Vacation…what an multi-faceted word. In one sense it means a break from the daily grind of life for a time and enter another world, in search of rest and rejuvenation. In another sense it means adventure, where we go out from our homes to a new place and explore the amazing things God created on the earth, in search of excitement. In yet another sense it means an inward discovery of oneself no matter where geographically a person finds oneself, in search of balance amidst the roller-coaster of life. This kind of experience is crucial to any well-balanced life, even in the priesthood, and so in May I took the opportunity to do just that: I took a vacation. Not a vacation from my vocation (as is often warned against; not a vacation from reality), but I went on a genuine vacation where I discovered God’s grace in my life in much deeper ways than I could have ever expected all the while being true to the man and priest God created me to be. Read more
|Andy and I overlooking the impact site.|
|Incredible view of the Grand Canyon with a great friend!|
|The natural beauty of the Grand Canyon.|
|Enjoying the moment.|
|From the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised.|
|Mater Misericordiae Mission parish.|
So it’s been a while and I wanted to take this opportunity to post my last post for my trip to Guatemala. I have actually been back in the United States for 2 weeks now (time sure flies) and am just about fully settled back into the seminary routine (see my upcoming post on that). This is just a quick wrap-up post about my awesome summer experience.
Definitely the most exciting part of my Guatemala experience was summed up in the pictures of my previous post. Climbing to a Volcano and going to experience the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal were definitely the highlights of my experiences outside of the city of Antigua. The remaining weeks were spent primarily in my usual routine of spanish tutoring during the week and the weekends were spent just taking things easy, wandering around Antigua, and trying to catch up on sleep. In those weeks we were able to take a school trip to a coffee farm. We saw coffee plants and learned about the process of harvesting the plants. After finally coming to appreciate coffee in its fullness it was remarkable to actual see the plant that provides for the drink that I am so accustomed to.
During these weeks I was definitely feeling homesick so in order to feel a bit more like home I had my mom email me her recipe for chocolate chip cookies and I did my best to bake some with my host family. We then ate cookies and played “Uno” (yes “Uno” is played in Spanish speaking countries too!). It was a lot of fun, we got to converse with the kids and play a fun game too. I won one of the games.
We also finally made our way up to the Cerro de la Cruz – a huge cross that is on the hill overlooking the city (see my picture below). It was an awe-inspiring view at 6:00am with nobody up there besides ourselves.
All in all my summer was one full of God’s grace. It was very challenging being in a place so far from home and feeling a bit isolated from everyone back home but I had God with me and persevered. I even learned quite a bit of Spanish along the way! (and made some great friends too) I am no where near fluent in Spanish, but I am able to converse simply and have quite a solid foundation in grammar to continue in learning Spanish on my own back in the United States (by hopefully engaging in conversation with hispanic seminarians and by means of Rosetta Stone). I also am very familiar with the Mass in Spanish and that will help me as I learn how to celebrate the Mass in Spanish as a future priest. My experience in Guatemala has taught me to be grateful for everything that we, as Americans, are blessed with and typically take for granted (wide sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.). I will never quite look at a shower in the same way again, definitely not without gratitude in my heart that we have what we have in the United States of America.
Gratitude. Gratitude is the virtue that I would like to cultivate this year in seminary, and this summer experience was a good launch into that endeavor.
|Real life coffee beans!|
|Out for a walk with my teacher.|
|Making Mom’s chocolate chip cookies with my host family!|
|Cerro de la Cruz – overlooking Antigua.|
|The “reflection shot” of the Arco de Santa Catalina.|
|The soil of the United States of America was a welcome sight!|
Another impressive couple of weeks! I am now well into my fifth week here in Guatemala doing my best to learn Spanish and immerse myself in the culture. It’s going well, but I’m definitely feeling a tad homesick, the German in me wants more punctuality and rule following than what is commonly lived here (along with paved streets and wider sidewalks). It’s all good though! Living here definitely is making me appreciate the life that I am blessed with in the United States and I will take that gratitude with me when I return in August.
