Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Seminarians grow in summer assignments

August 2, 2023

By Sister Mary Eamon Lyng, SSJ
Diocesan Vocations Coordinator

“Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). Our Diocesan seminarians have been learning and living Jesus’ deeper call to take up the cross each day to follow Him. Taking up the cross is a daily dying to self, freely giving up their own lives to follow His difficult path. St. John (10:10) tells us that finding the true path is finding true life. Dying to self is finding the best of this life and the life to come with Jesus Christ. The Seminarians in our Diocese continue to discern their call to live life fully for Jesus Christ and His people in the life of the Church. Each of them has been assigned to a parish ministry or to be with young people at the Diocesan summer camp at Guggenheim to walk this path of service in a variety of ways. They have been serving in parishes assigned to them across the Diocese. They were asked to reflect on these questions:
1. What has been your parish experience---where, pastor, people

2. How have you grown through the assignment? Was there athing that surprised you?

3. What do you hope to build on moving forward, especially when you will be ministering in an assigned parish when you go back to the seminary?

4. How has this experience made you feel about your vocation/discernment to priesthood, especially in the Diocese of Ogdensburg?

The seminarians share their experiences in their own words of parish life and ministry and expres how the Holy Spirit has moved them in a particular manner.

Michael Lennox is a First Theology seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland, said: “I’m currently assigned to Holy Cross Parish in Plattsburgh with Father Kevin McEwan. We have three churches (St. John, St. Peter, and Our Lady of Victory) as well as several cemeteries, Seton Catholic K-12 School, and a parish center that includes a thrift store and soup kitchen. The people of the parish are very generous and supportive of the priests and seminarian. They are very willing to volunteer their time for things large or small, including the parish festival, Communion visits to the sick, and setting up for mass each day. The parish staff are equally generous and extremely supportive of one another and the parishioners.”

Michael continues to say, “I think I’ve grown a much stronger appreciation for the assistance the people of God provide to the parish. There are a great number of things they take care of in order that the priests need not worry about them, and these things certainly add up. And having dozens of parishioners helping organize and work the parish festival takes much of the burden off the priests as well. In such an active parish, having such generous parishioners around who are willing to help allows the priests to focus on ministering to the people.”

Tyler Fitzgerald is a Second Theology seminarian at St. Vincent’s Seminary, Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He shares his experiences: “I am assigned to the Catholic Community of Cape Vincent, Rosiere, and Chaumont, where Father Raymond Diesbourg, MSC is the pastor and Father Pierre Aubin, MSC is in residence. This is a unique assignment because, although it is a parish of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, the priests who serve the parish are not diocesan, they are Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).

“Although, at first, it may seem strange to assign a diocesan seminarian to live and work with religious, my experience has been wonderfully positive. The mission of both a religious and diocesan priest is the same – to go wherever you are sent, bringing Christ to the people entrusted to your care. Learning about a missionary order has been fascinating and has helped to expand my knowledge of the Universal Church.”

“The people of Cape Vincent, Rosiere, and Chaumont are caring, kind, and very generous. It is an entirely new experience for me to live in an area whose population explodes in the summer months and where tourism is the biggest industry. Being a lover of history, the people of this parish have been feeding my hunger to learn the rich history of this area…including leaving history books on the rectory kitchen table! Catholicism has deep roots in this area, roots which run to the year 1655 when Jesuit missionaries Father Pierre-Joseph-Marie Chaumont and Father Claude Dablon arrived to serve the native Iroquois people. There’s simply too much history to learn in two months!”

Tyler shared how he has grown and mentioned what surprised him: “Well, first of all, this is my first experience with living in a rectory. You simply never know who is going to call or knock on the door!”

“Yes, there was something that surprised me. At our weekly scripture study group, someone began posing questions on the exact topics we discussed at seminary in our class on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.”

” I have enjoyed giving reflections, presentations, and meditations this summer. I have certainly grown in this regard – learning my style and trying out different methods of preparing to speak in front of a gathered audience. Being able to try different methods such as reading from a text, reading from a list of main ideas, and totally off the cuff, has been helpful. There’s only one way to learn…practice! I will keep these experiences in mind when it comes time to take homiletic courses at seminary.”

“There is one thing that has stuck out this summer – the importance of taking what we (seminarians) learn in the classroom and applying it to the lives of those we are called to serve. At seminary, we are surrounded by classmates, professors, and other academic leaders who know the complex details of theology, liturgy, scripture, and languages. However, the priest’s duty is to take the Truth learned in the classroom and make it approachable, understandable, and exciting for everyone they encounter. At seminary, it is often easy to forget this reality especially when preparing for exams and writing academic papers. However, I plan to earnestly work in learning through this lens – learn the material not only for my sake, but for those I will one day have the privilege to teach and preach in my ministry as a priest.”

“I will not be regularly ministering in a parish setting while at seminary but will be assigned to hospital ministry. Each week, my classmates and I will visit the local hospital to visit patients. While some may request that we pray with them, it is also a beautiful ministry of presence to those in need and their family and friends. When we’re sick, sometimes we just need a good laugh and compa to pass the time with. That’s how I will be spending my Wednesday afternoons this school year.”

