For orientation week, in addition to being briefed about the formation program at NDS, new seminarians were treated to a dinner on Steamboat Natchez, visits to local landmark churches, the cathedral, and a swamp tour. Here are reflections on the week from two new seminarians.
Christ says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt. 18:20). During orientation week, 46 seminarians entered Notre Dame and were welcomed into a its dedicated, vibrant community. Being among the priests, faculty, and seminarians gathered in Jesus’s name on Monday morning and comparing our total with the much smaller number needed to ensure Christ’s presence jolted my heart. That morning was the first time I reflected on something to which I returned often: living at Notre Dame brings abundance and torrential blessings.
The occasions where I experienced a superfluity of blessings or “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) are too numerous to name. They started with the opening Mass: as I was entering into Notre Dame’s brotherhood, my family showed their happiness and ardent support. Perhaps most notably, our numerous excursions into the city re-acquainted me with my hometown and established bonds with my new brothers. And that’s not all. These excursions in themselves were gifts provided by those who support me and my desire for the priesthood. This sponsorship from the Church’s members alone is more than I deserve.
I don’t want to imply that seminary life is easy. During welcome week, all of us were warned that Notre Dame is demanding. Our schedules are packed, and the formators continually point out areas in which we should grow. Yet, many blessings are within these longs days during which we strive to live like true servants of the Lord. Like the disciples whom Christ nourished after they were famished for having listened to Christ for three days, we too receive more than our fair share of blessings. The experience of those disciples ended with baskets of excess food (Mark 8:1-8). As I am now learning, seminary life likewise offers us an abundance of grace.
When my family and I arrived to Notre Dame Seminary for the first time, we couldn’t help but notice atop the front entryway the simple statue of Mary stationed above the seminary motto: Deus Providebit. God immediately showed us His Fatherly Providence by giving each seminarian the special patronage of His Mother upon our full entrance into this apostolic community bearing her name. On Tuesday of Orientation Week, Fr. Jim Wehner delivered a strong welcome address calling us, new seminarians, to a deeper love of Jesus. One statement particularly stood out to me when he said, “Know that Our Lady is with us, and the devil can’t stand that.” Fr. Wehner gave this talk in front of a glorious scene above the high altar depicting Mary’s Assumption into Heaven; we would celebrate this very Marian Solemnity the following day. We, seminarians, were reminded again of Mary’s indispensable role in teaching us how to be Christ’s disciples and in drawing us towards our true home in the Blessed Trinity. Under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Mary also took us up into the rich history of Catholic faith here in New Orleans when we visited both the Urseline Convent and her National Shrine. At these sacred places, she promised us that as she has for so many before, she, too, will hasten to our aid in our times of need. Finally, on Thursday evening, we prayed the “Salve Regina” over our gracious hosts at Rock n’ Bowl before a memorable night of bowling and fraternity. With a warm Louisiana welcome, our Blessed Mother called each of us seminarians to entrust our whole selves to the Lord’s Providence, believing that beyond Orientation and throughout our years of formation here, Truly, God will provide.