Joseph is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Newark in 2nd Theology.
He is studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
In January of 2014, Monsignor Joseph Reilly, Rector of Immaculate Conception Seminary, called me into his office. Friends who were near me joked that I was either in trouble or being sent to Rome to continue my theology studies. Monsignor began by telling me that each year the formation faculty of ICS, along with the bishop, discerns and discusses the possibility of sending one seminarian to continue their theological studies at the North American College in Rome. This is where I find myself today writing this blog post. I arrived here in July of 2014. I realized early that it would not be an easy transition, but also that God would not ask us to do something that we are not capable of. While there are always similarities in seminary life, many things change when moving to a new country—something that many of us in the Archdiocese are not unfamiliar with. We leave behind friends, family, culture, hobbies, and language. We lose a part of ourselves when we leave our homeland. But with patience (which is not always easy to find!) we begin to find ourselves being formed by our new surroundings and a new man begins to emerge.
During the Christmas holiday of 2014, three brother seminarians from Immaculate Conception Seminary were here visiting Rome. On December 31st we attended Evening Prayer for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God with Pope Francis. The solemn procession filled the air with mystery, joy, peace, and contemplation. The pope reached the altar and I joined him in gazing out at the thousands of people present there in St. Peter’s Basilica that evening. To me, the profile of the people reflected the universality of the Church. This experience of gathering with the faithful from all corners of the Earth and being led in prayer by the 265th successor of St. Peter brought the whole Roman experience into perspective. The Church is Christ’s body— and the heart of it is in Rome. It is where Peter and Paul radically witnessed to the faith by their martyrdom. It is the home of the kingdom to which Peter was granted the keys. And it is the home where the Church continues to flourish and form young souls to carry the Tradition of the message of Love.
Sure, I miss many of the comforts from home— baseball, driving a car, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sam Adams etc… I miss Immaculate Conception Seminary where I made great friends and received great formation from the teachers and formators, I miss friends and family who formed me into the person that I am — but “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more…” (Mt 19:29). Being in Rome has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, hear their stories, and sometimes visit their homelands. The Church is much bigger than we can imagine. It is not only big, but alive. It appeals to all men because it awakens in us our most fundamental desire for Truth and to Love.
Here in Rome, I attend the Gregorian University for theological studies (originally the “Roman College” founded by St. Ignatius in 1553). My class at the university is made up of about 120 students from 6 continents. I have traveled through much of Europe, visited missionary priests in Asia, spent my summer with missionaries in Honduras, and hope to continue witnessing to the faith and serving God’s people as a priest one day in our wonderful Archdiocese.
I write this blog post with the intention of sharing my story and with the hope of inspiring vocations. Many young men and women are called to priesthood or religious life, and this is a reminder that no vocation is without sacrifice, but it is that same sacrifice that bears much fruit. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and direct young people to pursue the calling in their hearts. May Christ be our shepherd, leading us to the eternal Kingdom in Heaven where the Father awaits us— we who are His earthly messengers and strive to be His faithful servants. God Bless.