Deacon Aaron Junge, the author of this article, is studying for the Diocese of Dubuque, Iowa.
Many important moments in life are the combination of subtle twists and turns, gradual invitations and surprising conversion. Other moments, however, ring out like a clarion call and simply cannot be ignored.
Gospel messages like the parable of the sheep and goats, which I had heard a dozen times before coming to Mundelein, changed for me. Coming to the seminary was a turning point in my own spiritual life. There was no subtlety to it; I was put in a place where I had to ask myself if I truly was seeing and serving Jesus in the least of my brothers and sisters. Suddenly I began noticing the homeless person on the street corner, the plight of those in war-torn nations began to trouble me. All of it began to call for my vision to be converted more deeply and for my life to be redirected.
Thankfully, God had prepared fertile soil in my own heart throughout my life. My family was a place where we talked about caring for the poor. Catholic school continued to present us with service opportunities. Perhaps most especially, God had already ignited a passion in me for the pro-life movement from an early age. I was used to defending and advocating for unborn life, had prayed in front of Planned Parenthood before and written to my government representatives about that “foundational right” to which the Church points.
The summer before coming to Mundelein was pivotal not because my passion changed or dimmed, but because God ignited it so that my old way of being could not contain it anymore – it needed even more space to burn. Thankfully, God also provided a place for that energy to be directed in Mundelein’s Peace and Justice/ Gospel of Life Apostolate. While I was used to the peace and justice community and pro-life community from my college life, I was not used to seeing the two combined and I believe that is part of the genius of Mundelein’s approach.
Whether a man first experienced God’s call to be attentive to Him in the least among us in the cry of the unborn, in the face of immigrants or in the eyes of a person without a job or home, the seminary provides an apostolate for men to let God challenge and expand them. In my time at Mundelein, this involvement has allowed me to again pray in front of abortion clinics, tour the local women’s center, serve the homeless who are forgotten on Lower Wacker Drive and to assist the Franciscans of the Eucharist in their ministry to their community in Humboldt Park. The seminarians of Mundelein are given the chance to put love into action and cultivate the pastoral heart that allows God to sanctify the world in the face of profound evil.
As I move quickly through my second-to-last year at Mundelein, I recently came to the realization that something has changed for me. Now hearing the parable of the sheep and goats, I realize that these years of formation have created a space interiorly so that they are no longer other people’s “issues.” Instead, it seems that God is trying to make them organic elements of the ministry He is calling me to. The Peace and Justice/Gospel of Life Apostolate at Mundelein Seminary strengthens and challenges us to embrace the radical call to be priests and prophets of the New Evangelization, while also giving us the opportunity to put that love into action.
Mission Statement of the Peace and Justice/Gospel of Life Apostolate:
We, the Peace and Justice / Gospel of Life Apostolate of Mundelein Seminary, seek to spread the Good News of God’s love for all mankind by promoting human life in all stages, especially for the most vulnerable, poor, and marginalized.
We do this in Jesus Christ in accord with Catholic Social Teaching through the means of prayer, service, education, and advocacy.
We pursue this mission animated by our baptismal call, heedful of Christ’s invitation to be His priests, shepherds of souls, allowing ourselves to be molded by the Holy Spirit to more fully participate in Christ’s own pastoral charity.
This article originally appeared in The Bridge, a publication of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. The entire magazine can be viewed here.