To Be, Or Not To Be: A Seminarian

A blog by the Diocese of Brooklyn


Countdown to Ordination: Day 31

Posted by on May 27, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Seminarians

Countdown to Ordination: Day 31


Today the men from Brooklyn spent the day at 310 Prospect Park West, the main offices for the diocese.


Honestly, it wasn’t so bad for a day full of meetings. We received all sorts of helpful information about the different head of different organizations within the diocese. We filled out a bunch of paperwork. But most importantly we had a better recognition that “the powers that be” down at the Diocese’s office are less like powers and more like people.


It’s a great supportive team backing up the priests to make sure we do the best for the people in the parishes. The highlight was having my chalice officially consecrated by a bishop. Bishop Chappetto, the Vicar for Clergy took a little time out of his full schedule to consecrate my chalice and paten, signing it with the sign of the Cross, using Chrism.


The Chalice and Paten were given to me as a generous gift from the Parish of St. Clare in Rosedale where I spent pastoral year. My home parish, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Jamaica payed for it to be re-covered in gold and polished.


Everyone who sees it is amazed at its beauty and age. When I told one girl that it was over a hundred years old, she remarked quite purely, “can you imagine how many times the Blood was made in it?”


Wow, now that is wisdom from the mouth of babes. I was really struck by her comment when I realized that in a hundred years, the chalice might no longer exist (being lost, broken, or destroyed).  In a hundred years the Diocese’s main offices might no longer exist. In fact the priest who owned the chalice a hundred years ago, Fr. Joseph Traenkle, went to a seminary upstate and served in four parishes in Brooklyn . That seminary and those parishes no longer exist. The buildings of most of them aren’t even on the map.


Yet one hundred, or one thousand, or one hundred thousand years from now I will exist, and so will that precious young girl at the parish, and all the great people at the diocesan offices. We will exist because of how many times the Precious Blood was consecrated for us and taken in by us with faith and love.


Let our hearts be like pure consecrated chalices and patens. Let us thank God for the gift of priests who make Christ’s body and Blood present for us to receive as food and drink. And let us pray for the priest who will come up in a hundred years and those to come in less than a hundred days, that they may be whole-heartedly consecrated to service until the end of all time.


Countdown to Ordination: Day 58

Posted by on Apr 30, 2014 at 6:00 am | Seminarians

As days rush passed, occasionally we experience an event that makes us pause and wonder, “How on earth did I get here?”

If you’ve got bad friends, an exceptionally strange life or are stuck in a bad movie you might find yourself in a jail in Tijuana, Mexico with a crude new tattoo and ask yourself the same question.

But if you’re like most people, even in a “normal” life you’ll find yourself at certain crossroads. If you’ve got good friends and family, even with difficulties, many times you’ll find yourself so blessed that you can’t really fathom it all.

In the Gospel according to Mark: Chapter 4, we read today that “this is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” (verse 26-27)

It might seems to the man to be almost a miracle. We “sophisticated” moderns who have a better natural sense of the growth of seeds and plant life than Jesus’ audience. And we think we have a better understanding of cause and effect, climate changes, human nature, the passing on of genes from on generation to the next.

Yet, even if we add up all of the individual tiny events that brought us to this day. Even if we could remember every detail of every moment since our births, some events show us how miraculous is the world around us.

Could we really explain the point of graduating from high school, dating the cutest person with exactly the personality that compliments yours, landing a new job, getting married, or ordination to the priesthood, by simply adding up many little events? It’s something so much more! The whole possibility of start and growth and life and achievement is charged with something miraculous.

The kingdom of Heaven is more than our efforts, more than the total of our good deeds. It is a the greatest miracle we will ever experience. And it begins by recognizing and thanking God for the little miracles of every moment. Let us pray in thanksgiving for every miracles which is recognized and those which are not.


Countdown to Ordination: Day 63

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 at 6:00 am | Seminarians

We’ve been away fro a few days, enjoying a little hiatus for Easter break.

For those who are still up to reading a chapter of the Gospel each day, today’s passage will sound familiar. The Gospel according to Matthew: Chapter 27 is the same that was heard two weeks ago on Palm Sunday. What struck me in my reading today is the fact that Pontius Pilate offered the crowds a choice between Jesus and Barabbas.

