Thursday, October 15, 2015

Final Post from Philly- Stories

This final post is post is just a collection of personal anecdotes from our time in Philly.

Reggie: Walking down the street near Old St. Joseph’s Church, we ran into Reggie, a homeless man looking for a few bucks for dinner. As we began chatting with him and Andy told him his name, he shouted, “You… you Andy Reid! That ain tended to be offensive, he’s a good guy, just made the wrong calls at the wrong time, and you his son- HAHA!” We chatted with Reggie about life on the streets and prayed with him, after which he said, “Boys I’m bout to cry, give me a hug.” As I went into hug him, he held me back, looked intently at me and said, “Who are you? Look at you, them glasses make you look SMART, you… Jimmy Carter!”

Steven: After arriving at the train station late Friday night, prior to catching the bus home, T-fro, Ollie, and I stopped to grab a snack at McDonalds. As we were sitting outside, a young guy walked up to us and asked what the difference was between our church and his church (he was Baptist). I explained to him a few of the differences- exactly zero of them seemed to register as relevant. Instead, we just started talking about life. He told us about his family, which was complicated: Steven lived with his father and stepmother along with a few half-brothers and sisters. However, down the street he has three brothers and sisters from his father and mother who he rarely sees, and five more half brothers and sisters from his mom and her new husband. In the midst of this, he remained grateful. He loved his stepmom, recalling how he had been born to his mother at nearly the exact moment his stepmom had suffered a miscarriage. She tells him an angel sent him to her.
            We asked Steven what he planned to do when he graduated from high school this year; he said he would be heading off to college.
Q: Where would he be going and what would he study?
A: “Anywhere and anything man, all I know is two things man: I want to be happy, and I love money. So what I do needs to make me happy and make me lots of money; opportunities are everywhere, all I know is I’m gonna be makin’ moves.”
            The conversation continued enjoyably for a time, we prayed together and Steven was on his way. This was one of the moving moments of the trip for me for two reasons: What does the Church have to say to the families in Steven’s situation, already so broken and complicated? (I guess in many ways that is the question of the synod) Second- and more provoking for me- what do I say to a kid like Steven when he tells me emphatically that he loves money? I could see this getting him into trouble in the future, but I had nothing to say in the moment.

Door Lady: Mike walked in the door of the hotel where his mom and sister were; the lady at the door greeted him politely,
“Good morning, father.”
Mike responded, “Hello ma’am, you have yourself a good day!”
She responded more warmly than before, “Okay, you too baby!”

Philadelphia Cops:
I wanted to make a comment on the cops in Philly because I loved them.
Steve Dangerfield: perfect cop name- was the father of four and a faithful Baptist. As we were praying with him he got so excited he began strait-up preaching the word, calling down the Holy Spirit in fire and calling us to mission.
Tanya: She was the cop we met immediately after being told the wrath of God was upon us by some eccentric mega-phone “evangelists.” She was joyful and lighthearted and prayed with us for some time- then directed us to the least crowded gate.
            Apart from that, the cops were just plain kind, laid-back, and had great accents.

Matthew: We got off at the 8th street station and shortly thereafter met a substantial homeless population. There we met Matthew who had been on the streets four months after losing his job and eating up his savings. He proceeded to tell us of the repeated rejection he experienced from the churches around town- Catholic and non-Catholic- and even more the rejection of the people of Philly. He calculated on average he made $2 an hour begging on the streets. He claimed to be totally sober and appeared so to me. Yet, in a sad moment, he complained about how much money the disabled and permanently homeless made when begging, saying most of them had chosen their state while he was still fighting against it. This comment, like Steven’s comment about loving money, had a deep impact on me, and I didn’t know what to say.

Those are a few notable encounters from our time in Philadelphia; I don’t have time to put to text the many others. 

Thank you again for all the support- whether it was prayer, financial support, or just reading and sharing our blog. Our Blessed Lord surely has more adventures planned for The Helena Boys!

Peace in Christ,

Monday, October 5, 2015

Final Reflection: Oliver

Hey Everyone,

Here are the final reflection of Oliver Santin:

A lot has happened these past few days and it will take a while to process it all; I would like, however, to share a few simple reflections. 

As we prepared to embark on this epic expedition I found myself most excited about the idea of sharing this experience with my good friends, my brother seminarians; affectionately known as, “The Helena Boys”.  As we walk together on this journey toward the priesthood I find myself more and more grateful for these men who strive to give their lives completely in love to Love.  As we undergo this endeavor I see more clearly the importance of this gift of brotherly love, which the Lord has blessed us with.  What an incredible opportunity these last few days have been for us to grow closer to each other and, through each other, to the Lord. 

So in one word I would say I am grateful.  I am grateful to my Helena Boys for their love and for their example of striving for holiness.  I am grateful for all of you, our supporters, for all your prayers and all the ways you have and continue to support us in our desire to serve the Lord whole-heartedly.  Lastly and most especially, I am grateful to the Lord, to Him who is Love and Goodness; and who has given and daily gives us all.   

