I began a different post before this and unfortunately the seminarian who had written part of it became ill and was hospitalized so we had to put it on the back burner for now. But a great vocation event, our Support Our Seminarian luncheon that we hold each year at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, occurred recently. We plan for several months to figure out the logistics of feeding about 170 seminarians, priests, and staff a good meal plus leftovers for the next day. A call for donations of food, gift cards, and volunteers is the first step in planning, and it never ceases to amaze me at the great response we got from parishes and individuals from all over our diocese! The S.O.S. team meets a number of times several months before, and then the weekend before the big day, we cook, cook, and cook. It takes five cars to carry the food and team to “The Mount” that morning. And then the real fun begins!
We schedule this meal on the first day of finals each semester so the men can have great food for finals right in their kitchen. We are very fortunate to have a great relationship with the rector, Monsignor Baker, and Susie Nield, the “mom” of the seminarians. They love our mission and the support we give. In fact, they join all the guys as they all gobble up 3 spiral hams, 30 pounds of sloppy joes, 220 pieces of fried chicken, a huge Greek salad, 3 huge crock pots (about 23 quarts) of mac and cheese, various cheese spreads, fruit, and a spread of various desserts. A veritable feast! It is truly a day of “Finding JOY!” As each young man enters the rec room, their faces light up when they hear that all this is for them to enjoy. The newest of them are flabbergasted that we would do this when they aren’t even from our diocese. But we remind them they will be priests of our Church, no matter where they serve, and they could even wind up in one of our parishes someday. After all, Bishop Gainer was a priest in the Diocese of Allentown before becoming Bishop of Kentucky and then Bishop of Harrisburg. As the day goes on, I am so blessed to watch as our team and the extra helpers from area parishes see the faces of these extraordinary young men enjoying their home cooked meal. The room is filled with laughter and exchanges of stories with the team. I get to stand back and see the joy in all of the men who have been called by God to serve in his Church. They learn what I have known since the day the mission began. These young men who have been called by God to serve in his Church are shining examples of hope! They are so filled with the light of Christ one can’t help but find JOY just by sharing a lunch with them! And I also get to see these young men feel the gratitude and love we have for them. At the end of this very, very hectic and exhausting day we leave with smiles on our faces and a felling in our hearts that is hard to express accurately. I can express this: It is a day I consider one of my best each year. It is a day of truly “Finding JOY”!