I spent Fourth of July weekend in Mexico. It was not the most stereotypical setting for celebrating our country’s Independence, but our party rivaled that of the best backyard barbecues. I was in Cuernavaca, a city that rests about an hour and a half’s drive southwest of Mexico City, at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels. At this monastery the monks along with lay professors have put together an immersion program for seminarians from the U.S. The program includes four hours of one-on-one intensive language study on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then group discussion on Thursday for four hours, and cultural immersion discussion and activities on Friday.
I first heard of the program thanks to Father Victor Ingalls, who is the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Mobile. Father Vic has been sending seminarians to this program for the last two summers, and he was going to check in on his guys and invited me to tag along. I was blown away by the program. It was wonderful to see the seminarians, one month into the challenge of being immersed in a new language and culture, stepping up to the plate and relying upon the Lord to help them persevere and grow. Since we were visiting on Fourth of July Weekend (or Cuatro de Julio en Español), the seminarians had planned a big barbecue for the staff of the program and their families. They cooked hamburguesas on the grill, and while we couldn’t find french fries and potato salad, we made some macaroni and cheese and had lots of chips and dip!
It was a wonderful evening, and I came away very excited to have some of our seminarians enroll in this program in future years. Father Vic’s homily on the Fourth of July really hit home to me. He told the seminarians: “I’m sure there have been points this summer when you have felt like you were dying, when you felt like you couldn’t keep going, and yet this is where Jesus meets us. Whenever we offer ourselves freely to the Lord, he can do incredible things and help us to accomplish tasks that we did not think were possible.” I’m paraphrasing, but I could see that the homily hit home with the men who were studying in Cuernavaca, and it certainly hit home to me.
My first weekend as rector of the Cathedral was July 8-9, and I was struck by the great diversity of the parish. There are generational Jacksonians who have been members at the Cathedral for decades, and there are young professionals just moving in. There is also a thriving Hispanic community at St. Peter, and it’s a community I know I need to encounter in a real way. Learning Spanish and learning how to listen in their language is one way to hasten and broaden this encounter. I am happy that we have found a space for our seminarians to learn a new language, but I’m even happier that it is a space where they can truly encounter and minister to the people that they find there.
– Father Nick Adam
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