A Note from our Summer Seminarian - Kyle Etzel
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus provides a maxim for Christian life which an average seminarian hears quite frequently. That, one “must deny himself, take up his cross,” and follow the Lord. We are assured that, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [the Lord’s] sake will find it.” How true this is and how true it has been for me this summer! I can say quite confidently that this summer spent here, at Holy Cross Catholic Church among her parishioners, staff, and clergy, has been the best of my life. It’s even better to be able to say that this is not the case because the summer has gone according to the plan Fr. Howe and I began with in May, but because the Lord has carried me toward the opportunities which I did not expect.
Two weeks ago, at the last Youth Night of the summer, Fr. Howe asked all of us present to reflect upon a patron saint of the summer or of the return to school who has been or could be a role model for us in this time in our lives. The question was not necessarily meant for me, but I’m still a “kid” returning to school, so I gave it a go. A couple saints came to mind who have been “nagging” me during my time here and who I think are great saints for our time in general. Both share a common charism, that whatever turmoil there is in your life, community, or the world, you must “take up your cross,” and follow Him.
First, by virtue of chronological order, is St. Philip Neri. Born immediately prior to the Protestant Reformation, he lived his entire life during a time of turmoil in the Church. She was battered, bruised, and, ultimately, broken. But Philip persevered in a rugged, genuine faith leading people, almost one by one, back to an authentic belief and practice of the Catholic Faith. Known now as the Apostle of Rome, he spent his life in the trenches reviving the Church one person at a time. Second, is Blessed Karl I of Austria-Hungary. The last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, the last Habsburg to sit upon the throne, and the Emperor who ascended to the throne in the middle of World War I. How easy would it have been to see that his house was headed for ruin and that his rule wouldn’t last? Rather than sailing away for a life of luxury, Karl I spent his short two-year reign serving his people and being an example of a virtuous Christian life. He was known to have a deep care for the poor, for those serving his country, for the Church, and for his family. His cross he embraced amidst the uncertainty of the time and gave his life to live as best he could for Christ.
Why are these my patrons of the summer of 2018? Because they image in a large way what I have observed here at Holy Cross being lived out in many small ways by many people. I have spent a lot of time in the office observing and working with the parish staff as they strive to make Holy Cross a great parish. I’m sure that the ladies and gentlemen of the parish staff don’t always think they’re doing the work of the Gospel, but they ought to do so. The day to day operations which take place on the first floor of the Holy Cross rectory are those tasks which allow us all to worship so beautifully, educate our children, aid the poor and infirm, and bring Christ to this neighborhood. Each email sent and phone call taken is an act of service to Our Blessed Lord.
Like the staff, the volunteers of the parish give so much of their time and talent to the service of the Church and the Lord. Most of the volunteers I’ve worked with have been through the liturgical and youth ministries. Seeing how seriously servers, ushers, lectors, cantors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion take their roles in the Mass is a great consolation to me as a future priest. Pope Benedict XVI has said
throughout his writing, and I paraphrase, that, “as the Liturgy goes, so goes the Church.” Well, the liturgy here at Holy Cross has remained this parish’s most revered and sacred task in the hearts of these volunteers and it should be a signpost toward hope for the future of your parish. Working with the youth of the parish and those who serve them, as I alluded to above, has been a most impactful ministry for me this summer. Having a strong core of young people who wish to know and be known by the Lord should console all the readers of this article for they are the future of the Church. When a young person takes their Saturday night or a summer evening to come and spend time in fellowship, catechesis, and fun with other Catholic youth, they are investing in the work of the Gospel. When the parents, whose children are grown, or who have not yet grown up, or who do not yet have children, come to support the work we are doing with the youth, we are seeing the link we are called to have as a parish family. Multiple generations working tirelessly to “let the children come” to Him, as I’ve seen in the new reformed Don Bosco Task Force for the Education of Youth, is another way in which I’ve witnessed the parish taking up its cross and following.
I would be remiss if I did not mention our pastors. The mentorship, friendship, and experiences I have shared with Frs. Howe, Hagan and Stanislaw this summer is invaluable to me. All the hours in a classroom hearing about parish ministry are minutes compared to learning from them. To see how they care, deeply, about the welfare of their spiritual family here at Holy Cross is something to be cherished by us all. Fr. Hagan’s efforts in young adult ministry in the neighborhood reveal his desire to re-evangelize this once utterly Catholic neighborhood. But it’s not by standing on the corner handing out Rosaries, it’s by an invitation to join the family, to be known by our family, and to take up one’s cross along side us. Fr. Howe’s zeal for the salvation of the souls in his care is palpable. Surely, anyone who has heard a homily from him knows of this zeal on a larger scale. In the smaller, less grand moments, though, is where you catch an idea of how deep this zeal goes. When he’s flying out the parish office door to spend time praying a Rosary with a homebound centenarian or dropping in to have an ice cream sandwich with the youth group when he’s supposed to be beginning an important meeting, you see how deep that pastoral call to take up his cross, the care of his parish. Also, a special thank you to Fr. Stan for his incredible hospitality he offered towards me during the summer.
Please, keep me in your prayers as I begin my second year of Pre-Theology at the St. Paul Seminary this Labor Day. This summer has been a supreme blessing in my ongoing discernment and a great affirmation of my vocation to one day be a member of the Holy Priesthood. It is, was, and will be the thing that carries me through these trying times for Holy Mother Church. I will be praying for you all and visiting as frequently as I am able.
God love you,
Your Summer Seminarian