[Having] An open door, an open ear, and always leading with love is crucial to the ministry that I am called to share here at Mundelein.
Having been ordained for only a little over a year, Father Bradley Zamora never imagined he would be asked to join the faculty of Mundelein Seminary. While humbled with the opportunity to serve the seminary, shock overwhelmed him since having a newly ordained priest join the faculty is quite rare.
Father John Kartje, rector/president of Mundelein Seminary, said he initially asked Zamora, who was serving as an associate pastor and director of liturgy at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral, to serve as Mundelein’s interim director of liturgy, hoping to establish a deeper link between how liturgy is done at the cathedral and how it is done at the seminary. “The praxis at both locations — where Chicago goes to pray and where future priests are formed — should not be separated, since these two places ought to complement one another,” Kartje said.
It became very obvious to Zamora during his interim work at the seminary that he was in love with his ministry at Mundelein. In March 2016, Kartje asked Zamora if he would consider dropping the “interim” designation and become the seminary’s full-time director of liturgy. With Cardinal Blase Cupich’s blessing, and with the request that he simultaneously serve at Holy Name Cathedral until now, with Zamora officially appointed to the full-time faculty of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.
“Leading with Love” was a clear theme of Zamora’s time at Holy Name Cathedral, evident in the many friendships formed with his coworkers and parishioners. As part of a farewell celebration, they created and sold t-shirts bearing Fr. Brad’s likeness, with the money raised donated to the seminarian tuition fund in Fr. Brad’s name.
Joining a new environment, especially a seminary, always takes adjusting, and Zamora said his experience has reflected that.
“One of my biggest adjustments has been coming to grips with the fact that I am a faculty member from an institution I graduated from three years ago,” he said. “As a faculty member, there are still seminarians whom I was in seminary with, with relationships and friendships already established.”
It has since set in for Zamora that he is no longer “Brad the Seminarian” or “Brad the Deacon,” but “Father Brad.” But amidst the unfamiliar is the constant that is his love for liturgy.
“Liturgy is the most intimate place I find where we encounter God,” Zamora said. “Not only in the obvious of ways — the Eucharist at Mass and in the Word proclaimed — but in the assembly that gathers.”
“Liturgy is, regardless of personal agendas or ideas of what ‘church’ should be, the most beautifully lived experience of what Christ desired when we pray, that we may be one,” he said. “How can you not be inspired and drawn to it? Not only is it to be experienced, but also to live as Christ calls us: to further discipleship.”
And what about the discipleship Zamora is living through his new role at Mundelein?
“I can’t help but be the person that God created me to be, who my family taught me to be, who the priests and shepherds of this archdiocese formed,” he said. “This is who people are going to encounter — a priest living authentically.”
Zamora said he seeks to encounter people in the messiness of life. He said he hopes that people will see in him someone who Pope Francis wants for the Church, someone who is willing to accompany them through the ups and downs and highs and lows of seminary formation.
“All formation I received as a seminarian very much gives insights and guidance in how I engage our men who are here at Mundelein Seminary today,” he said. “I was blessed to have priest mentors who have inspired me to be the best I can be as a priest. An open door, an open ear, and always leading with love is crucial to the ministry that I am called to share here at Mundelein.”