Summer in Sheridan

I have been told that I need to blog more…ahem Meg (see her blog here).  So I figured I would take this opportunity to share what my summer is looking like.

My summer assignment as a deacon is at Holy Name Catholic Church in Sheridan, WY.  Sheridan is nestled next to the Big Horn Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains in WY) and is a beautiful place to be assigned for the summer.  The population of Sheridan is roughly 20,000 so it is big enough to have some of the mainstream stores (Wal-Mart, Albertson’s, etc.) but still has that small town feel (every third Thursday evening during the summer they close main street for a street festival, which I am looking forward to experiencing).  My experience of the parish has been fantastic.  The people of God here are very welcoming and hospitable.  This past weekend was my first weekend here for the summer and I introduced myself to the parish by preaching (see that homily here), but since Sheridan has two mission churches (one in Ranchester and the other in Story) I preached one Mass in Sheridan one in Ranchester, and one at the VA hospital here in Sheridan as well.  During my time here I will be blessed to preach and assist at Mass, baptize (I am very much looking forward to this!), visit the sick in the Nursing Home and Hospital and bring them the Holy Eucharist, assist it weddings and funerals, and experience day to day life in all the parish functions throughout the summer.  I even get my own office in the Holy Name Pastoral Center and it is great!  I’m so used to having my bedroom and office all in one small dorm room, so to have my own office feels very strange and liberating.  In addition to the parish functions, I plan to get a kick start on my thesis that I will be writing during my final year of Theology.  I plan on writing about the Theology of Suffering as seen in Pope Saint John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Salvici Doloris.  So hopefully this summer I get a lot of reading done preppring me to begin that work (as well as read for fun too!).
Life in Sheridan is not limited to the parish life.  I’m getting back into running (I’ve had some back problems during the past year that has prevented me from doing some of that, but I’m better now) and Sheridan has a pretty awesome run/bike path that follows the Tongue River and the Little Goose Creek through the city called “Sheridan Pathways” that is cool to run on.  Also, since I’m so close to the mountains I plan on exploring them during my off time to relish God’s beauty in creation.  Last Saturday a group of us hiked to Paradise Falls in the Big Horn Mountains and here a few of the pictures from that incredible (although short) hike.


Another thing that I’m excited to get more a chance to do is cooking.  It’s fairly hard in seminary cook since the kitchen provides us with incredible meals most every day, but in a parish cooking is easier to do.  I’ve already gotten the opportunity to try to make homemade corn tortillas (Meg helped) with fresh chorizo and onions and they turned out pretty decent.  I’ll be trying to perfect that recipe as the summer goes on.

I think that summarizes my coming summer pretty well.  Primarily my role this summer is to grow ever closer to the Lord through prayer and the sacraments and to help the people in Sheridan do the same through the Lord’s gift of the diaconate ministry in me.  Please pray for me and know of my prayers for you too!

