbed through the pages I began to realize that so many things still endure. 

The seminary still occupies what would have formerly been the Stanwood estate, dominating the landscape for all those who pass by on Lake Street or those taking a walk around the nearby Chandler's pond. 

Our courtyard is still adorned with the same statue of the Virgin and Child Jesus, a replica of the original sculpted by the artist Pigalle that was one of the few items shipped over with the original five suplician priests who served on the faculty here. It still serves as a daily reminder for priests and seminarians alike of the integral place our blessed Mother ought to have in our spiritual lives. 

Upon returning from various pastoral and parish assignments, seminarians pass the large Celtic Cross given by seminary alumni in remembrance of the seminary's first rector, Father John B. Hogan. What a powerful testament to the gratitude that alumni hold for the efforts of those priests that serve on the faculty of this seminary. 

The artwork in the seminary chapel, first commissioned by Archbishop O'Connell in 1908 still remains. Recently restored and newly lit it will continued to pondered by seminarians for another hundred years - this is provided of course that the newly restored organ doesn't send the whole ceiling crashing down on us! 

So much has endured the test of time. 

Fathers, from the very beginning of its founding, St. John's seminary has not only been a place of formation for future priests, but has also served as a place of surety and renewal for those who have already been ordained. The annual retreat for diocesan priests began here every year. It was in this place that the beloved "Renovation of Clerical Promises" was held, in which priests approached the altar, placed their hands in those of the Archbishop and repeated the words used at their first tonsure "The Lord is my chosen portion and cup, thou holdest my lot". 

Tonight I invite you to consider this seminary anew as a place of stability and renewal for you. In a culture that praises progress and seems at times to be going at 100 miles per hour, or when at any moment, the phone could ring informing you of a new parish assignment, or that another parish will be yoked under your pastoral care - find some surety and foundation here at St. John's. Take some solace of some of the timelessness that this seminary affords, and please God will continue to afford for many years to come. Find renewal in remembering the zeal you had here as a seminarian, on fire with love of Jesus and excited at the prospect of sacramental ministry to come. 

Finally, find hope in the seminarians studying here. Pray for us and support us. In so doing, we will be in an even better position upon priestly ordination to join you in the various dioceses of New England in the great enterprise of cooperating with God's grace for the salvation of souls in the years to come. 

To conclude, I would like to invite Fr. O'Connor up for our closing prayer, followed by a little musical entertainment by the ever popular seminarian singing group the Celtic Clerics. You are most welcome to join in on some of the songs.