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Mount St. Mary seminarians evangelize through conversations

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More than 30 seminarians from Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg arrived at George Mason University in Fairfax Oct. 10 for a three-day “Evangelization Mission Trip.” The first mission trip was about seven years ago at George Mason, and since then seminarians have traveled to other universities throughout the United States to evangelize through conversation. 

“That’s what it’s all about, meeting Christ without imposing but proposing,” said Msgr. Andrew R. Baker, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. 

“Our Lord sent the disciples two by two. As a chaplain and to be able to witness the same thing is proof that the Gospels has never ended."

The mission trip is now a mandatory part of Mount St. Mary seminary formation because, as Msgr. Baker pointed out, it provides “priestly training and understanding (of) the evangelization.”

Seminarians are grouped in pairs of two, typically a newbie with a veteran.

“The minimum goal is to be a smiling face — (the ultimate) goal is to love them,” said Father Thomas Cavanaugh, parochial vicar at St. Theresa Church in Ashburn and participant of the first Evangelization Mission Trip. 

In the evening, Campus Chaplain Father James Searby led a Eucharistic procession, displaying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance, through the campus and then closed the mission trip with benediction and a sermon reflecting on the seminarians’ time on campus and the future of their priestly vocation.

Though the presence of the seminarians on campus is brief, the hope it that the students they encounter will follow up with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) or the campus’ Catholic Ministry with questions that the seminarians had planted, said Msgr. Baker.

At the end of each day, seminarians gathered for a recap to share stories, strategize logistics and sharpen skills — asking themselves, “What can I communicate to (the students) that would be helpful?” Each seminarian discovers his own method of communicating. 

On the last morning of the mission trip, seminarians and priests gathered for adoration at the St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel. 

“You want to appeal to their logic,” said Jim Bors, of the Baltimore Archdiocese, who tag-teamed with first-timer Jonathan Vall of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

“Our Lord sent the disciples two by two. As a chaplain and to be able to witness the same thing is proof that the Gospels has never ended,” said Father Searby.

Bors said that quoting scripture is not effective because many students don’t have a Christian background or have never heard of Jesus. The seminarians questioned students to learn who they are. Sometimes their questions prompt students to “figure out” who Christ is. 

In one case at West Virginia University, Bors said he met a young atheist who was unfamiliar with Christ. They spoke for almost an hour and at the end, the student prayed, “God, if you exist, let me know you.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016