In early March of 2020, Mundelein Seminary faced a challenge that the world had never seen before: the COVID-19 pandemic. As the seminary developed ways to respond, it stayed focused on its mission to form priests who could react to the changing pastoral dynamics across the country.
On the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the patron of the universal Church, Pope Francis declared the year of St. Joseph in the apostolic letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart). Throughout this special year in the Church, the Mundelein Seminary community is joining in the celebration with a variety of opportunities to grow closer to Jesus’ earthly father.
Beginning in January, the seminary community began gathering for monthly evenings of reflection about St. Joseph. After vespers and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a guest speaker offered reflections on an aspect of St. Joseph’s life and spiritual character, based on Pope Francis’ Patris Corde and the Litany of St. Joseph. Speakers include priests, bishops and laypeople from various dioceses and backgrounds. The talks are available for online viewing at www.usml.edu/year-of-saint-joseph and will continue to be posted monthly through November.
Father John Kartje kicked off the series with a meditation on St. Joseph as a model of affective maturity for managing our emotions when making decisions. Our first monthly speaker, Bishop Joseph Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, started the year with a reflection on St. Joseph as a beloved father. Bishop Perry likened the home of St. Joseph of Nazareth to a first seminary for the first priest, Jesus.
“St. Joseph is the model for all Christian men who seek to do the will of God for their life,” he said. The type of father that is proposed to all seminarians and priests is similar to St. Joseph, because “he is the father without begetting his son in the flesh.” Bishop Perry concluded by recommending that we look up to St. Joseph because he can help us in our ongoing formation to become holy men.
Apart from the reflections throughout the year, the community was also invited to join a 33-day spiritual journey to deepen our relationship with God through St. Joseph. Little is written about St. Joseph, yet enough is known about him to paint a picture of the man who was a father to Jesus while on earth, and the most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His greatness is hidden in his faith, obedience and humility; he is a man whose actions speak louder than words. He stays in the shadows so others can shine more brightly.
“To be trusted with the care of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and the Most Blessed Woman among all women was not something to be taken lightly.”
For many of us who wanted to learn more about Joseph, the consecration was a perfect opportunity. The participants were gifted a book for the consecration entitled The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Father Donald H. Calloway. Each day, we learned to follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph by reflecting and meditating on his life and his virtues through the writings of other saints and countless stories of people who have run to St. Joseph for help and have never been left unaided. Perhaps the best part was ending each day with the Litany to St. Joseph, whose titles and virtues we aim to imitate.
We were joined online in this consecration journey by more than 100 Mundelein Seminary supporters and friends who participated online in a Facebook group. Several seminarians led weekly Q&A sessions in which they dove deeper into selections from the book and shared stories about their vocations, their seminary experiences and their own devotion to St. Joseph.
“It moved me to think about how St. Joseph ultimately lived a life of priesthood without being granted the title of priest,” said Deacon Joby Joseph, a seminarian for the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago. “There’s more to his life than is mentioned in the Scriptures, and that’s been a great starting point of prayer for me.”
On March 19 — the feast of St. Joseph and the day of the consecration — we were blessed to hear Cardinal Blase Cupich’s reflection on St. Joseph as an obedient father, whose vocabulary amounts to his action.
“If there was any word that he spoke, it was the name of Jesus because he was responsible for giving the name,” he said. Cardinal Cupich blessed the bracelets containing a medal of St. Joseph and handed them out to each seminarian who completed the consecration.
It was a joyous moment to embark on a spiritual journey with our brother seminarians and to deepen our relationship with God through St. Joseph. What an extraordinary and amazing grace it was that God had bestowed on St. Joseph. To be trusted with the care of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and the Most Blessed Woman among all women was not something to be taken lightly. God the Father must have made sure that the chosen man was capable of handling what was at stake.
In St. Joseph, God found a man after his own heart. Father St. Joseph, pray for us.