You might remember that Simon Peter is sometimes referred to as “Simon Bar-Jonah,” that is, son of Jonah. And Abba is what Jesus asked His followers to call God. So “Barabbas,”  is a Hebrew name meaning “son of the father.”

It’s so ironic that at the end of this Gospel, the crowds are given the choice between the Son of the Father and the son of the father. Jesus is obviously the right choice. Barabbas we don’t even know. The only fact about him we have is that he is a criminal. Perhaps the Jewish crowds recognized his name and popularity for some other reason and so they chose him (a criminal) over Jesus (the innocent one).

In our own lives, we often choose the fake promise, the imitation hope, “the Splenda Jesus” instead of “the raw sugarcane Jesus,” I guess you could say. I suppose at times we’re afraid of “counting calories”  because we know they cost more work, more exercise, more discipline. It’s easier to take a substitute.

For our priests and future priests, the true choice might need to be making the difficult decisions  of changing schedules, correcting employees and parishioners, re-assigning workers, and preaching on difficult issues that cost the priest his popularity. Let us pray that they always make the true choice, even if it be more difficult, lest they should betray the Son of Glory for the hometown boy.


Countdown to ordination: Day 70

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm | Seminarians

Countdown to Ordination: Day 70

Here are some highlights from last night’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Thanks Deacon Carlos C. Velásquez.

Don’t forget: if you’ve taken the opportunity to read the Gospel passages with me throughout preparation for priesthood, today we’re up to Matthew chapter 20. If you fell off the wagon and forgot a few days, don’t worry; just saddle up with ch. 20 and keep going. Slow and steady…just one chapter a day.

Below are a couple of pictures taken by seminarians and guests.

Chapel Full for Tenebrae _ Photo credit: Deacon Carlos Velasquez

After Tenebrae, Good Friday ____ Photo credit: Magdalen Ross


Countdown to Ordination: Day 71

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 at 11:00 am | Seminarians


Our Brothers from the neighboring diocese of Rockville Centre went out to serve at the Chrism Mass for their diocese. When the deacons returned, they found their official call to the order of presbyter in their mailbox.

Tonight we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Liturgies during Holy Week are very beautiful in any parish. But at the seminary, we really “do it up.”

Here is what Palm Sunday looked like this year. Somehow all the parts with me ended up on the cutting room floor. Thanks to Seminarian Ralph Edel and Deacon Carlos C. Velásquez.


Countdown to Ordination: Day 72

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 at 6:00 am | Seminarians

We’re in full swing to prepare for the Scared Triduum.

Here are a couple of pictures from the prep.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings will will celebrate Tenebrae services. They are a combination of Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and a few “Lamentations” which mourn the memory of Israel’s sinfulness and our Lord’s captivity, scourging, and death.

Here is the setting.

Then tonight, the priests of the seminary will serve the seminarians dinner in humble emulation of Christ’s service to the Apostles, washing their feet. After the festive dinner we will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s supper. At the Mass enough Sacred Hosts are consecrated for the following day (when there will be no Mass). The the Blessed Sacrament is brought to an altar of repose after Mass where seminarians can adore the Lord until Friday morning.

Every church will have a beautiful altar of repose. But several seminarians led by third-year Brooklyn men Jose Henriquez, Raphael Perez, did a spectacular job on this one.


New Instituted Readers in Huntington!

Posted by on Mar 13, 2011 at 11:41 am | Recent News,Seminarians

From left to right: Msgr. Swiader (Vice-Rector), Chris Mirabal, Dave Atanasio, James Renna, Joe Scolaro, and Msgr. Vaccari (Rector).