Know of our prayers for you all and please continue to pray for us; beg the Lord to make us His holy priests.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Witnesses of Hope

Back at Mount Angel Seminary, reflecting on our pilgrimage as Helena Boys, I am struck by one thing predominantly -- and that is, what a powerful message of hope and joy in Christ and the priesthood the Helena Boys were able to give the people of God. (Just check out the pictures on the blog ... everyone's smiling!) Wearing our clericals, the guys throwing the football around, exuding energy and spirit ... people responded to that. We had parents come up with their children and thank us for inspiring their sons. Others thanked us for providing such a positive image of the priesthood. Some people took pictures of us. Others yelled out, "Thank you for your 'yes'!" A bus full of university students on pilgrimage cheered when we got on. This wasn't all about us ... it was about HOPE for the Church, and showing the positive face of the priesthood and a life given in service of Christ and His people.

And I must say that the response we got from the people of God in turn helped boost my vocation. I am also grateful for the opportunity this pilgrimage provided for me to get to know my brothers from St. John's seminary. I am privileged to be a part of this diocese, and especially to be considered one of The Helena Boys, who are a fine group of good, faith-filled men with a deep love for Christ and His Church.

Thank you to the diocese of Helena and all our benefactors for making this pilgrimage possible.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Pilgrimage of Hope

Here it is, the after math of our 3,600 mile, 10 state, 7 day pilgrimage.  So much to try to sum up.  The one word that comes to mind is that of hope.  This has been a pilgrimage of hope.  This journey didn’t just start last Tuesday when the Mount Angel boys flew into Denver.  No, it started last spring with the desire to pilgrimage to see Pope Francis and partake in the World Meeting of Families as a brotherhood.  Like any good pilgrimage, this one was not without its obstacles.  We had potential buses come and go, no place to stay, and our itinerary in Philly was far from being fixed.  But we pushed on, for two main reasons I think: because of the deep desire in our hearts and the encouragement of others.  These two elements gave us hope that this was indeed the Lord’s will and He would provide what was lacking.

Our desire was the Lord’s way of asking us to drive on.  Any authentic desire from God is never in vain.  These desires need to be purified and well discerned, but if they are truly from God, He will not leave them unfulfilled.  Such was the case for us.  God our Father fulfilled our desires for this trip beyond any of our expectations.  In a sense, these desires were just His way of expanding our hearts to receive His great gifts.

If it were up to me, I would have bagged this idea a long time ago because of the complications that came with it.  However, the encouragement of the brothers kept me driving on.  Pretty quickly this pilgrimage became larger than ourselves.  The entire family of God in different parts of the country got behind us.  You encouraged us with your prayers, recommendations, and financial support.  In the end, the entire cost of our trip was paid for by your generous contributions.

Fast forward to last Tuesday.  All was in place and we hit the road.  The Lord was true to his word.  If anything, all obstacles subsided and all that was left was the hope of a fruitful trip.  Joy filled the bus and our spirits high.  Every stop we made, people were not only excited about our journey, but above all, about the Pope Francis’ visit to the USA.  It’s no secret that there has been much tension and division in this country surrounding marriage and the family.  The timing of this World Meeting of the Families in Philadelphia was perfect.  Our Holy Father’s expectant visit to the US was bringing much needed hope to American’s hearts.

This was much more evident when we landed in the City of Brotherly Love.  I’ve always said that when you see a city through the eyes of the Church you are able to perceive its beauty.  Such was the case of our experience in Philadelphia.  All the stories the boys have been telling perfectly describe the goodness of the American people.  The arrival of Pope Francis confirmed this genuineness of people’s hearts.  Divisions ceased and hearts were filled with hope.  It didn’t matter where we were or who we met, generally everyone greeted us with open arms.  Francis is truly the people’s pope no matter what creed or religion they profess.  

I think it’s safe to say that it’s not Pope Francis that people are truly searching for; our deep desire is for Jesus Christ Himself whose vicar Francis is.  Jesus is the only man who can bring true unity; He is the only man who can bring true hope.  This is Who was presented in Philadelphia this weekend, the living Body of Christ, His Church, represented by Pope Francis the head and the People of God the members.  And where Jesus Christ is present there is hope.

This unity and hope was confirmed for me during the Papal Mass on Sunday.  Although we didn’t get to view the Mass in person, we did get to participate intimately in our distribution of Holy Communion.  Jesus asked Peter to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-17), but he also asks us.  What a humbling responsibility to be charged with the duty to feed the People of God with the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This was indeed the highlight of this pilgrimage for me.  Never have I experienced the Universal Church in such a large degree.  Never have I experienced the people’s desire for communion with God as in this Papal Mass.

This opportunity was well worth the 80 hours of bus travel it took to experience it.  In fact, the bus ride is what paved the way.  Our desire for communion isn’t just with God, but also with each other.  The Helena Boys’ desire for this communion was fulfilled.  We met God in the good people of Philadelphia.  We met Him amongst each other.  And we also met Him in the viewers of this blog.  What a joy it has been to share our experience with you.  This pilgrimage was not our own.  We represented all those we know and love with whom we took to Philly in our prayers.  It is now our hope, as we return to our normal routine in the seminary, that the graces we received in Philadelphia will bear fruit in the lives of all of you and in the lives of all we will encounter for years to come.  Thanks for making this such an exceptional journey.  Peace, db