New academic year begins at Our Lady of Providence Seminary


PROVIDENCE — In a time of great turbulence for the Church, the young men at Our Lady of Providence Seminary know the Catholic faithful need holy priests.

“So it all the more inspires us to be holy, to work hard, to cultivate a life of prayer and to study hard so we know what we’re doing when we get out there in the parishes,” said Patrick Ryan, 23, a seminarian from the Diocese of Providence who is in his second year of pre-theology studies.

Ryan and the 16 other seminarians who are currently in formation at the seminary in Providence gathered together on Sept. 6 to mark the beginning of their academic year.

Of the 17 seminarians, five are from the Diocese of Providence. The others are from dioceses and archdioceses across New England, including Boston, Fall River, Harford, Manchester and Portland. Four seminarians are in their first year, though none of them are from Providence.

“Unfortunately, we did not have any one from our own diocese entering this year,” said Father David Gaffney, the rector of Our Lady of Providence Seminary.

Father Gaffney added that the motto for the new year of formation will be, “Pray Without Ceasing.”

“We’re just encouraging the men to deepen their life of prayer while they are here,” Father Gaffney said. “It’s one of the great opportunities of college seminary to deepen their prayer life.”

To mark the beginning of this year’s studies, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin celebrated a Mass in the seminary chapel on Sept. 6 with 13 other priests, all of whom were involved in the work of priestly formation.

“We need the spirit, now more than ever,” Bishop Tobin said during his homily, in which he emphasized that in today’s times, it is not easy being a Christian, a seminarian, a priest, a bishop or even the pope.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel passage of Christ ordering his disciples to set out into the deep, Bishop Tobin told the seminarians that as priests they would sometimes be called upon to do difficult tasks.

“We do those things because the Lord wants us to do them,” Bishop Tobin said.

Also highlighting St. Peter’s statement in the Gospel where he asks Christ to depart from him because he was a sinful man, Bishop Tobin added that while nobody is perfect, Christ calls upon imperfect people to build His kingdom.

“There is no such thing as a perfect priest, certainly not a perfect bishop,” said Bishop Tobin, who ended his homily with Christ’s exhortation to the disciples.

“Do not be afraid,” Bishop Tobin said.

During a dinner after Mass, which Bishop Tobin also attended, seminarian Noah DaSilva said he was looking forward to starting his second year of formation.

“We’re definitely facing some tough times in the Church, but we see a great community of spirit and prayer here among the men,” said DaSilva, 20, who is from the Diocese of Providence and St. Philip Church in Greenville.

DaSilva said he first began discerning a call to the priesthood when he was a sophomore in high school and attended a Steubenville East conference.

“That’s when I began to build my relationship with the Lord,” DaSilva said.

Ryan, whose home parish is Saints John and Paul Church in Coventry, said he began discerning his possible vocation to the priesthood in his freshman year at Boston University, where he completed his undergraduate studies.

“We need young men who dedicate their lives to living out the life of Jesus Christ, and to be that strong example to others and build up their faith,” Ryan said.

Daniel Hackenjos, 22, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Hartford who is in his first year of formation, said he resisted responding to the Lord’s call until his sophomore year at the Catholic University of America.

“I felt the Lord nudging me. I just had to say yes and do His will,” said Hackenjos, who added that he hopes to be open to whatever God puts before him in the year ahead, especially with the Church in the midst of controversy over the worldwide clergy sex abuse crisis.

“It’s a wakeup call to us,” Hackenjos said. “We need to proclaim the truth by our words and our actions by how we live our own lives.”

The day after the opening Mass, Father Gaffney said the seminarians had asked to observe 14 hours of Eucharistic Adoration — from 6 p.m. on Sept. 7 to 8 a.m. on Sept. 8 — to pray for healing for victims and for all the faithful.

“The seminarians are praying for great healing in our Church,” Father Gaffney said.


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