Two weekends ago I got to check off a bucket-list item. I hiked a volcano! (well in actuality we didn’t hike THE volcano, but hiked as close as we could). We hiked Volcan de Pacaya, which is an active volcano in the southern part of Guatemala. It is one of the most common volcanoes for tourists to climb because it is the safest (robbers sometimes frequent some of the lesser hiked volcanoes). The last major eruption of Volcan de Pacaya was in March 2014 (just 3 months ago!) and we even wandered out onto the lava bed that the volcano created then. The lava bed had residual heat beneath it that in some areas we were even able to roast marshmallows and ate S’mores. It’s truly incredible what our Earth is capable of!
|Roasting marshmallows! Yay S’mores!|
This past weekend was also filled with adventures as a group of us traveled to the northern part of Guatemala to see the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. Some of these ruins were built around 8,000 B.C. and are still standing today! We spent a day in Flores (on an island in a lake near Tikal) and just enjoying a bit of vacation (we stayed in a hotel with AC). We got to eat supper at a restaurant and watch the sun set over the lake. Very beautiful. The day in Tikal was absolutely stunning. It’s quite literally in the jungle in Central America. It was incredibly humid and the heat index was roughly at 105ºF. We had a guided tour around the ruins and got to see all of the major temples and places the Mayans would have lived and were told the history of the ruins. We even got to see a bit of wildlife, we saw a couple spider monkeys, a tarantula (which was sure to stay a number of feet away from), and heard howler monkeys in the distance. We were able to climb a few of the temples and see the impressive view over the jungle and just marvel at the engingeering and intelligence of the ancient Mayans. Their mathematical and astronomical knowledge would have been on par with our modern understanding. Tikal is truly an incredible place to visit and I do not regret the crazy travel that it took to get there. We took two overnight buses (8 hours to get from Guatemala City to Flores) and when we were getting back to the bus station at the end of our time in Flores, we crammed 7 people in a taxi… eh, it’s Guatemala, these things just sorta happen without missing a beat.
|Templo 1 (Temple 1).|
|The Star Wars nerd in me rejoiced when I got to see the same place where the Rebel Base in Ep 4 was filmed (at Tikal)!|
Please continue to keep all of us here in Guatemala in your prayers. A number of seminarians are finishing up their time here and are headed back to the USA, but we still have three and half more weeks of learning. As the weeks keep going it will be difficult for us to keep focused, so pray for our ability to absorb as much Spanish language as we can in the next few weeks! We’ll be back stateside before you know it!
|This is the view of Antigua from our rooftop in the afternoon when it’s probably going to rain and visibility is poor, it was taken on the first day we got into Guatemala.|
Hey everyone! I am now in Guatemala, beginning to learn Español as best as I can. We are 1 week into our 8 week program at a language school called Probigua in Antigua, Guatemala. This place is a whole different world! (por supuesto). I was expecting a drastic change in culture from the USA, so my transition to life in Central America is going extremely well. As long as I am able to just go with the flow everything happens smoothly and I am able to not get stressed out. We flew out of Denver on Sunday June 22 to Guatemala City. I was surprised at how relaxed I was about the whole process. I knew that we would land and someone would be there waiting for us with our names on a sign. That was all I knew, and I was okay with that. I knew God would take care of me and so I let things happen as they would. Everything went very smoothly and we were picked up and we drove out of Guatemala City to Antigua and were dropped off at our host family’s house. Our host family is great, a single mom (dad passed away) with 3 children (a teenager boy, and 2 girls ages 12 and 10). Her grandpa lives here too and other family members live very close by. I get my own bedroom and Deacon Augustine (another seminarian from Wyoming) has his own bedreem and we share a bathroom. We basically have the top level of their house to ourselves. Their house is organized differently from houses in the USA. My bedroom opens onto the rooftop (it is an outside door), and Deacon Augustine has the same setup. The first floor has a small kitchen, dining room, living room, and other bedrooms and a bathroom.
I was impressed by the beauty of the land in Guatemala. We are in a valley surrounded by montains and the weather is vastly different from Wyoming. It rains almost everyday here. Out of the 6 days we’ve been here so far, only one day was without rain. The seasons are backwards to what I’m used to. The locals call this winter even though we are still north of the equator (we are in the rainy season). It’s a good thing I brought an umbrella…it’s definitely getting used! The morning after we got here I was blown away by the view I got when I stepped outside and looked south. Guatemala has volcanoes! Antigua has 4 volcanoes nearby and a huge one directly south of town that overlooks the city. This particular volcano is called: “Volcan de Agua.” It is called the Volcano of Water because it is an inactive volcano and a long time ago the crater at the top of the volcano filled with water because of rain and overflowed down the mountain destroying the nearby towns.
