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October 19, 2022

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing writer

NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Whether in the North Country or New England, fall is a marvelous time to enjoy God’s grandeur in the mountains and trees bedecked with brilliant colors. Father Stephen T. Rocker, who most recently served as administrator of St. Edmund’s in Ellenburg and St. Bernard’s in Lyon Mountain, shared highlights about his new assignment at Magdalen College in Nashua, New Hampshire.

“I’m very grateful to Bishop (Terry) La Valley for allowing me to do priestly ministry and academic work at the college level, despite the need for priests to do parish work in our diocese,” explained Father Rocker, who received his undergraduate degree at Wadhams Hall Seminary-College of Ogdensburg, a bachelor of sacred theology and licentiate in philosophy from the University of Louvain (KUL) in Belgium, and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Ottawa.

It isn’t Father Rocker’s first time working in a college setting.

“I had been connected with Wadhams Hall Seminary for 20 years until it closed in 2002,” he said. “I was open to returning to college level seminary formation, but the seminaries where we send men had sufficient priests or philosophy teachers, so I contacted Magdalen College in New Hampshire, which I had visited eight years ago, because I had met the college’s president at that time at a philosophy conference and had asked if I could visit the college.”

Father Rocker outlined his current duties at Magdalen College.

“I have the title of ‘Director of Spiritual Formation,’ which simply means I’m the chaplain,” he said. “There’s Mass every day but Saturday. I have confessions every day and adoration with benediction once a week. Also, there are meetings and social events to attend. The campus has a friendly atmosphere. People are polite and work at getting along. The faculty is small. One professor also does building and grounds work, another does grant applications, and there are part-time people doing various jobs necessary to running a college.”

Additionally, Father Rocker noted how he again has the opportunity to place his academic talents to good use.

“I’m also teaching a theology course on the Creed, so there’s the usual class preparation and grading of tests and assignments,” he said. “It’s a small school, so everyone knows everyone. The atmosphere is cultural with a strong interest in sacred and classical music, and over all the students seem serious about the liberal arts. All the students seem to be in their late teens and early to mid-twenties, whereas at the seminary we had a wider mix of ages.”

Author of “Hegel’s Rational Religion” (1995) as well as several articles and book reviews in the areas of philosophy and theology, Father Rocker described the scholastic life at Magdalen College.

“The course of study is based in Catholic humanism and its understanding of the human person as a body-soul unity, a child of God, beset by sin, and destined for eternal life,” he said. “Students read Homer, Shakespeare, Augustine, Aquinas, but also Nietzsche, and Camus, for example. The students take Latin, and no modern languages are offered. The teaching method is to ask questions and discuss.”

Furthermore, Father Rocker talked about the demographic of the students and their life of worship.

“Most of the students are Catholic and generally well formed in their faith. Currently 70% come from a home school background, and many have attended the Latin Mass. In Nashua there’s a parish run by the Society of St. Peter, and one of the priests comes weekly to offer the extraordinary form of the Mass. The students, staff, and visitors at Mass are very reverent, and the practice is to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist facing the altar and to receive Holy Communion kneeling.”

Regarding the landscape, Father Rocker reflected: “The campus overlooks a mountain valley similar to Adirondack scenery.”

While you can take the individual out of the Adirondacks, you can’t take the Adirondacks out of the individual.

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