Photo: Dan Valenti

Marian seminarian Br. Brent, MIC, says meeting pilgrims to The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill has been the most rewarding part of his apostolic year.

A Year of Growth

Apostolic Year Gives Seminarians 'Critical Experience'

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Brother Thad, MIC, third from right, is spending his apostolic year helping out at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., and assisting at Marian Fathers' mission to parishes in the U.S. Brother Thad is pictured here with Fr. Diego Maximino, MIC, center, on a recent mission

By Dan Valenti (Jan 6, 2012)
Part of a seminarian's formation for a life of service as a Marian priest is his apostolic year.

"The purpose of an apostolic year is to offer the seminarian an opportunity to engage in active ministry and to grow in his pastoral skills," says the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Marian Fathers in the United States and Argentina. "It's also an excellent way for him to learn about the priesthood as well as providing critical experience to see if he is able to meet the demands of the religious life."

Three Seminarians, One Apostolic Year
For three of Marian seminarians, the apostolic year has been invaluable. The year runs through the end of August.

"I am learning so much," says Br. Chris, MIC, who has taken a lead role in helping to set up and give Marian missions to parishes throughout the United States. On a typical mission, two or three Marians present talks on Divine Mercy. "It's important for someone to know if they are called to this way of life before they make perpetual vows. The apostolic year allows for us to do just that."

Brother Chris refers to the late, Great Mercy Pope, Blessed John Paul II: "In order to be properly formed, Pope John Paul II told us we must be shaped in four aspects — human, pastoral, spiritual, and intellectual. This past year has enabled me to grow in all four of these areas, and it has prepared me well for my return to Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., in the fall."

He says his pastoral year "has been rewarding for my spiritual life, particularly. Traveling with Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, on the mission team has been a tremendous benefit to my formation, especially the spiritual dimension. While we are on the road bringing the message of Divine Mercy to parishes throughout the country, we support each other in our spiritual growth. Praying the Rosary, singing the Chaplet [of The Divine Mercy], and doing holy hours together are just some of the benefits that I have received this year."

In Imitation of Christ
For Br. Thad, MIC, the apostolic year has provided "the ability to deepen the grace of the second week of the [Ignatian] spiritual exercises," which is "to know Jesus more intimately that I might love Him more deeply and more closely."

Brother Thad is spending his apostolic year helping out in the pilgrimage office at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., and serving as part of the mission team.

"I remember as a Jesuit novice going through spiritual exercises, imagining what it must have been like for the Lord when He traversed Palestine in His public ministry," he says. "I now have the opportunity to experience some of what Jesus experienced in traveling and giving missions."

Brother Thad says the experience of his apostolic year, which ends at the end of August, "makes concrete the sacrifices I undertake through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I do not live these vows because I believe in ideals. I have taken these vows because I want my life to resemble the life of Jesus as much as possible."

He mentions the influence of "Starting Afresh from Christ," a Vatican document on the renewal of religious vows. "'Starting Afresh' mentions how we religious are to be first and foremost extensions of the humanity of Christ in the world today, so that the Holy Spirit, as He did in Mary, can make the Word flesh again in our daily lives."

Meeting Pilgrims Provides Spiritual Insight
Brother Brent, MIC, works half a day with the Eden Hill maintenance staff, getting his hands dirty with the 1,001 tasks involved in keeping the building and grounds of Eden Hill in great shape. In the afternoons, he assists on the altar for the Shrine's daily services: Rosary for Life at 1:30 p.m., Mass at 2 p.m., and the singing of the Chaplet at 3 p.m.

Like Br. Thad, Br. Brent helps out at the Shrine with almost anything that's needed. His favorite part of his apostolic year has been meeting Shrine pilgrims.

"It's quite an experience coming into contact with pilgrims," Br. Brent says. "I have learned a lot from them and in getting the feel for what [the pilgrimage experience] is like at the Shrine. People often ask me for prayer. They share their problems and blessings.

"For example, I recently had a couple tell me they came to the Shrine looking for a miracle for their sick granddaughter. They asked me to pray for her. I told them about the novena to [Marian Founder] Blessed Stanislaus [Papczynski] and then took them to the Shrine of the Holy Innocents [on the lower level of the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine]. It was an emotional encounter. I've learned that most everyone comes to Eden Hill for a reason."

Each day of the apostolic year conveys new meaning, new insight, and a deepening of faith for these three Marian seminarians. They serve, asking but one thing in return: your prayers of support as they make their way along the road to service as Marian priests, God willing.

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