October 2, 2015

Seminarians, priests witness history at canonization Mass in nation’s capital

By Mike Krokos

Michael Dedek and Adam Berning were witnesses to history on Sept. 23.

So were 36 of their brother seminarians plus Father Robert Robeson and Father Joseph Moriarty, two priests of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The young men in formation for the priesthood at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis were among the estimated 25,000 people who attended the canonization liturgy for Blessed Junipero Serra outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Father Robeson, rector of Bishop Bruté, and Father Moriarty, vice-rector, also were part of the first-ever canonization liturgy celebrated in the United States.

“The canonization part itself was really cool,” said Dedek, a senior at Bishop Bruté Seminary and a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. “I had never seen that done. It was really cool to listen to it and read along, what Pope Francis and Cardinal [Donald W.] Wuerl were saying about it. I just thought, ‘We’ve been doing this for awhile, we have a set formula for it.’ ”

Though it was a multilingual liturgy and Pope Francis delivered his homily in Spanish, Dedek said a translation of his message was shared on a big screen for English speakers to understand.

“He talked about … if we get too comfortable or too set in our ways, we allow our hearts to become apathetic when they should in reality be always seeking Christ through love and charity for others,” Dedek said.

The seminarian said the once-in-a-lifetime experience affirmed his desire to become a priest.

“It’s definitely strengthened it,” he said. One reason, he continued, was “because of how Pope Francis talked about how we should always strive for charity. He quoted St. Junipero Serra’s motto, ‘Always keep moving forward,’ and hearing Pope Francis say that, being there in person, it just inspired me to not try to do what’s comfortable in life, but to do what God wants me to do, whether it’s comfortable or not.”

Berning, a sophomore at Bishop Bruté and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in McCartyville, Ohio, in the Cincinnati Archdiocese, said he was within 15 feet of Pope Francis when he was processing in at the beginning of the canonization liturgy.

“It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever got to be a part of,” Berning said of the Mass. “Everybody was standing up on the pews trying to get a cell phone shot or a picture, and just to see him, … everyone was up on their feet.”

Though the view wasn’t the best for many of the thousands of pilgrims who traveled to take part in the canonization liturgy, Berning said there was still a sense of holiness.

“Even though we could only see the pope on a big-screen TV in front of the church, there was still an aura that you were a part of the Mass and still connected to it,” he said.

Like Dedek, Berning said Pope Francis’ homily shared a powerful message.

“Always moving forward, always going forward, and that’s very fitting for all Christians to always renew yourself, to always go deeper into your prayer life. That’s one thing that really, really struck me.”

Father Robeson, who was able to concelebrate the liturgy with Pope Francis, was initially seated in the back row of concelebrating priests, but was moved to the second row of priests right before the Mass started by an usher who said there were empty seats closer to the front.

At the end of the liturgy, Father Robeson was brought to tears when the Holy Father placed a rosary in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother adjacent to the altar.

“I love Mary very much,” he said. “He [Pope Francis] laid the rosary at her feet, then he touched her womb, he touched her midriff, and then he made the sign of the cross, and he kissed her fingers at the end. It was a beautiful gesture of love for Mary.”

Like the seminarians, Father Robeson took to heart the Holy Father’s message of St. Junipero and “his witness of laying the foundation for the Church.”

“Afterward, I remember thinking to myself how beautiful the history of the people who have gone before us [is], to lay the foundation of the Church—the institutions, the parishes, the dioceses, the schools and all these things that we’ve been entrusted with as Catholics,” he said. “[There’s an] enormous sense of mission that has resulted in what is truly an incredible gift to the United States, the American Church.”

The rector said he hopes the seminarians who attended the canonization liturgy came away energized in their lives of faith.

“I hope it reinforced their love for the Church, and their love for Christ,” he said. “To see the universal Church—or at least the Church in the United States—to come together in that way is pretty powerful.”

(For more information about Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, log on to www.archindy.org/bsb.)

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