|Volcán de Agua from our rooftop.|
|Volcán de Agua|
|Probigua Language School|
A typical day for me here in Antigua consists of breakfast at 7am, classes from 8am to 10am then a thirty minute break (which is nice for grabbing coffee or tea) and then class again until 12pm. Lunch is at 1pm back at our host family’s house (about a 15 minute walk). In the afternoon I have class from 2pm to 4pm and Mass is at 5pm (at La Merced). I am hoping to go to the gym every day after Mass before supper which is back at our house at 7:30pm. Then it’s homework and study and bed. My days during the week are very full. Class for me is one-on-one learning with a tutor. My teacher and I sit and talk completely in Spanish the whole time. She knows only a little English so occasionally we look up words in a Spanish-English dictionary. She is teaching me the grammar of Spanish and a whole lot of vocabulary words (I’ve got quite a bit of memorization to do!). I find I am remarkably better at understanding Spanish that I thought I would be. I can understand my teacher fairly well (of course she is using a much simplier vocabulary) and am able to communicate many things that I didn’t think I could. I am growing in confidence and with 7 more weeks of this I hope I will improve a lot.
|La Iglesia de La Merced|
|A typical lunch: Carne de vaca, frijoles, potato, nachos, y tortillas.|
I also find that I love the food here in Guatemala. I have always liked Mexican food and the food here is very similar. Typically for breakfast we get lots of fruit (bananas, apples, mangos, and papayas) and sometimes eggs or toast or cereal. We also get orange juice and instant coffee. I am definitely not used to instant coffee. Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day and includes meat, potatoes, refried beans, and (my favorite) corn tortillas! Supper is a lighter meal and so far has been soups with pan dulce (sweet bread). The food here is much healthier than typical meals in the USA. Our house mom doesn’t prepare anything that has been processed, everything is fresh. The fruit especially is extremely fresh and local. And it is all delicous! Is it bad that I really look forward to every meal?
|A typical supper: mushroom soup (with cheese sauce) and pan dulce.|
|Volcán de Fuego was smoking one morning as we walked to school.|
This first weekend we stayed in Antigua and did a bit of exploring around the city. It is a small touristy city so there are a lot of things to see and shops to visit (there is even a McDonald’s). Also, this Sunday is the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, but in Guatemala each Church takes a Sunday throughout the months of mid-June to mid-August to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in a grand way. So we went to Mass at La Mercad where they were celebrating Corpus Christi this Sunday and that meant fireworks outside the Church as Mass began and a Eucharistic procession after Mass throughout the streets of Antigua. The people covered parts of the streets with flowers and leaves for Jesus. The procession was a few kilometers and took a number of hours to complete and there were fireworks practically at every part along the way and a marching band too. It’s definitely a vastly different experience than what we experience in the United States.
In future weekends we plan on getting out of Antigua and seeing Guatemala as a whole. We want to visit Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlán) one weekend, go see the Mayan Ruins at Tikal (northern Guatemala) another weekend, and also climb a volcano (Volcán de Pacaya most likely). This summer is going to be a great way to see and live in this amazing culture in Guatemala, learn the language, and keep growing ever closer to God, our Heavenly Father, as I am constantly reminded to place all my trust in His most Sacred Heart. Keep praying for us down here and know of my prayers for you all and that I miss you!
More travel has been in my life this past week. Late last week I traveled across the state to go to the Grey’s River Valley (south of Jackson Hole, WY). All the seminarians of Wyoming that could had gathered for a 3 day retreat to focus on deepening our relationship with God and also focus on growing in brotherhood with each other. This is one of the few opportunities we have to spend time together since we are spread among a few different seminaries throughout the country. We stayed at a guest ranch 30 miles into the Grey’s River valley. It was absolutely beautiful and void of any cellular signals (which is always a blessing to be able to completely “unplug” from the outside world). Each day we would gather specifically for Morning Prayer, Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and Evening Prayer. We spent a day on the Snake River, white water rafting. It was a bit intense of a trip, the river was flowing very fast and high and cold from the runoff due to it being springtime. The next day a few of us were able to go hiking around in the valley and it was cold enough outside that it was misty and even rain/sleet fell on us as we worked our way back to the cabins.
Coming off of a retreat in the mountains, my family and I headed east into smaller hills, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and got to spend a couple days camping. I think this was the first time in a couple years since my immediate family has all been together for a camping trip. These kind of trips are becoming rarer so I did my best to relish the experience. We went camping with another family (good friends of ours) and so when it rained (of course) we camped out in my parent’s camper trailer playing “20 Questions” for a couple hours and eating JiffyPop popcorn. During the day we fished (2 fish were caught) and we drove through Custer State Park and found the buffalo. My brother, Greg, and I also took all the kids to the Flintstone Village theme park in Custer, SD that afternoon and it was enjoyed by all. I even ventured onto the swing set with the kids, I haven’t done that in years, it was exhilarating! All in all a good time to spend enjoying family, friends, and God’s beautiful creation outside in the Black Hills.
