This past week was an interesting one – in very real terms, a “transitional” week for me. After nine years as a permanent deacon, I began the formal path toward seminary study by joining the annual Diocese of Trenton Seminarian Retreat. Curiously, that formal action of joining with my brother seminarians changes my classification to that of “transitional deacon.” English majors among my acquaintances have had fun speculating on how you change from “permanent,” but transitional captures more than just a designation within seminary progression; it speaks to the hopes and dreams that anticipate transition and transformation along the path ahead of me, intellectual and spiritual transformation as I seek God in my daily life.
This week-long retreat was a profound experience of praying with and getting to know the 30+ men I have joined who are studying to become priests for this Diocese. Spending time in prayerful community highlighted the sense of freedom I feel as I approach the two-week countdown to moving into Seton Hall. As a seminarian – and later as a priest – it becomes not only our obligation but our privilege to commit ourselves to deeper prayer life.
The retreat created the opportunity to celebrate morning and evening prayer together, along with joining for the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Equally important was the fellowship shared, and getting to know the other men who represent the future priests of our Diocese. Young men in their twenties and thirties, and a couple of us in our forties and fifties, with a common dream: to serve the People of God in the Diocese of Trenton. These men have come from the Philippines, from South America, and from throughout New Jersey to pursue this dream. Some from other states, such as California and West Virginia, have found their spiritual home here in the Diocese of Trenton, just as I have called this Diocese home for almost thirty years now. These men give me such a joyful sense of hope for the future of our Church and Diocese.
Naturally, my own excitement is high as August 18th, move-in day, draws near; the paperwork is complete, classes are registered, and I already have a couple of the books for courses that will both challenge me and continue my “transition” from the secular life to more fully participating in the life of the Church. Many of my family and friends ask, “So, are you ready?”
Simply put, the answer is “yes!”
So much of the year ahead is an unknown, and that’s OK; joining the seminary community in a few weeks will begin to reveal what God has in store for me. I’m expecting surprises – some good, some perhaps not so good, and that is wonderfully OK. Those who know me well understand that I always see the glass as half-full, never half-empty. That means that each surprise will add to the excitement that this is God’s path for me. I am so very blessed that I have long-time friends who want to keep an eye on my journey, and I look forward to sharing it with you in this blog, and in e-mails, and yes, in the occasional visits. As for me, I look forward to getting to know the men from my Diocese at ICS even better than the retreat opened up this past week, and in joining this community that forms priests for other diocese throughout New Jersey, New York and more.
The prophet Jeremiah tells of God’s plans for us, and speaks of our basis of hope: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me.”
This past week, the Gospel reminded us to knock and the door will be opened, to seek and we will find, to ask and we shall be given from God all that we need. I am ready, and full of hope, and can’t wait for the surprises when God lets me find Him.