Summer 2019 Personal Update 2 of 3: “Chill” time after the summer assignment.
In this second update installment are some of the interesting things I did after my summer assignment ended on July 31.
After the all the duties of the summer assignment are over the ideal is for us seminarians to be able to kick back a little and relax before we all travel back to our respective campuses and school starts up again – you know, “chill” time. But the reason why I have “chill” in quotes is because even during this supposed period of relaxation there were still a number of things on the agenda starting with the annual summer retreat for us.
The four days after my assignment ended I drove over two hours south of Nashville to St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, AL. The drive wasn’t too bad, but, you know, there’s times in our lives between things that we wish to just do nothing and lie on our beds and waste time on the Internet before going off to the next thing. Since the retreat was mandatory doing it right after the assignment at first felt like another thing to rush off to do, ironically. I was wishing we had a week to chill and do nothing before we went on it, but of course there’s not too much time in August with most of us heading back during the month as well.
But don’t get my wrong! I’ll take a retreat! I enjoyed it and it was especially good to gather together as brothers (including some new ones) to spend time with each other before heading our separate ways to school. We spent four days down there. We prayed office with the monks (at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning! I can’t remember, but it was early! ) and had Mass with them. We played soccer a couple of times. We joked around and had good convos about Church stuff. And all the talks given by our retreat master were great. It was also good to be back at the abbey; I was actually there back June 1 as part of an annual day retreat of thanksgiving for God’s gifts during the previous year that I take with a lovely group of Catholic friends, most of whom I do ministry with.
All of us together.
Next, the retreat master.
I met a Black Monsignor!….Well, met again is more like it.
This is Msgr. Eugene Morris of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and he led the seminarian retreat we had this past week. Some of you may have heard of him. He’s been featured on a number of Catholic outlets like Catholic Answers and National Catholic Register. I met him briefly last year right before I entered seminary and was pleased to know he was going to lead our retreat this year. He lead a great retreat on the Universal Call to Holiness with a focus on the priestly way of living this out.
Towards the end we had the chance to sit and talk about being Black Catholics, Black history, Spike Lee movies, the issue of inculturation in the liturgy, and I even got to serve Mass (OF and a low EF) for him! He’s a great example for me as a Black seminarian to look up too. He would make Venerable Fr. Tolton proud!
Moving on, after the retreat.
The week after the retreat I had the pleasure of serving at a Mass with my Nashville brothers for the first profession of SIX Dominican sisters for the Congregation of St. Cecilia here in Nashville. I helped out at this last year as well and this featured remained the same – the pure joy. The joy I saw on their faces as they received their veils was indescribable. If you have been praying for religious vocations lately, know that they are being heard.
Next, lights, camera, action.
The day before the Dominican sister’s Mass we did shooting for a short film series the diocese vocation office is producing involving both the priests from multiple age groups and the seminarians of Nashville. Since Father Austin Gilstrap was made the official vocation director back in 2018 by our then-new Bishop Spalding he has been totally revamping the way we promote vocations in the diocese. The vocations website has been totally redone. We are working with Spirit Juice Studios in producing a vocations trailer for the website (jam-packed with action, inspiration, and sweet b-roll shots!). We are also working with another company in producing the aforementioned short film series that is revolving around becoming a priest and living the life of a priest. We were split up into six groups and came in for filming throughout the day in the bishop’s secretary’s house, which was pretty nice. The above pic (which is clearly not mine because the quality is much better; from our NashVocations FB page) was when our two transitional deacons (left and middle on the couch) along with one of our newly appointed assistant vocation directors, who was just ordained to the priesthood this year (right), had their time to shine for the cameras. They divided us by age and stage of formation. We were asked many questions about what brought us to this point in our lives and our decision to enter seminary. When both of these projects are released I will link them here on the site.
And that wraps it up for update 2. One more to go.