The papal document Pastores Dabo Vobis on the formation of seminarians in preparation for ordination to the priesthood takes its title from Jeremiah 3:15: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart.” Contained within that instruction is a quote from an earlier document of Vatican II which states: “The spiritual gift which priests have received in ordination does not prepare them merely for a limited and circumscribed mission, but for the fullest, in fact, the universal, mission of salvation to the end of the earth.” (#36)
Cross Catholic Outreach has the privilege of being a small part of that international aspect of the formation of the hearts of shepherds by leading Mission/Vision trips for seminarians currently in various stages of study for the priesthood. The latest of these trips was with a group of seminarians and their dean of students, Rev. Edward Riley, from St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Rev. Riley’s group was accompanied by Cross Catholic Outreach personnel Fernando Marquez, International Vision and Mission Trips officer, and Shannon Burns and Father Bernard Olszewski of the Clergy/Diocesan Relations Department. The group of seven seminarians and Rev. Riley spent their March spring break week seeing firsthand how the principle of integral human development is carried out in the projects sponsored by Cross Catholic in various dioceses of Guatemala. The seminarians are studying for the Archdiocese of Boston, and the Dioceses of Providence, Rhode Island and Manchester, New Hampshire.
This trip was essentially a Lenten pilgrimage whose destination was not a particular holy shrine but rather a glimpse into the inner workings of God’s grace in the people whose lives are touched by the work of Cross Catholic Outreach. It was also an opportunity for the seminarians to enter more fully into the theology of encounter, seeing their own lives of faith through the eyes of the poor. It was a time of personal prayer, daily Eucharistic adoration and the experience of prayer in action in the many projects visited.
The journey began in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Father Raoul Monterosa, vicar general, met with the group and explained the workings and projects of the diocese. He also shared his own vocation story with the seminarians and the working of God in his life.
It was then on to two water projects, the celebration of Mass in La 46 — a village that will hopefully see a church built — and then after dinner, participation in a faith-sharing session of the Missionary Community of the Santa Misiones Populares, the Holy People’s Mission, a diocesan-wide program of evangelization. In all of these encounters, the seminarians participated fully, since four spoke Spanish fluently and the others were assisted by those who did. The time in Santa Rosa concluded with a visit with Bishop Bernabé Sagastume OFM Cap., who is not only a member of the same Franciscan order as Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston but also a personal friend.
Upon leaving the Diocese of Santa Rosa, the group made its way north, first stopping in Guatemala City at a shelter for abused women and children. Here, the seminarians listened to the testimony of suffering women and their children, and also about how faith in God and the love of people who care is effecting great changes to put lives back together. The following days included a visit in Sumpango with the community of Misioneros del Camino, which is an orphanage and a school, as well as the Casa de Fe, a surgical recovery center for Guatemalans in need of a place to stay before and after surgery.
The journey ended in a true pilgrimage — a visit to Santiago Atitlan and the church of Santiago Apostol, where Father Stanley Rother of Oklahoma was martyred 38 years ago and beatified in the Cathedral of Oklahoma City in 2017, the first and only diocesan American priest to have been granted that grace. There, the group celebrated Mass in the very room where Blessed Stanley was martyred. After Mass in the Cathedral of Antigua, it was time to return to studies at the seminary in Boston.
T.S. Eliot, in Four Quartets, wrote that in making a pilgrimage: ” We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. “
These seminarians returned to Boston changed men. They experienced Christ in a way that allowed them a glimpse into God’s merciful and abounding love in the purest and most simple expressions of faith and commitment to the will of God.
They heard the profound prayers of people of trust and faith who gave thanks that they were able to spend time and pray with their brothers in faith from far away. God spoke to each of these men in a unique and special way so that they may continue to become true shepherds after the heart of God.
It is a great blessing for Cross Catholic Outreach to contribute to the formation of these future priests and their love of the suffering Christ.