Summer assignments afford seminarians active parish roles

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Forty-six Arlington seminarians fanned out across the diocese from June 11 to Aug. 12 for their equivalent of summer internships: assisting pastors in the day-to-day operations of parishes. They loved it.

Will Nyce, a transitional deacon assigned to All Saints Church in Manassas who studies at the North American College in Rome, ran the gamut, doing traditional parish activities such as preaching at Masses and baptizing infants as well as lending a hand in the food pantry.

“Deacon Nyce is assigned to one of the largest and most active parishes in the diocese. It is definitely a full-time job,” said Father Michael C. Isenberg, diocesan director of vocations. “In these assignments, the seminarians build lasting relationships with the priests and parishioners. They are receiving a glimpse into the many joys and challenges of the priesthood.”

Set to be ordained next spring, Deacon Nyce summed up his hard work by stating that it was his privilege to see God at work in and among his people, whether in the youths at Vacation Bible School or at the food pantry where he rubbed elbows with a dedicated staff of volunteers and greets clients as they receive provisions.

A highlight for him was visiting elderly and sick parishioners and witnessing their joy.

“When I first enter their rooms, I usually need to answer the questions of: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Where are you coming from?’” said Nyce. “Once I tell them that I’m a deacon here for the summer and I come bringing the Eucharist, their eyes inevitably light up. And that was just beautiful to see.”

Deacon Nicholas Blank, a fellow diocesan seminarian, was assigned to the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. His takeaway from the summer was the importance of strong fraternity among priests.

“I was grateful to live in a rectory with so many priests. We shared meals together and spent many an evening gathered outside one person's room or another,” Deacon Blank said. “It is vitally important to bring this experience of brotherhood into rectory life.”

He will return to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmittsburg to complete his final year before being ordained a priest. 

Deacon James Waalkes, who also studies at Mount St. Mary’s, was assigned to the Basilica of St. Mary’s in Alexandria, where he put his musical talents to use.

At the Vacation Bible School, he created songs for the students to hum along to in order to illustrate important lessons such as God’s mercy. 

The evening before his final day at the parish, he gave a send-off performance for all the parishioners.

Through his preaching, baptizing and catechizing, Deacon Waalkes said that he has greater confidence in his end goal of being a priest.

“My summer assignment was very fruitful in preparing me for the next step — the priesthood,” he said. “I’m excited to do even more for the people of God when I’m ordained a priest.”  

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018