On Friday, March 4th, four seminarians from the Diocese of Rockville Centre were instituted lectors by Bishop Frank Caggiano, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, in the chapel of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. David Atanasio, Christopher Mirabal, James Renna, and Joseph Scolaro received the lectionary from the bishop as he instructed them to: “Take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.” While the Ministry of Reader is not limited to those preparing for Holy Orders, it is considered one of the steps towards priesthood along with the Ministry of Acolyte and Candidacy. We pray in a special way for Dave, Chris, James, and Joe that as they begin to proclaim the Word of God in our community, and meditate on it more closely in private prayer, it will bear great fruit for them in their lives and on their journey towards the Sacred Priesthood. Congratulations, guys! We pray too for Robert Pierre-Louis, their Brooklyn classmate, who is already an instituted lector.

Bishop Caggiano preaching the homily during Holy Mass.

Candidates presenting themselves before the Bishop.

Joseph Scolaro recieving the Lectionary from Bishop Caggiano.


Hello! ¡Hola! Ciao! Bonjour! Cześć! Salve!

Posted by on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Seminarians

Carlos C. Velásquez

Hello, everyone! My name is Carlos Velásquez, and I am a seminarian of the Diocese of Brooklyn. I am currently in my second year of studies in theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, and with the Grace of God will be ordained a priest in about three years. I am a first generation Brooklyn Boy, a son of Nicaraguan immigrants.

I am very glad to be the newest blogger on this Vocations Blog. I joined the blog world very recently during the seminary’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land where I teamed up with a brother seminarian so that family and friends could follow every step of our journey in Israel. In the Footsteps of Jesus was a huge success, and we are very happy that people are still visiting the blog, months later, and benefiting from the beautiful reflections and recaps we posted. I really enjoyed working on that blog, and so when my classmate, Evans Julce, encouraged me to start blogging on the BrooklynPriests blog, I was more than happy and willing to do so – so here I am!

It is my hope to keep you updated with seminary life here at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. Please know that you are always welcome here at Mary’s House! I pray that if you are discerning a vocation to the priesthood, you will find something on these pages that will spark a light in you and give you the courage and strength to say YES to the Father’s will for you in your life. I ask you to please pray for me and for my brother seminarians studying for our diocese and for all seminarians throughout the world. We come to the seminary to be formed into the very image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, so that we in turn can be Christ to the world. This calling is beautiful, yet humbling and frightening at the same time. Please pray that we continue to persevere on our journey towards the Sacred Priesthood and that we will every day fall more in love with Christ and His Church. Your prayers really do mean a lot to us! I am truly convinced that it is because of the Grace of God hidden in the support and prayers of family, friends, and loved ones that we make it to the Altar of God! Thank you so very much for your continued prayers and support!

On a side note, I am feeling so bit by the blog bug, that I am also working on a special Lenten blog with two other seminarians (Lintu Markose, a seminarian in Third Theology from the Syro-Malankara Exarcahte and Joseph Scolaro, a seminarian in First Theology from the Diocese of Rockville Centre). Throughout Lent, we will be posting special Lenten meditations and reflections. It is our hope that this blog will enrich and help many on their Lenten journey towards Easter, as well as nourish our own spiritual lives as the bloggers. Make sure you stop by and visit us at: Journey Towards Easter.

Until my next post, Oremus pro invicem (let us pray for one another).


Called to be different

Posted by on Feb 22, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Seminarians,Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

Fr. Brian Barr Every month for the past twenty-one years, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception has sponsored a Holy Hour to pray for Vocations. This has always been attended by the “Friends of the Seminary,” a lay group of dedicated benefactors. A few years ago, the Vocations office opened the Holy Hour to college and high school students. Since then, it’s exploded from a couple of dozen participants to literally hundreds.

Fr. Brian Barr (pictured above), the Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, gave this talk to a chapel full of teens and young adults at last week’s Holy Hour for Vocations at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY.  Our Lord was exposed in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, and the talk was preceded by a reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew on the witness of Saint John the Baptist.

I’ve printed below the sermon as quoted on the Rockville Centre site Peter’s Boat. The audio link is here as well. __________________________________________________

Most people keep their mouths shut when something should be said; most stay quiet.  Most people lay back – they hold back – when some action should be taken.  Most are scared.  Let’s be honest; we’re all scared.  Who doesn’t get scared?  Who doesn’t get scared a lot?  Most give in to that fear.  But some don’t.  John the Baptist didn’t.  He refused to be like most.  This guy was so different from people around him; he was not like most.