Finding God in the Moment – My Weekend in Arizona

This past weekend I had the opportunity to head outside of Denver for the weekend.  This would be the equivalent to Seminary’s version of a “Fall Break.”  It occurred right after mid-terms for the majority of the seminarians and so it came at a very opportune time.  Many of us have felt the drag of the semester by now and were in desperate need of rejuvenation.  Just as Jesus, after feeding the 5,000, went up on a mountain to pray by himself (Matthew 14:23), we all, also, are very much in need of time away from studies and the busyness of life to retreat by ourselves and pray, to re-encounter God anew away from the distractions of our lives.  This weekend gave me that opportunity.  Now I didn’t go up a mountain as Jesus did, rather I went away from the mountains of Colorado to the desert of Arizona, which was where God wanted me to be.
I flew to Phoenix to see a really close friend of mine, Andy Miller, who was in seminary with me last year, but has since discerned that God is calling him elsewhere, so he now he lives at his home in Phoenix working at a local Catholic parish.  We spent time each day in prayer and just relaxed, enjoying spending time together, including playing the card game “Sequence” with Andy’s family and sitting on the roof of their house looking at the city.  Saturday was a fun filled day exploring some of the natural beauty in Arizona.  Stopping to see Meteor Crater (Experience the Impact!) was a spur of the moment decision that we made on our way north towards Flagstaff.  The site is the first “proven” meteor impact site in the United States.  The meteor struck the earth about 50,000 years ago creating a crater that is nearly one mile in diameter and almost 2.5 miles in circumference and about 550 feet deep.
The point of the day, though, was to see the Grand Canyon.  We arrived at about 4:30pm and was blessed to be able to stay and watch the sun set over the canyon.  We clambered out onto a rock that had a magnificent view of the canyon and just sat there watching the shadows slowly creep up the canyon and the sunlight disappear.  We prayed Evening Prayer for Sunday on that rock and soaked up the beauty of God in creation.  It was the first time in a while that I have allowed myself to just sit, relax, and enjoy something that beautiful.  The experience showed me once again the crucial importance of taking time out of our busy lives to enjoy life.  Too often I get caught up in what “needs” to be done and don’t allow myself to take time to enjoy the moments in life, I’m too concerned with what I have to do next, and in doing so, forget to live in the present.  God is the eternal “I AM”, not the “I WAS” or “I WILL BE.”  God is the God of the present and that is important to remember lest we forget to see God’s presence in our present.
Sunday was a beautiful day spent going to Mater Misericordiae Mission parish (the Latin Mass community in Phoenix).  What an incredibly beautiful liturgy the Solemn High Mass is!  I was graced by that experience and the community worshipping together.
Now I’m back at seminary, trying to remember to enjoy each God given moment in my life as I, again, try my best to study hard and pray even harder.  Keep me in prayer and know that I keep you in mine.
Meteor Crater
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.

Institution of Acolyte

Dear sons in Christ, as people chosen for the ministry of acolyte, you will have a special role in the Church’s ministry.  The summit and source of the Church’s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow.  It is your responsibility to assist Priests and Deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as special ministers to give Holy Communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick.  Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s Sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness.  You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Jesus Christ.  In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share the one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one Body with them.  Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick.  Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his Apostles at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I also have loved you.”

Brothers and Sisters, let us pray to the Lord for those chosen by him to serve in the ministry of acolyte.  Let us ask him to fill them with his blessing and strengthen them for faithful service in his Church.

God of mercy,
Through your only Son
you entrusted the bread of life to your Church.
Bless + our brothers
who have been chosen for the ministry of acolyte.
Grant that they may be faithful
in the service of your altar
and in giving to others the Bread of Life;
may they grow always in faith and love,
and so build up your Church.
Through Christ our Lord.

Each candidate goes to the Bishop, who gives him a vessel with the bread or wine to be consecrated saying:

Take this vessel with bread (wine)
for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Make your life worthy of your service
at the table of the Lord and of his Church.

[Prayers and texts taken from the Roman Pontifical]

Last night those of us in 3rd Theology that hadn’t yet received the ministry of acolyte were instituted by Archbishop Aquila at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, consequently I was one of those who received the ministry of acolyte.  This is the third minor order I needed to receive prior to diaconate ordination (the other two minor orders are the Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders and the Institution of Lector, both of which I have already received).  The ministry of acolyte is centered around the Eucharist.  It means that I will serve more closely at the altar during the Sacrifice of the Mass, assisting deacons and priests in their ministry of service (including purifying sacred vessels) and as an acolyte I have a special role in bringing Jesus in the blessed Sacrament to the sick.

This road I’m on towards Holy Orders keeps flying by faster than I expect.  It seems like only yesterday I was a nervous “newbie” entering seminary for the first time at Conception Seminary College and had no idea what God had planned for me.  I knew that I was trying to follow God and He led me to seminary.  I remember in those days thinking that ordination was “years” away and I had plenty of time to learn and prep for it.  But looking at it now, I can’t help but laugh at how naive I was.  Diaconate ordination for me is only months away and I realize now that I’m still not “ready” for it, but I have come to learn that He will provide for me if only I daily put my trust in Him.  During the past four years I have learned a lot about my Catholic Faith, but also I’ve learned a lot about myself.  I have been challenged; I have struggled with myself; I have laughed, cried, grown, healed, and am being ever more propelled by God to keep saying “YES” to Him.  I realize now I will never be “ready” as the inner perfectionist in me wants to be for ordination, but ultimately that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I keep saying YES to God my heavenly Father and keep placing my trust in Him.  And this is by no means easy!  The part of me that tends towards pelagianism keeps trying to do everything myself (my prayer, my studies, my practicum, my relationships with others, etc.), and do it perfectly on my own.  Last night was a reminder to me that this is not the case and cannot be the case.  I did not achieve this ministry by anything I did (by “doing” something myself), but God gave me this ministry as a way to give glory to Him, amid my own weakness and imperfection.  God, who is love, gives freely if only we are open to receiving Him.  He gives himself to us as a gift, principally in Jesus Christ.  I will never be able to merit God by “achieving him” by works.  My works will glorify God, but they will not earn me love.  These ministries I have received I have not “achieved” but have rather received them as a gift from an infinitely generous God who desires me to be His priest and this is one of the steps along that path.  I will never be the “perfect” acolyte (or lector, or priest), but rather will strive for perfection with God as my helper.

