Annual lawn party supports Blessed John Seminary

Guests enjoy dinner at the Pope John XXIII National Seminary annual lawn party fundraiser, Sept. 12. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

WESTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley joined more than 200 supporters of Blessed Pope John XXIII National Seminary at the school’s annual lawn party fundraiser, which featured remarks by two seminarians who shared their vocation journey with the guests.

“The two seminarians who spoke, Paul Sullivan and Keith Cummings, moved us all and made us very proud,” said the cardinal as he posed for pictures and met with other attendees.

The cardinal said he is grateful for the school’s mission of forming men over the age of 28 for their vocations to the priesthood and diaconate.

“It is very impressive that this school has produced 500 priests for the archdiocese and for other dioceses throughout the world,” he said. “When older men become priests, they grant us a witness to [a] different measure of success.”

In his remarks, Sullivan, who will ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston May 24 at the South End’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, said his decision to become a priest came as he heard Pope John Paul II speak at the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto after years of putting the idea on the backburner. Sullivan was chaperoning a group of college students from Magdalen College in Warner, N.H., where he worked in the admissions and campus ministry offices.

“Pope John II’s love for the young people inspired me, and I began to ask God if He might be asking me to do more with my life. I decided to apply to the seminary,” he said.

The 45-year-old seminarian said despite his growing up in Connecticut and his working many years in New Hampshire, he made a deliberate decision to serve in the Boston Church because of his regard for the cardinal. His brother Father John M. Sullivan also serves in the Archdiocese of Boston.

“I have admired Cardinal O’Malley’s efforts to shepherd the people of this diocese, and I have also come to know many faithful and generous priests and laypeople in the archdiocese,” he said.

“As middle-aged men preparing for the priesthood, we bring a lot of life experience to our future ministry. The seminary encourages us to integrate these life experiences into our studies and pastoral work,” he said.

The life of the seminarian is a transition for men who have come from all walks of life and now live in 15-foot by 8-foot dormitory rooms and are hitting the books for the first time since their 20s, he said.

“As we come closer to ordination, we become aware of how unworthy we are to be priests -- but the Lord told His apostles, and He tells us today, not to be afraid, for He wants to make us fishers of men,” he said.

Beginning his fourth year, Sullivan was wearing a black suit with a Roman collar, like many of the other seminarians, who don the clerical wardrobe after their first year when they are installed as acolytes and altar servers at a Mass, he said. In their second year, the seminarians become lectors and in their third year, they are accepted as candidates for Holy Orders.

First-year seminarian Cummings followed Sullivan and made his remarks in a suit and tie. He left his home in King George County, Va., Aug. 25 for the long drive north to Weston, he said. “I packed everything I could into my Toyota Corolla and everything that didn’t fit, I gave away to charity.”

Before he applied to the seminary, Cummings said he was a financial analyst at a General Electric coal-fired electrical generating plant where he kept track of 500,000 to 600,000 tons of coal for the $120 million annual revenue facility. Before joining GE, he worked in Manhattan for financial services firms, including Goldman Sachs and the United Bank of Switzerland.

The decision to study for the priesthood came in the middle of Easter Mass 2006 at St. Joseph Church in Richmond, Va., he said. “I heard the Lord’s voice tell me: I have taken you through the rough spots in your life. What are you going to do for me?”

So far, Cumming’s biggest surprise has been how positive an experience he is having, he said. “It has been such a wonderful three weeks. I am truly blessed to be here.”

The school’s rector, Father Peter J. Uglietto, said, “There are 60 students at the seminary from 31 dioceses and three religious orders. Five men will be ordained for the Boston Archdiocese this spring.” The oldest seminarian at Blessed Pope John XXIII is 62 years old.

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