Did you guys see Tim Tebow up there before? (in reference to the projected screen)  He’s the quarterback for the Denver Broncos; he won two national championships for the University of Florida.  He was the first sophomore ever to win a Heisman – he’s like a machine.

His parents were missionaries, and when his mom was pregnant with him, she got sick, really sick.  She went into a coma.  To get her out of the coma, they had to give her these special drugs to save her life, drugs you would never give to a pregnant woman.  She came out of it.  Now they had to deal with this baby within her that she was carrying.  Well, the doctors said, “You have to have an abortion; you have to abort”.  She said they said the birth would be dangerous for her – most likely he’d be born dead; and if the baby survived, birth defects like you wouldn’t believe.  So you’ve really got to abort.

Well, they said no.  These incredible people of integrity – these awesome Christian people said no.  They’d take their chances, and they’d trust in God.  Well Tim is now 23 and 245 pounds and is 6’ 3” tall.  Most would have listened to the doctors.

If you don’t know who this guy Tebow is – other than that’s he’s a football player – look him up.  The guys is just an incredible example – he’s a hero, and it has nothing to do with football.  He is so proud of being a Christian.  After he won the Heisman, he was being interviewed – actually, it was a press conference – and a reporter, in the midst of talking football – where he might go in terms of the pros – would he leave college early? – in the midst of all that, this one guys says to him, “Are you still a virgin?”  And they say that he didn’t pause for a second.  He said, “Yup”.  He said, “I’m waiting until I get married.”

And they say that it was sort of not to be believed – the reaction in this press conference.  There was just like silence.  People didn’t know what to say; people couldn’t believe it.  Man, how sad is that?  Tim Tebow could have lost his virginity a thousand times.  Pray for Tebow’s confidence.  Pray for his conviction.  Pray for his integrity.

I was at the doctor’s office a couple of weeks ago, and I was waiting to go in – a bunch of magazines on the table –  there was a People magazine – there was a picture of Elton John and his “husband” – this guy that he’s, I guess, married, civil.  And they’re holding this little baby.  They paid somebody to have a baby for them.  But it was this picture that, honestly, just freaked me out.  It was just, such a picture – it was a picture of the way you would have a mother and a father a baby, holding, except it was these two guys.  You know what that baby’s never going to have?  He’ll never have a mother.  I mean somebody gave birth to him, but he’ll never know her.  And that’s not fair.  That’s not right.

When we say that’s normal, that’s messed up.  That’s not marriage.  And I’m not saying Elton John’s a bad guy – I mean he’s a little wacky – I mean he did a lot of drugs years ago, and he drank way too much, and he’s sort of strange – but I’m not saying he’s a bad person; in fact, I know he’s done good things.  He’s raised millions of dollars for people with AIDS.  But it’s not right to think you can just kind of “buy a baby”.  A baby’s not a car.  You pay somebody to mow your lawn.  You don’t pay someone to have your baby.  And if you say that, people call you a bigot.

Right below, within that pile of People magazines, there was another one.  On the front cover, there was this guy – his name of Tyler Clementi – he was on the cover.  He was the college freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge and killed himself, because his roommate filmed him with another guy.  You know what’s more wrong than gay marriage?  Torturing someone who’s gay.  Torturing anybody who’s different.

This is difficult to talk about, because everybody knows somebody, or they know somebody who knows somebody, who’s homosexual.  And our culture just wants to put us in a box and say, “Well, if you’re against that, you’re a bigot”.  It’s not that simple.

It just seems to me that we live in such a selfish time.  You’ve heard the stat about New York City: 40% of the people who, 2 years ago, got pregnant in the City had abortions.  We lose the Tim Tebows of the world with those kinds of stats.

Being not like most, hey, it just carries a price.  Being different costs.  You know that.  Every time you say something when nobody else will, or you do something when nobody else will, you pay a price.  Well John lost his head.