I am now in a brief, brief calm before the next round of activities. This weekend is the ordination Mass of Deacon Brian Hess and Deacon Bob Rodgers in Cheyenne, WY. I am so excited for them and for the their ministry! Please keep them in prayer as they begin their wonderful life of service as ordained priests! And then shortly after celebrating with them, a small group of us seminarians will board a plane for Guatemala to learn Spanish for the next 8 weeks. So stay tuned for pictures and updates as I live, learn, and pray in Guatemala.
This past week gives me yet more reason to agree to the name of my blog. I have definitely been roamin’ about the country in the past several days, almost 2,000 miles so far! Travel seems to be a constant experience of my summers and more travel is coming my way (including an 8-week immersion to Guatemala coming up later this month). I have currently managed to work my way through 4 Star Wars audiobooks to help ease the long hours on the road.
Last week I headed down to Denver for a couple days, saw some good friends and got to spend a retreat day at the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, CO with the priests of my diocese (Diocese of Cheyenne). It is always a joy to be able to spend a day praying and socializing with the priests whom I will, in just a couple years, be a part of their shared presbyterate.
This past weekend was also exciting as I made my way across I-90 in South Dakota into Sioux City, IA for diaconate ordinations. It was such a blessing to be part the ordination of my close friend, now Deacon Brian Feller. After his ordination I traveled up to his home town and joined in the celebration at his house and got to meet all of his family that were present. What an awesome family, they were all kind and extremely welcoming. The next moring, Pentecost Sunday, Deacon Brian was deacon for the Mass at his home parish and I assisted as Thurifer. Deacon Brian preached about how the Spirit gives us gifts to live as beloved children of the Father and how we must “let it go” and let the Spirit lead us in our lives. It was such an honor and a blessing for me to be present for Brian and all of the events surrounding his ordination.
Next week I go on retreat with the seminarians of Wyoming. We are headed to the west side of the state to enjoy being with God, enjoy being with each other, and enjoy the immense beauty of Wyoming. That means another long road trip ahead of me, maybe I’ll work through a few more Star Wars books… 😉
So once again I’m trying to get a blog going and this time I think I may have something that I want to stay with. The Roamin’ Catholic Seminarian… to chronicle my life and its many journeys throughout Wyoming and the rest of the world, specifically when I’m in Guatemala this summer and elsewhere in the future. (Plus it’s punny…get it?)
So to kick it off I wanted to share a brief look at my life this past year in seminary. I was in 2nd Theology this year at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO and wow, what a year! Many graces came my way during this year including a newfound interior freedom to love myself, new friends, new theology classes, new mountains climbed, new trails hiked, new races run, and new places visited. It was quite a busy year.
If I were to synthesize my year I would have to say that, interiorly, it was characterized by a spiritual movement of love to accept the person God created me to be: a Beloved Son of the Father. I spent the time unpacking the graces received last summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF). At IPF I was blessed by experiencing an 8-day Ignatian silent retreat where I was able to encounter God the Father in a way that I had never experienced before. I learned how to receive the Father’s love for me and began to finally see my life in a radically new way: my life, with all its triumphs and trials, is not bad or corrupt (because I know my own failures), but is a blessing and God is using it to reveal His glory. My own sufferings will only help me in my future priestly ministry to bring others to God’s healing love as well. My semester at St. John Vianney was an unfolding of that primary grace. I readjusted back to seminary life easily and made some incredible new friends. I found myself much more comfortable just being me, which hasn’t happened in a long time. I managed to get outside a fair number of times, hike a mountain (Mount Bierstadt), find some geocaches (Roxborough State Park), run a few races (the Run Denver series) and still felt like academics were a little too much and preventing me from heading outdoors. I also was assigned to a local parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and was involved there and met the wonderful parish family and was blessed to minister there. The primary spiritual push from God this spring was to encourage me to learn how to enjoy God in the individual moments of life, even amidst the crazy, stressful, and hectic academics that were occurring.
Right now I am home for just a couple of weeks, soaking up as much vacation as I can, allowing myself to be renewed and rejuvinated by God before witnessing the priest ordination of my fellow seminarian brothers, Deacon Brian Hess (see his blog here) and Deacon Bob Rodgers in the middle of June. Then I’ll be headed off to Guatemala for 8 weeks for a Spanish immersion to learn the language and the culture where I will hopefully be able to update my blog for you all to keep you informed of my progress and, of course, to share pictures!
