BRIGHTON -- Father Chris O'Connor, vice rector of St. John's Seminary, welcomed a group of 120 guests, as fifth-grade students and their families braved the impending Hurricane Sandy, to encounter the world of the seminary first-hand in Brighton on Oct 28.
"We will keep everyone affected in any way by the storm in our prayers. But, we thank you for being brave in venturing out to join us in our lovely, beautiful seminary," he said.
He moved straight into educating the group on the seminary and those who have studied there over the years since it was built over the course of three years from 1881 through 1884, under Archbishop John J. Williams.
"This seminary most likely was the seminary in which your pastor or your priest was trained, where he learned how to be a priest. We are very grateful to our fifth-graders in particular for joining us. The reason we are inviting fifth-graders is in most religious education programs this is the year that you study the sacraments. We all know that one of those sacraments is what?" he asked.
"Holy Orders or the priesthood," he confirmed an answer from one student.
After the greeting, seminarians broke the guests into smaller groups for tours of the seminary and part of the grounds.
Before sending the groups off, Father O'Connor laid out an important ground rule. Fifth graders who knew the answers to questions asked by their "tour guides" got a piece of candy.
Kevin Leaver, 27, and Callan Davis, 24, both studying in the second year of pre-theology at St. John's Seminary, shared with the guests their experiences in the seminary and their hopes to serve the Archdiocese of Boston in different ways after anticipated ordination in 2017.
"Refectory comes from Latin. The word in Latin facere means to make, so refacere means to remake or restore. So in a refectory we are restored. We are remade, because we do what in here?" Leaver asked the parents and the students showing them where the seminarians eat.
One girl answered right away, earning candy.
"Food gives us strength to go back and do whatever we have to do," he said, in response.
Inside the refectory, Leaver asked the children to identify two of the three events depicted on the wall, one the infant Jesus in the manger another of the Lord on the cross. The third eluded the group, but one young boy had his hand raised, bent on keeping up with his sister who had already amassed two pieces of candy in the first minutes of the tour.
Leaver called on the boy, but the answer evaded him.
"The rosary we pray," the child's mother encouraged him.
"The Assumption," he said.
Leaver tossed him a piece of candy.
As the tour continued the group visited classrooms, statues and the chapel where seminarians start their day. They learned the significance of paintings, sculptures and inscriptions located throughout the seminary and its grounds.