Over the weekend, the campus of Mundelein Seminary was invigorated with energy as 66 new seminarians moved into their cams before starting orientation this week. A cam (camerata) is comparable to a floor of a dorm, with each having a “cam priest” who serves as a liaison, confidante, and advisor to that specific group of men, also leading them in weekly prayer and fellowship.
In between meeting their new seminary brothers, touring the campus, and Target runs for Woolite Dark, the men have started to get to know faculty, staff, and seminary leadership — Vice Rector of Formation Father Brian Welter, Vice Rector of Academic Affairs Father Thomas Baima, and Rector Father John Kartje, who officially kicked off orientation with his welcome address after Mass.
Excerpts from Father John’s Address:
“I am a big fan of blogs and my favorite is the Bible. Think of how it starts with the call –Jesus sees the disciples and says ‘Follow me’ – they leave their nets, their occupations, for a time they leave their families. Think about that detachment. Now is a great time to ask yourself- what have I left behind and what do I maybe need to leave behind? Right from the beginning, the disciples see Jesus acting on and exercising His authority, His creative authorship. They are able to respect that authority in a profound way because of their detachment. If we hold on to things, any authority will feel like the big boom coming down on us.”
“You are here because you were called. It was decided in faith that you are called here. Jesus calls you for whatever reason and part of being here is entering into that discernment. Being called is a beautiful and humbling thing. Bring that to prayer – Lord, what does your call to me look like? It’s an unfolding process, both on the days when you struggle and days when everything seems clear, the process never stops.”
“Jesus wasn’t just praying by himself, He is showing us what prayer should be like. There is nothing at the seminary more essential than prayer. You’re not here because you’re preparing to go sit in an ivory tower, or only go work out in the streets. A diocesan priest truly needs to be a jack of all trades, has to have an open heart, a willingness to respect all different sides, all while remaining rooted in prayer. Learn how to pray, now, in this time, because prayer is something that will root you. Show me someone who has stopped praying and I will show you someone who is way off the rails. Try different ways, learn different styles, just keep praying.”
“There was no place Jesus was afraid to go. As a parish priest, you’ve got to be willing to go everywhere. Your parish, no matter what it looks like, has a little bit of everything. A parish is not just a few square miles anymore. Our parish goes far beyond – whether it’s through social media or any given Sunday when a family could come from anywhere and find themselves in your church. People come from various moral backgrounds, with various things on their hearts, and Jesus goes with them, He goes to meet them. He doesn’t wait for an invitation. He sees that chair, and he pulls it out and sits down. Don’t’ be afraid to do the same. People deeply appreciate when you come up to talk to them about something meaningful. They know you’re coming as someone bigger than just yourself, as a representative of the church, as someone who desires to be acting in persona Christi.”
“Learning in seminary is different than learning in any other context because you always keep an eye towards becoming – God willing– a parish priest. Stay connected to your home diocese, bring to your studies all the powerful encounters you have had throughout your life. Jesus would often preach right on the heels of encounters people were having. He wasn’t teaching a course on demonology, he was casting out actual demons. Similarly, our faculty bring their own practical knowledge to the classroom, to infuse what they teach with real-life experience.”
“Jesus has great confidence in his disciples, and I have great confidence in you. Incredible confidence in you. You wouldn’t be here today if at every step along the way, people didn’t have confidence in you moving forward. Your bishops are your pastors, and each of your bishops have great respect, interest and love for each of you. Even if you ultimately discern that your life should go in a different direction, I ask you to put one foot in front of the other and do whatever it is you may be asked to do. Sometimes the best students are the ones who begin thinking they are the worst students.”
“We are all human and will have our failings, but God is not limited by those failings. Your humanity is unconditionally loved by Jesus, and that’s going to allow you to weather the storms, but you are only going to know that if you grow in your relationship with Christ, to let that relationship deepen.”