Enjoy the barrage of pictures below from my 2nd year of Theology in Denver!
|St. John Vianney Theological Seminary|
|Hiking on our annual seminary-wide camping trip. Bryce Lungren (Helena, MT) and I atop Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range (near Laramie, WY).|
|This year I have formed a great friendship with Andy Miller (seminarian from Phoenix, AZ). Together we kicked off the school year and summited Mt. Evans (we drove a car up the mountain).|
|Atop Mt. Bierstadt (14,065 feet)|
|Celebrating the hike up Mt. Bierstadt.|
|John Paul Lewis (Oklahoma City, OK) and I on Mt. Bierstadt.|
|Last fall I was blessed to be installed as a lector. My family came down to share in that moment with me.|
|In October I flew to Phoenix, AZ to visit Kim Komando and her staff. We got to watch her broadcast her show live and toured the Musical Instrument Museum afterwards.|
|Deacon Keith Kenney (Phoenix, AZ) really likes Christmas (and so do I!).|
|One of the races I ran with a group of friends, including Deacon Brian Hess.|
|I was blessed to be a part of the wedding ceremony of some great friends, Sean and Mary.|
|I ran a 10K in Arvada, CO in January: the 2014 Polar Prowl.|
|We watched the annoying defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl…and had a cupcake war.|
|Deacon Brian and I were visited by Padre Pio!|
|I was surprised with brunch by a group of friends for my birthday.|
|Andy also took me out for my birthday. We spent a fun day in Dillon, CO.|
|The next weekend we found the botanitcal gardens…in March. The outdoor exhibits weren’t growing yet…but the catci were cool!|
|Climbing Castle Rock and I almost got stuck.|
|But we still summited Castle Rock.|
|Deacon Brian and I made a whirlwind trip during Easter break to Ontario, Canada. The Niagara Falls were beautiful!|
|We arrived at St. Meinrad School of Theology for the diaconate ordinations of two Wyoming seminarians, Augustine and Hiep!|
|Last hike of the year…Maxwell Falls trail in the foothills of the Rockies, near Evergreen, CO.|
|It was very fitting to begin and end the year in the mountains with Andy.|
“Incredible”, “Amazing”, “Well worth it”, “Awe-inspiring”, and “Fun” are just fraction of the words that I could use to describe this pilgrimage to Rome, Italy that I went on. I traveled with a group of parishioners from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, SD lead by Fr. Mike (the rector of the Cathedral). We left for Rome on October 8, 2009 and got back on the 18th of the month. I want to give a day by day account of what we did, what thoughts came to me during those times, and generally what we did. Obviously I won’t be able to share my whole experience because it’s my own journey and these are all experiences unique to me, however, I hope to convey some of the emotion and feelings of my experience to you.
October 8, 2009 – Travel Day
This day was very short because as we flew to Rome we lost 8 hours making this day the shortest I have ever experienced, only a measly 16 hours! We flew from Rapid City, SD to Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN to Amsterdam, Netherlands to Rome, Italy. By the time we got into Amsterdam it was 6am (on October 9th) but only 10pm Rapid City time (on October 8th) so I wasn’t tired at all. On the flight from Amsterdam to Rome I crashed though and slept for most of the 2 hours plane ride.
October 9, 2009 – Such a looooong day
In order to help our bodies adjust to the new time, we made this day a full day. We flew into Rome around midday, then delivered our bags to the Convent where we were staying and walked to an ATM to get some Euros for the week.
On this day we went and saw some of the following:
The Piazza Navona – A large open area with street vendors that was once a race track (circus) during the Empire.
Musei Capitolini – This is a two building museum on the Capitoline Hill. The museums are filled with Roman sculptures, some mosaics and paintings.
I also made a new special friend on that day, Nicholas. He was the 9 month old that came with his parents, Bob and Rebecca. I carried him around the ruins somewhat and it was cool showing him the world. He also really liked candles so when we went into one of the churches after viewing the ruins, Nick and I lit a prayer candle for “everyone back home” so if you are reading this, Nick and I prayed for you!
We stopped by the Trevi Fountain on our walk that afternoon. This is the famous fountain that guarantees your return to Rome if you throw a coin in. I threw in a couple…so maybe I’ll come back more than once?? 😉
We got to tour the Castle of San Angelo on this day. That was a cool place. This was the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian. It was gradually transformed into a fortress and was used by the popes from time to time for security. There is a passageway that connects the castle to the Vatican.