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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

080817 sem move in‘Be a son. Rise. Do not be afraid.’

CHARLOTTE — College move-in day for freshmen is always filled with emotion, as parents watch their children leave home for the next stage of their lives. For nine young men entering St. Joseph College Seminary, move-in day Aug. 6 held moments of bittersweet joy as they settled into a house next to St. Ann Church that will be their new residence.

They join seven other young men already enrolled in the diocese's college seminary, temporarily located on St. Ann's campus.

St. Joseph College Seminary, now in its second year, is for undergraduate men discerning a possible religious vocation, before taking the step of enrolling in a major seminary for specific formation to the priesthood. Students work toward a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Belmont Abbey College while experiencing a Benedictine-style communal life on their path of discernment.

Father Matthew Kauth, rector of the college seminary, celebrated Mass at St. Ann's before the young men moved in to their new college home. He welcomed the nine men, seated together in the front pew, and spoke directly to them in his homily.

“I address you, the Bravo Class … the second class of St. Joseph College Seminary. I do so by first quoting a famous philosopher, Bilbo Baggins,” Father Kauth joked, eliciting laughter from the congregation. “He said it’s a very dangerous thing to step outside of your door, because the road that leads up to your front door is connected with every other road in the world. And if you are not careful and don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where it is going to take you.

“You walked outside of your parents’ home this morning and in front of your home was a road that somehow got you here and you will never go back to that home the same way. It is the beginning of an adventure you could not possibly fathom."

“Twenty-four years ago I was sitting where you are sitting – not in this church because Father Reid hadn’t built it yet,” he quipped.

“I had no idea what was going to happen. But I left my own door and went down that road for one very simple reason that I do trust and am fairly certain is the reason you did as well: that you want to be with
Our Lord; that in some point in your life, having looked at all the things around you, you had an encounter with the Son of God.

“And something burns inside of you that says, ‘I don’t want to be without Him. I don’t want to lose sight of Him.’”

Father Kauth connected this desire with the reading from the Gospel of Matthew (17:1-9) for the feast of the Transfiguration which the Church celebrates Aug. 6, where Sts. Peter, James and John go up the mountain to pray with Jesus and see Him speaking with Moses and Elijah, prompting Peter to suggest building three tents so they could stay there in that place of glory.

“It’s not as if Peter, James and John had any idea where they were going to be heading when the Lord smiles at them and says, ‘Come after Me.’ …It didn’t really matter as long as they had Him in sight," Father Kauth said.

“So one day He took them up this mountain, and He was transfigured before them. Why did He do this? The Fathers of the Church are fairly unanimous in saying that what He wanted to do was to burn into them a memory of what it was they were after, of what so attracted them." He was allowing them to see Him in His full glory, not just as a normal man, he said.

"That glory emblazed on their minds, and thus inflamed their hearts."

After Mass, St. Ann Parish hosted a welcome reception for the young men and their families before they unloaded their belongings in their new residence. The home on Hillside Avenue adjacent to St. Ann Church is a second residence for the college seminary, whose enrollment is now 16 students.

The seven seminarians continuing their studies from last year will remain housed at the current residence behind St. Ann Church. The two houses are close to each other, with the church located between them.

Mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and family friends all helped with the big move.

Heather and Thomas Martin, parishioners of St. Mark Church in Huntersville, helped move their son Luke into his new room. As any mother might do, Heather Martin proceeded to make her son's bed for him.

“It’s such a blessing,” she said. “It’s so nice (here)!”

Keith Koenig, a parishioner of St. Bernadette Church in Linville, generously donated furniture for the second residence. Koenig works in the furniture industry and wanted to make a gift to the college seminary.

He told Father Kauth, “We have been blessed so much ourselves, but all of those blessings come from Our Blessed Lord through the hands of the priest. It’s my way of doing something in return for Our Lord.”

After the families said their goodbyes, the young men gathered in the chapel of the first residence adjacent to St. Ann School. Father Matthew Buettner of St. Michael Church in Gastonia, who assists with the college seminary, then brought out the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle for a brief period of Eucharistic Adoration.

Despite an unexpected downpour, the men resolutely processed with the Blessed Sacrament from the chapel in the first seminary residence outside and up the hill of the St. Ann Church campus to the chapel in the second seminary residence. With a bit of ingenuity, the young men helped keep Our Lord and Father Buettner dry by using their backyard patio umbrella to get them up the hill safely.

As they walked, they surely remembered Father Kauth's parting words at Mass to encourage them in their journey of discernment.

“I leave you with the words that Jesus says (to His Apostles after the Transfiguration): ‘Rise and do not be afraid.’

“Be a son. Be a son of Mary…Be a son of St. Joseph…Be a son. Rise. Do not be afraid.”

— SueAnn Howell, Senior reporter

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