Dear Family and Friends,
It has been a while! Though my previous update to you all was back in September, I really have not had too much news to report… until now. There have been many happenings in the past month that I am very excited to share with you. But before that, I would like to fill you in on how my final semester of seminary has been.
It really began in December, when I went on my retreat in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. I did a similar sort of thing last December before I was ordained a deacon. These retreats are to be five days of quiet prayer, directed by a priest to guide us along the way. Wanting to make sure I had a solid director, I contacted a priest that I had met a few years ago when I spent the summer in Omaha, Nebraska. He happened to be leading retreats for a few others in Door County, Wisconsin during the time that I asked to do my retreat. So, I met him up there and had a powerful retreat reclaiming my identity as a beloved son of our heavenly Father. In my prayer on that retreat, the Lord gave me the confidence I would need this semester as I approached the priesthood.
My classes for this semester are: Marriage Law (My final exam for that class is tonight. I should probably be studying for it right now…), Sacraments of Healing (We learned about and practiced the sacrament of reconciliation and anointing of the sick), Social and Sexual Teaching (a survey course over a variety of topics), Mass Practicum (practicing celebrating the Mass), and a chanting class. I also had a course where we prepared for the STB exam, which would grant us a Bachelors in Sacred Theology. This is the European equivalent to the master’s degree that I am working on at the seminary. By taking this exam, we essentially get a two-for-one deal and graduate with a second degree. But the STB qualifies us for further studies in Rome, should the bishop want to send us there for an advanced degree. If I am asked to teach in the future, this might happen. But for now, I am thankful to have passed this exam and to be done with school!
Over spring break at the beginning of March, I was blessed to go on a road trip to visit a few friends. It was a bit delayed after my car broke down a half hour away from the seminary. This was all in God’s providence. That car was old and was giving me a ton of problems. After a searching through listings online, I found a good deal on a Focus and was back on my way in a few days.
As a deacon, I spend the weekends serving at a parish assignment. I would go up to the same place I have been the past two summers. From my time at St. Edward on the weekends, I learned a lot both from the pastor and in my experience working with the people there. I was able to get more comfortable preaching and settle into my role as a deacon. But as it was over an hour away, the commute was beginning to get to me. Usually on Sundays, after serving at the Masses in the morning, I would visit my parents in Livonia and then help coach at the pole vault club nearby. I am so thankful to have this time with my parents, and also to maintain involvement in my favorite sport.
Back at the seminary, life in community kept me busy. I was the president of our student government, which primarily functions to allocate money to improve life in the house. We will forever be known and the house council that had water fountains installed! One of my favorite community activities was what we call Flapjack Fridays. The tradition began before I entered seminary, but a friend and I kept it going this year. It was simply a reason for a group of us to get together every week before class. Even silly events like that really help to build up the brotherhood of seminarians which I hope will continue after we are ordained.
Before I was given the official green light to be ordained a priest, I had one more very important step to take: a meeting with my bishop called the scrutiny. Not all bishops do this, but it was traditionally common as a last check on the readiness of the man about to be ordained. Instead of a sort of examination, it is now an opportunity for our superior to make sure he knows the man he is about to call into lifelong service. This meeting was difficult for me. I have had some mental and spiritual struggles this year; and knew that in order to be honest, I had to share these with the bishop. Still confident in my call to the priesthood, I just wasn’t sure if I was ready quite yet. But Archbishop Vigneron assured me that my struggles were nothing that God’s grace couldn’t heal and in fact turn into sources of grace for others. Since then, Jesus has shown me the power of His victory and I am looking forward to ordination with a renewed hope and strength.
Now, to fill you in on some upcoming dates. As I wrote in my last email, my ordination will be on Saturday, June 8 of this year. It will take place at 10:00 am at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit. It is an open invitation. But if you are planning on going, I recommend arriving early. It will be packed! More information about that will be sent out soon. I will be celebrating my first Mass the next day at my home parish, and a few other Masses of thanksgiving the following weekends:
- Sunday, June 9 at 10:00 am @ St. Mary, Cause of Our Joy (8200 N. Wayne Rd, Westland, MI 48185).
- Sunday, June 16 at 10:00 am @ St. John the Evangelist Church and Student Center (327 M.A.C. Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823).
- Sunday, June 23 at 11:30 am @ St. Edward on the Lake (6945 Lakeshore Rd, Lakeport, MI 48059).
- Monday, June 24 at 7:00 pm @ St. Edward on the Lake (6945 Lakeshore Rd, Lakeport, MI 48059). This will be a Latin High Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Then, on July 1st, I will begin my assignment as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington, MI. I had some of this email written a few weeks ago, but figured this news was too big not to include! It was a bit of a surprise because I did not think that the pastor of this church was looking for another priest. There will be three of us there for at least this next year, and I know that I will be in Farmington for the next three years. It is wonderful to have this news, because these are the people I will call my family and spiritual children. Not to mention that hearing of my assignment just made my whole seminary journey very real! All of my training and study has been for this purpose: to be sent to these people and lead them to heaven.
Looking back on my time in seminary, I have been amazed at how God has worked through it all to shape me in to who I am today. When I first entered six years ago, I would not have guessed what I would be like nor what the Church would be like today. Especially in this dreadful year of scandal in the Church, God has brought about a greater courage in me to preach the truth and live in the beautiful tradition of our Catholic faith. I can have this confidence in the truth of the Catholic Church because I have my faith in Jesus, who promised us that not even the powers of Hell would triumph over it. In this Easter season when we proclaim Jesus as Lord even over death, I am reminded ever more of the hope we have in Him.
I am so excited to be ordained with my two Detroit classmates and attend the ordinations of my other classmates from around the country. Please keep us all in your prayers as we wrap up our last few exams and prepare to join Jesus in His vineyard! As always, I remain yours in His Sacred Heart,
One thought on “The Last Seminarian Update”
Congratulations on your ordination! I just happened upon this website when searching for information on St Mary’s Festival this weekend. I didn’t realize St Mary’s was your home parish! So happy to hear you will be close to home for your first assignment. I wanted to tell you that I often quote you from the speech you gave at the track banquet your senior year at Churchill. You said your parents had told you that you could be proud of your accomplishments or grateful. I often remember this and repeat it to my sons on a regular basis, citing you as the first person I heard say that. I bet you didn’t know you had that impact at 18!! Thank you for that important lesson of the importance of gratitude. It will stay with me forever.
In light and love,
Nancy Bank (Simon’s mom)