Lord, I ask for the grace to carry out your works with humility, help me to bring others to know the love you have for them by my life.

My brother and I after the Mass when I was instituted as an acolyte.
My family was able to come be a part of the liturgy.
Additionally Fr. Brian Hess’ parents (a second set of parents to me) came down to be a part of this event.
Deacon Joe joined in the celebration and sat at my table during the banquet following the Mass.


Sand Dune Sledding to Kick off 3rd Theology!

Tomorrow is September 1 and we all know what that means…It’s Labor day and the end of the typical summer vacation for students.  For the seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO it means we have moved beyond the first actual week of classes and are into the full swing of seminary life once again.  A “small ‘t’ tradition” that we at SJV have is that to kick off the new academic year, we go camping as a whole seminary.  Just imagine about 90 guys taking over a campground (we reserved the sites months in advance).  It’s quite in-tents (and intense too!).  This year we decided to go to southern Colorado to San Luis State Park to camp in the San Luis Valley.  When we first arrived it looked dull and desolate, flat land for as far as one could see and it was raining.  The rain also seems to be a “small ‘t’ tradition” unfortunately.  Thankfully the rain cleared up and then we got the view of the actual valley with the mountains to either side of us.  It was gorgeous and the weekend was a fantastic time for all of us to grow in brotherhood to start the year.

The Valley view with rain.
The Valley view after the rain.


Looks like Tatooine to me…

What was unique about our camping place this year was our proximity to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  The sand dunes were breathtaking and super cool.  These sand dunes were epic and are totally movie quality dunes.  I almost expected to see Sand People or Jawas come striding over the next dune looking for spare droids to scavenge.  Instead what we saw were people sand-boarding and sledding down the steep dunes and we brought our own kneeboard to do the same.  As a result I, too, sled down a steep dune.  It was really fun and almost like sledding in winter except very warm and sand grit got everywhere.  Guys were dumping sand out of their pockets back at the campsite even.  The dunes are definitely a place worth seeing sometime in your life, I definitely want to go back.

Check out the wind blowing sand behind us off the peak of the dune.

We also went to Zapata Falls (about 5 miles away from the sand dunes) and climbed up into a cave to see a waterfall.  That was a short (1/2 mile in total) but very cool hike.

Climbing to see a waterfall.


A waterfall in a cave!


The sand dunes almost look like a layer of gold below the mountains.


Once the weekend was over we went to Mass in San Luis, CO together and filled the church to overflowing.  Classes started a couple days later and after a week of introductions (I have 4 new professors) and syllabi, I am ready (mostly) to begin more intense consecrated study.  At least I have finally jumped onboard with good coffee, meaning freshly roasted coffee beans and Auropress, (thanks to my seminarian brother Joe Hurdle and now Fr. Brian Hess) so that my morning routine is coffee to jumpstart my day, followed by prayer, and then I am ready to face the word and classes.

This weekend I was blessed to have my parents come down to visit me.  I hadn’t seen them since before Guatemala in June!  I got to show them my room and the newly renovated seminary.  I also got to spend the whole day with them yesterday beginning with Mass at the seminary and, of course, ate too much and really enjoyed the visit and the relaxed schedule of the whole day.  Today we are off to breakfast followed by Mass at my parish before they head back north to God’s land of Wyoming.

Mountains, Hills, Retreat, and Camping

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.


1 week, 4 states, and almost 2,000 miles…plus a Diaconate Ordination!

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… 😉


Reflections on 2nd Theology

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.
Until next time!