Tyler’s vocation to priesthood has been strengthened by this parish experience as he relates, “This has been a summer of countless new experiences – seminarians are constantly adding to their things they don’t teach you in seminary’ book. Those pastoral tidbits learned through experience which are passed on from priest to seminarian are always worth writing down”.

“Preaching and speaking in front of an audience was one of my biggest fears when I first entered seminary five years ago, knowing it was a huge part of a priest’s life. This summer has not only helped to calm these fears a great deal but has taught me that I enjoy this aspect of the priestly life and I have no need to be afraid.”

“Although it is easy to get gloomy over issues such as a decreasing Catholic population, shortage of priests, and the closing of churches and schools, we must focus on what we do have – a beautiful diocese with faithful, loving children of God who are striving to be saints. However, it is also time to look back on the missionary roots of our diocese and continue to bring the Gospel to everyone we meet. I am sure Bishop Wadhams once said something along these lines which apply to us today – “there’s plenty of work to do!”

“These two months have flown by and I truly cannot wait to be a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg!”

In Tyler’s closing remarks, he wishes to share his words of gratitude, “Thank you to everyone who prays for us seminarians as we prepare to serve you in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. I am touched by your generosity and commitment to keeping us close in prayer. Your prayers are a beacon of grace while at seminary, especially when exams and papers begin to pile up. Would it be too much to ask each person who reads this article to offer a short prayer, perhaps one Hail Mary, for the intention of an increase in vocations to the priesthood for our diocese? Please be assured of my daily gratitude and prayer for the faithful of the Diocese of Ogdensburg as well. Let us pray for each other!”

Dennis Ombongi is a Second Theology seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio. Dennis’ home parish is St. Peter’s Parish, Massena. This summer he served in the parishes in Lake Pleasant at St. James Major Church and St. Anne’s Church, Wells, with the guidance of Father Sonny G. Pulickal. Dennis describes his experience in a few words, “the goodness of living together in unity and the power of prayer. The pastor together with the parishioners of these two parishes is amazing. The hospitality and the well welcome they gave me made me feel at home from the very first day.”

“Among the ma things I have learned from my summer assignment is the unity and togetherness of the people in the Parish. The relationship the people have with their pastor is so touching! How much they appreciate each other. Psalm 133:1 describes the experience: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity.”

“Living together in Unity is both good and pleasant. This is exactly what I experienced in these two parishes, praying together, working together, and building God’s Kingdom together. The Lord God blesses our people and indeed it is appropriate for us as Christians to live in the unity because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. The whole experience has strengthened my calling and gives me so much hope that indeed our people love us and always pray for us wherever we are. Taking time to be with the people in the parish and having a cup of coffee together sometimes helps to come to know each other well. This has given me a very good opportunity to get to know so ma people in the parish. As I look to the future, it is my desire to bring people together, to know each other, to pray together, and to search for those who are lost from the faith.”

Kevin McCullouch is a First Theology seminarian at St. Vincent’s Seminary, Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He shares his parish experience, “This summer I was assigned to my first parish assignment while in seminary formation. I have been looking forward to being assigned to a parish since I entered seminary, so that I could continue to grow in my ministry of outreach to the people of our diocese and because there are still ma parishes that are unfamiliar to me in our own diocese. I was assigned to a unconventional parish this summer in the sense that there is not a pastor assigned to a parish. I have been at the Catholic Community of Constable, Chateauguay, and Fort Covington with Father Medenel Angrand, supervisory priest/sacramental minister, and Father John Looby, retired in residence, under the direction of Deacon Brian Dwyer, parish life coordinator”.

Kevin expressed, “I think the one thing that surprised me about this assignment was how well this plan works. Although it is most certainly not ideal and with some knots to be worked out, I believe it is important to continue to minister among the parishes without a pastor. I have been struck by how the people of the parishes continue to work hard to remain active, especially in the decline in vocations that we are facing”.

“I have grown in my relationship skills as I try to connect with as ma parishioners before coming to the end of my assignment. I have an increased respect for our current pastors who are being assigned to two or three parishes, because it can be hard to minister to people on an individual level when the priest is expected to carry out the day-to-day business of multiple parishes”.

“Although, I won’t be involved in parish ministry while I am back at Saint Vincent’s (at school), I am hopeful to build on community, to utilize everyone’s talents and to encourage people to work together.”

Venes Laine is a First Theology seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio. He is presently at the diocesan summer Guggenheim Camp ministering to the young people of various age groups.

Let us continue to pray for our diocesan seminarians as they return to their respective seminaries for continued formation and education. Let us also pray for more young men to hear and to respond to the call to be the “bridge” between Christ the Priest and to His people. The Vocation Office is sponsoring Andrew dinners around the Diocese in October inviting young high school men and beyond to listen to Bishop Terry LaValley’s and the area priests’ vocation stories.

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.