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Candidates explore religious life

Tori Roeck | Thursday, February 23, 2012

Candidates at Moreau Seminary and undergraduate seminarians at Old College deciding to become Holy Cross priests or brothers may live on Notre Dame’s campus but lead very different lives than the average student.

Fr. James Gallagher, director of the Office of Vocations, said Moreau Seminary and Old College give young men the opportunity to experience religious life and determine if it is their calling.

“The Moreau Seminary and Old College Undergraduate Seminary are run independently from the University of Notre Dame,” Gallagher said. “They are programs the Congregation of Holy Cross offers to help men consider a vocation as a Holy Cross priest or brother and helps to prepare them for that life and ministry.”

The Process

Young men without undergraduate degrees reside in Old College, where they live for up to three years while enrolled at either Notre Dame or Holy Cross College, according to the Office of Vocations website.

Stephen Barany, an undergraduate in Old College studying philosophy and industrial design at Notre Dame, said seminarians fulfillspecific academic requirements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“[The USCCB] requirements involve mostly philosophy and some theology,” Barany said. “Beyond that, if it’s possible, we are allowed to major in something else.”

According to the Office of Vocations website, men who already have undergraduate degrees enter Moreau Seminary and spend one year as a candidate.

Moreau Seminary candidate Walter Pruchnik III said candidates, who are mostly Notre Dame graduates, take the same classes as graduate students in the Masters in Divinity program. They also must meet the same USCCB academic requirements as undergraduate seminarians, he said.

“[The candidate program] focuses on academic preparation for the Masters in Divinity Program and growth in … spiritual formation and formation for community life in Holy Cross,” Pruchnik said.

Moreau Seminary candidate Brendan Ryan said all of his classes this semester arewith undergraduates.

“I’m 26. For some of the undergrads, they probably think it’s a little strange I’m in their classbut I think that makes us a little more well-rounded,” he said.

After their candidate year, the seminarians become novices and spend a year of contemplation at a novitiate in Colorado Springs, according to the Office of Vocations website.

Brian Ching, a temporarily professed seminarian, said they profess formal vows for the first time after the novitiate year.

“After that year in Colorado, you take for the very first time the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience,” he said. “You profess them for one year at a time and renew them for one year at a time for the next three or four years. The purpose of that is to live it but to also have an out if … you decide this isn’t part of your life.”

Ching said seminarians then return to Moreau in the professed program and learn about being a priest or brother.

Seminary Life

Barany said life in Old College is more structured than students’ experiences in otherdorms.

“Prayer is more organized and our formation schedule is very organized,” he said. “Consequently, that leads to the rest of our lives essentially having to be organized, as well, whereas the average college student is able to basically come and go as they please.”

Residents are required to wake up for 7:10 a.m. morning prayer in the Log Chapel, Barany said. Eucharistic adoration runs until 7:45 a.m.

Pruchnik said candidates follow a similar routine. They attend a 7:15 a.m. prayer, daily Mass at 5:05 p.m. and evening prayer, he said.

“Morning prayer, Lauds, and evening prayer, Vespers, frame our day and help build a structure of prayer in our lives,” he said.

Moreau Seminary and Old College come together for full community events a few times a week, Pruchnik said.

“We play basketball here Sunday nights,” Pruchnik said. “About half the guys participate.”

The seminarians train for the Mundelein Seminary Shoot Out, a basketball tournament among regional seminaries in late January, Pruchnik said.

Ryan said other sports are popular, as well.

“We play racquetball a lot here,” Ryan said.

The seminarians also gather every Thursday at Moreau Seminary for a meal, attend a larger Mass and host public Lucernarium, an evening prayer service, in the seminary chapel with a social afterward, Pruchnik said.

“We have a larger Mass, a fancier dinner,” he said. “It’s a good night to invite guests, faculty from our classes or friends from the community.”

The Old Collegians host a public Log Chapel Mass and a social afterward every Tuesday at 9 p.m., Barany said.

Role of Notre Dame Community

Although Moreau Seminary and Old College are separated from the University, Gallagher said the Notre Dame community plays a large part in seminary life.

“What makes our seminary programs unique from stand alone seminaries is that it offers our men an opportunity to study side by side with their peers, who are training for a whole range of other jobs and vocations,” he said. “They are ready and able to understand and interact with the men and women who will be their parishioners as well as their peers in academia.”

Pruchnik said going to undergraduate classes sometimes feels like “commuting.”

“I’m not staying up ridiculously late anymore hanging out with the guys in the dorm playing video games, but you’re still embedded in the culture at Notre Dame,” he said. “We’re still very much active and involved.”

Ryan said he feels some distance from undergraduates is a good thing.

“It’s nice to have some separation because we’re not fifth year seniors,” Ryan said.

However, Ryan said students should reach out to the seminarians in their classes.

“I think some people are afraid to talk to us,” he said. “We’re just normal guys.”