Priests, seminarians come together at St. John’s Alumni Gathering

BRIGHTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley joined more than 160 priests and seminarians at St. John’s Seminary for a holy hour followed by the seminary’s annual Alumni Gathering dinner Nov. 9, the day Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated in 324.

These events are an opportunity for priests to “get on the same page,” the cardinal said in his homily at the holy hour. “It is so good for us to come and gather together and minister to each other--an important part of our work as priests.”

The cardinal told the story of how, the night before St. Francis of Assisi presented his rule to Pope Innocent III for approval, the pope had a dream that the Lateran Basilica was collapsing, only to be propped up by a man dressed as a pauper. The next day, when he saw St. Francis, the pope recognized the man from his dream.

Then, looking out to the pews of priests, the cardinal said, “We are the reinforcements at a time when it looks like the Church is toppling.”

The presence of priests among the seminarians brings encouragement and support to the men who are now preparing for the priesthood, said Father Arthur L. Kennedy, the rector of the seminary.

“We all know how valuable these times together are as we reminisce about our years at St. John’s and recall the various rectors and faculty who guided us--with all their imperfections and quirks, their generosity and dedication--to the ministry of the Lord,” he said.

The gathering is always held in the first weeks of November, said Father Christopher K. O’Connor, the seminary’s vice-rector. “It is the key chance for future priests to meet the present priests, the men working in the vineyards.”

Father O’Connor said the oldest alumni present were three priests from the class of 1948. There were 65 seminarians present, some serving as waitstaff, from both the Boston Archdiocese and dioceses around New England.

Before they were seated for dinner, the priests and seminarians mingled socially in the large hallway outside the dining room and the side rooms where old photos of students and faculty were displayed on the walls and tables.

Clusters of classmates formed in front of their graduation pictures pointing to photographs and telling stories of themselves, then and now. Cardinal O’Malley moved from cluster to cluster asking questions and listening to the recollections of the alumni.

The cardinal said his own experience at the seminary was more cloistered than that of St. John’s. Except for the labor associated with his own school’s large farm, where he was a beekeeper, seminaries in the United States share similar monastic routines, he said.