Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the summer months progress, we might notice that though many things slow down, they seem to slow down in a whirlwind of activity and growth. In the last 2 months, we saw more than 80 young men and women from our parish receive the sacrament of Confirmation, welcomed a seminarian, sent our high school students to their annual mission trip, said goodbye to a priest, launched our adoration chapel, helped our new parochial vicar get his start in full time ministry at our parish, and hosted a missionary speaker from Nigeria. This weekend, we say another goodbye, as Nick Couture, our seminarian, completes his summer assignment and heads to World Youth Day in Portugal with Bishop Caggiano and a contingent of young people from the Diocese of Bridgeport. Nick has been a tremendous help around the parish, assisting every day with Masses, serving at funerals, participating in Catholic Heart Workcamp with our high schoolers, lending his guitar talents to our Vacation Bible School, practicing his public speaking with our senior ministry, and working in the office. He is a joyful presence, and has plugged into parish life, from the public ministerial functions to life in the rectory, in a very positive way. I am grateful for his time here this summer!
In the fall, Nick will start his spirituality year. This is a somewhat new aspect of seminary formation: a full academic year dedicated to growing in the spiritual life, intense vocational discernment, prayer, retreat, and service to the poor. The spirituality year serves to help a man make a more mature, informed discernment of God’s call in his life, while also forming the habits of prayer that will serve him well as a priest, or as a layman. After the spirituality year, a seminarian can progress to two years of philosophy studies, followed by theological studies and immediate formation for the priesthood. While Nick still has a few years ahead of him before ordination to the priesthood is possible, these years are formative, and our prayers for Nick will be an immense support and help.
Over the years, I have had the chance to reflect on seminarian summers at St. Pius, as we have been blessed to see a number of men spend time at our parish during their years of formation and discernment. Fr. Brendan spent a summer here several years ago. I myself spent the summer of 2006 as a seminarian at St. Pius. Lest you think that a summer is too short a time for a parish to impact a man in formation, I can tell you that every priest I know can point to experiences in each summer parish assignment he had that moved him closer to Christ, formed his attitude toward and understanding of ministry, and helped prepare his heart to serve the Church as a priest. It is no easy thing to say yes to a vocation to priesthood. Many people wonder how a young man can know enough to make such a life-altering decision. The short answer is that no one can understand or fully grasp what priestly life entails (or what marriage entails, or any of the many noble professions one might undertake), but God gives countless graces in the formation process to help a man prepare and to transform his heart after the Heart of Jesus. Time spent in a parish helps a seminarian to glimpse the ordinary lives of the faithful, to see what the rhythm of a local community’s life is like, and to know in some way what it means to enter into human experiences that span the life cycle. Most of all, in summer assignments, seminarians grow not only in their relationship with God, but in their relationship with God’s people. The friendships and acquaintances made at the parish over the summer provide a seminarian with a network of prayerful support that will accompany him through to his ordination day. I am proud that the St. Pius X Parish community is part of that prayerful support for Nick, and grateful that both Fr. Brendan and I have benefited from those prayers in our own lives. Priests don’t grow on trees. They grow from the fruitful soil of parish communities, and in a symbiotic way, return to those parishes to support the spiritual lives of the very people who supported them. Please pray for Nick as he departs, and pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Bridgeport!