The pandemic has presented so many people with much suffering and many challenges, difficulties, and changes to our ways of living and relating. Amidst all of that, the unexpected arrival of Archdiocese of Boston seminarians from Saint John’s Seminary has been a source of God’s blessing and providential care for our parishes and me. It started with a simple phone call to Fr. Ed Riley, who coordinates the pastoral formation component of priestly formation at the seminary, to inquire about a seminarian coming to our parishes for an eight-week summer assignment. The full extent of COVID-19 was just becoming known to us and many of Boston’s institutions of higher education, including Saint John’s Seminary, decided to send students home and switch to online learning, prompting the need to find housing for as many Archdiocesan seminarians as possible. While parishioners and contractors worked to finish the much-needed, long-delayed maintenance at the rectory in Cohasset, I was living in the rectory in Hull, a very nice, but much smaller home. Knowing that the move to the Cohasset rectory was imminent, I agreed to welcome three seminarians to live with me while they finished their academic semester online, knowing that one or more of them would continue on with us for an 8-week summer assignment. And so, we welcomed, Paul Born, Hien Vu, and Hung Tran.
Though their primary focus was their academic studies, they were quite eager to help around the rectory in Hull and then the rectory in Cohasset and to assist in the parishes as we adapted to the directives provided to us by Church and state and made necessary by COVID-19. They assisted with cooking, cleaning, and small projects in the rectories. They served in various liturgical ministries (reading and serving) during Masses that were made available on Facebook Live. They served and participated in Eucharistic Holy Hours during announced open hours at each church, during which the number of people permitted in the church building was capped at 10. During those Holy Hours, they prayed Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office with the small number of parishioners who could come to church. They assisted us through the most unique Holy Week in my experience.
As their online academic studies were coming to a conclusion, we learned that Paul and Hung would be staying with us for a summer assignment, while Hien would be moving on to Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish in Brookline for his summer assignment. We also learned that another seminarian, Colin McNabb, would be joining us, not just for a summer assignment, but for an assignment (often called the “Deacon Assignment”) that will span two years and, God willing, lead to his diaconate ordination in 2021 and priesthood ordination in 2022. Our focus shifted from academic formation to pastoral formation during the 8-week summer assignment. That’s not to say, they didn’t pursue some of their own academic interests in their free time. Our focus was to provide them with some pastoral experiences and opportunities in our parishes that would help them in their overall priestly formation. In a very real way, you have helped to form future priests for the Archdiocese of Boston. Thank you!
They have helped in each of our three priority areas for the coming year – communications, creating a culture of vocations, and the Year of the Eucharist. They helped establish Christ by the Sea (our collaborative name) accounts on various social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. They helped orient our parishes in these early days of using the generously donated and recently installed live-streaming cameras and software. The seminarians used these strengthened communication tools for the other two priorities. They shared their vocation stories on YouTube. Paul, with Colin’s assistance, led a hybrid (online and reduced risk in person) 4-week adult faith formation session on the Eucharist. Hung compiled a list of 52 quotes on the Eucharist for weekly sharing on our various communications tools, both old and new. The three of them worked together for an outdoor Eucharistic Procession and time of Exposition and Eucharistic Adoration, accompanied by praise and worship music led by Ryan Tremblay. Colin worked with Cohasset parishioner Paul Croke to offer a webinar on a Catholic perspective on aging and end-of-life issues. This webinar will be a springboard to future opportunities on this topic. This is only a brief overview of what they have done. More important than what they have done, is who they have been in our midst.
The 8-week summer assignment for Paul and Hung ends this weekend. I have assured them of our prayers and support as they continue the journey of discernment and formation for a priestly vocation. I’ve also assured them that our doors are open to them. Colin’s 8-week summer assignment is also coming to an end. He plans to spend time with his family and friends and be with us on most August weekends before returning to Saint John’s Seminary, which will include some weekly pastoral experiences in our parishes. Please join me in offering prayerful support to these four seminarians whose lives have intersected with ours for the past 2-4+ months – Colin, Paul, Hung, and Hien.