Wednesday, September 30, 2015

‘Ready to lay down our lives in service for humanity’: Young Priest, Deacon Shine at St. Patrick Seminary Gala

A shorter version of this post appeared in last week's California Catholic Daily.

On the evening of Saturday, September 19, more than 550 people gathered on the outdoor grounds of St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. The evening was warm and clear. The occasion was St. Patrick’s Eighth ‘Four Pillars’ Gala, the seminary’s annual fundraiser in support of their mission: forming men for the priesthood of God. Founded in 1898, St. Patrick’s is currently forming 72 men from the dioceses of Fresno (3), Honolulu (5), Monterey (3), Oakland (11), Orange (6), Reno (2), Salt Lake City (2), Sacramento (9), San Francisco (16), San Jose (10), Santa Rosa (1), and Stockton (4). The ‘four pillars’ of the seminary are human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation, and pastoral formation. The evening’s program describes each pillar as necessary to the final mission “Through human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral development (the seminary) enables Christ-centered men to grow and excel as collaborative, culturally-aware pastoral leaders committed to Jesus and His Church.”

The evening began with Vespers in the seminary chapel.  This was followed by appetizers and cocktails on the lawn, where guests could also bid on items at a silent auction to support the seminary. Those who desired could join a guided tour of the campus, led by seminarians.

As dinner was about to begin,the invocation was given by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. His Excellency was joined by most of the other Bishops whose diocese are served by the seminary.  Bishop Thomas Daly, former Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and currently Bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, served as master of ceremonies. Interspersed between his introduction of speakers,  the witty bishop, a San Francisco native, forcefully encouraged the faithful  to bid on auction items and purchase raffle tickets. His encouragement was rewarded:  a silent auction item for a trip to Ireland including a round of golf at one of that countries famous courses went from $0 to over $7,000 in five minutes. The winner of the raffle’s grand prize—a car valued at $35,000 or $25,000 in cash, chose the  money, and returned half as a gift to the seminary.

The special honorees at the event were the members of the  Serra Clubs of the Greater Bay Area (San Francisco, San José and West Contra Costa County). The mission statement of the Serra Clubs is simple and direct: ‘to fostering and affirming vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

The highlights of the evening, affirming both the mission of the seminary and the impressive quality of the young men being formed, were two addresses to the crowd, the first by the recently ordained Fr. Pat Summerhays, and the second by transitional Deacon Andrew J. Pacheco.

Fr. Summerhays described how each of the ‘four pillars’ contributed to his formation as a priest. His description of spiritual formation was especially powerful:  “Spiritual formation, of course, begins by St. Patrick’s Seminary being a Eucharistic community.  Each day begins with Morning Prayer that leads the seminarians right into the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  It is there that we contemplate Jesus the High Priest who emptied himself completely, laying down his life for all of humanity, allowing us to receive him body, blood, soul and divinity.  It is in this spirit or sacrifice and communion that we are later meant to rise each day in rectories, ready to lay down our lives in service for humanity.  The daily Eucharist Adoration, Days of Recollection, Annual Retreats, and Spiritual Direction allow seminarians to learn how to rest in Christ, learning how to say along with St. Paul: ‘[I]n  any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.  I can do all things in him who strengthens me.’” 

Deacon Pacheco eloquently described a new project certain to enrich the formation experience of the future priests: the construction of large-scale outdoor Stations of the Cross on the seminary grounds. The seminary hopes to raise at least $10,000 for each Station, and each Station will be accompanied by a bench that will bear the name of the donor. A portion of the cost was pledged at the dinner.

The evening closed with the all seminarians gathering on the broad steps of the school, where they led the guest in singing the Salve Regina. The beautiful masculine voices of the seminarians, rising to heaven in praise of Our Blessed Mother, especially following their impressive speeches could not help but remind one of Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

To help St. Patrick’s Seminary form men for the priesthood, go here: and select the “Donate” tab.

To see a video of seminarians walking the proposed route of the outdoor Stations of the Cross, go here: The password to open the video is SPSU.

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