And I think we’re in tough days.  I might even say, they’re corrupt times.  Take back the times we live in.  Take back our culture.  Don’t be like most.  Be the exception.

father barr


It’s a beautiful reflection on Christ’s call for the Christian to be different from the culture around him, not out of spite but out of love…for truth. I find it interesting that the material for Fr. Brian’s homily came from flipping through People magazine. The magazine (and other like it) hopes to touch the pulse of what people on the streets are discussing and yet it continues to miss the true pulse of Christ’s heart within His people.

His heart, burning with love for us and the truth of who we should be, calls some of these Christians to lay down even their lives for the sake of modeling and teaching the truth.

Love calls some of these to be priests.


The Young and the Nervous: 2 of 2

Posted by on Nov 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Seminarians Tags: , , ,

None of us have posted in some time because of the business of mid-term exams and papers. A thought that I had intended to share a while ago about the ministry to acolyte has again surfaced to mind this week.

Our professor of Liturgy, Fr. Joseph DeGrocco from the Diocese of Rockville Centre instructed our preparation for the ministry of acolyte. One thing he said stuck like a barb in the heart. He noted the homily which accompanies the rite of institution to the Ministry. It is a homily which the bishop may or may not use in sermonizing for the special event. Bishop Octavio weaved part of it into his own.

The prepared homily reads:

Dear child in Christ, as a person chosen for the ministry of acolyte, you will have a special role in the Church’s ministry. The summit and source of the Church’s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow. It is your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as special ministers to give holy communion to the faithful at the liturgy and to the sick. Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness. You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourself daily to God as a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to him through Jesus Christ.

In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people, and especially for the weak and the sick. Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his apostles at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I also have loved you.” [ All emphasis added]

We should note four points from the homily’s exhortations :
the acolyte must
1. live more fully the Lord’s sacrifice,
2. offer himself daily to God through Jesus Christ
3. show a sincere love for God’s people (esp. the weak and the poor)
and most importantly, 4. “love one another” as Christ has loved him.

Fr. DeGrocco focused his attention on the last word which seemed to sum the others. All four of these exhortations focus on a self-sacrificing love.

In a sense, the ministry of Acolyte calls the Christian man, in preparation for the priesthood, to step it up a notch. As a more public figure, his love has to be more self-sacrificing, more concerned with the weak and poor, more devoted to fully offering himself in imitation of the Lord’s sacrifice.

The more public we become, the higher the stakes. Like any professional preparation wherein the law-school student must be more well-versed in her area of expertise than the undergrad, the semi-pro football athlete must be more agile than the college athlete, and the ROTC candidate must be more disciplined that the one who enlists after high-school, a greater demand is placed on the one with more obvious experience.

How beautifully the Church distinguishes herself from the rest of the world’s understanding of greater demand. The center of the student’s measurement is her technical knowledge, the athlete- his physical prowess, the soldier- his discipline. And while the road toward priesthood must necessarily encompass all three of these and many more requirements, they are all trumped in the ministry of Acolyte.

As Fr. DeGrocco instructed us, “if you want to know how well you’re doing as an acolyte, don’t ask whether you’ve placed the right object in the right place. Ask: ‘do I love more?’. That is how to measure your ‘performance.'”

One’s knowledge of theology, apologetic prowess– that is his ability to tackle the questions which challenge the faith–, and his self-discipline are absolutely necessary. Yet even where the homily notes that the acolyte must “seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning” of what he does, this knowledge is not in isolation but only of use inasmuch as it moves him to offer himself daily.

None of the duties of the Acolyte so much exalted as his love for the people of God (especially the weak and poor).

While holding and expressing greater love is the call of every Christian, the Acolyte and later the priest, is particularly called to model and practice this key Christian virtue. It’s not enough to avoid sin, the Christian, and especially the priest is called to model, to practice, to get better and to excel at what should be our area our expertise: total love in imitation of the Lord’s.

When the monthly schedule for liturgical ministries comes into our mailboxes, it’s a great challenge for me to discern whether I truly love my seminarian brothers more than the previous time I assisted as acolyte.

As we pray and work for an increase in vocations to all truly Christian life, let us pray for an increase in love in the hearts of those men called to the priesthood. May they be more obedient to the Lord’s command to love one another. And may those men who feel a stir in their hearts toward self-sacrificing love, put out into the deep.


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