Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. is a parishioner at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, and she also serves on its teaching parish committee that supports the seminarians assigned to each parish in the Augustus Tolton Teaching Parish Program.
You recently attended our Healing Novena and made a point of attending every Mass, even though they were spread out over a wide geographic area. Why was this novena important to you?
I attended every Mass to pray for all the priests who are working hard and doing wonderful things in our parishes, and also to pray for those who did inappropriate and illegal things.
I went to every one of them because I thought it represented different areas of our city. At each parish, there was something different that happened. It made me realize how vast and wonderful our Church is in making sure the spiritual life of the faithful is met, and this certainly addressed that. The homily given by each priest was different from the one before it. Some took a psychological approach, some took a spiritual approach and some took a future-oriented stance. It was very interesting to be part of that and to interact with people of different races and ethnicities. We all wanted to pray together for the healing of our Church, our priests, ourselves and for the future. I thought it was very well done.
How did you first connect with Mundelein Seminary?
When I got to Holy Name Cathedral about six years ago, I met some seminarians, and I also met Father John Kartje. I just thought that this is a place that I want to give some of my time, talent and treasure. So, I’ve tried to do that.
I attended a retreat with Father Kartje on radical poverty, and I was really so moved by it. I think for a whole year after that, I meditated about the poverty of our world — not only economic poverty, but the poverty of giving up your time and talents to do things for others. He really inspired me again to spend some time in my prayer life thinking about those issues.
With that, I tried to give about 20 percent of my money to the poor or those in need. I’m a consecrated hermit and I live by myself, so I can afford to do that. I have very few possessions. That kind of poverty gives you the freedom to do that sort of thing.
Holy Name Cathedral is one of the parishes involved in the seminary’s Augustus Tolton Teaching Parish Program. What experiences have you had with the seminarians assigned there?
We’ve always had great seminarians here, and they work well in the parish. They do a very good job interacting with people and getting to know them. One seminarian was serving a morning Mass with an elderly priest who was rather incapacitated. The seminarian just took such good care of him. It was so noticeably thoughtful in the way he interacted with him. The Mass went on very fluidly because the seminarian was there to help.
I teach in the RCIA program, and another of our seminarians gave a wonderful talk to that group. The seminarians interact with young adults very well and understand how to engage them effectively.
How does getting to know the seminarians and being involved with Mundelein enhance your faith?
I see that the seminarians have a very serious relationship with Christ and his Church. They seem to have a deep-rooted inner life with a spirituality that has Christ as the focus, and that’s where we have to be. When you meet one of these seminarians, you feel that sense of the absolute embodiment of Christ in their life.
When these seminarians get out and do their work, they are well-versed and will be able to speak about their relationship with Christ and help people to discern what their relationship should be. This is what the world needs and what the Church needs also. The Church is going to be alive and well, and I’m full of hope in that regard.
Why is it important for you to support Mundelein Seminary?
I remember thinking — even from my First Communion as a little girl — that we will always need priests for us to receive the Eucharist and to help us understand our spirituality in a way that moves the whole world forward. One thing priests and seminarians offer to people is the sense that you can talk about your relationship with Jesus Christ as just a part of your everyday life. That’s just a tremendous gift they give to everyone they meet.
This article originally ran in the Winter-Spring 2019 issue of the seminarian-produced BRIDGE magazine. The full magazine can be viewed here.