By Michael Rizzo
Continue in your prayers and studies.
That was the encouragement directed to graduating seminarians at the May 18 convocation for the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation at the Immaculate Conception Center (ICC) in Douglaston.
Eleven seminarians participated in the ceremony, including Luis Marquez and Randy Nguyen of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who both completed their graduate courses in Catholic philosophical studies. Both will now move on to a major seminary.
The convocation began with a morning Mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the main chapel at ICC. More than 100 family members and friends of the graduates filled the pews. Bright sunlight lit up the chapel through its stained glass windows.
In his homily, Bishop DiMarzio spoke of the gospel reading in which Jesus says He is the vine and His followers are the branch-es. The bishop said spiritual reflection and pruning help us all grow and become stronger in our faith, especially with the sex abuse crisis the Church is facing. He said that strength comes through prayer.
“The people of God want you to be men of God,” he told the seminarians, “so you must be men of prayer. You will face challenges with the new generation of young people. God will give you the gifts to minister. We find that strength when we are attached to Jesus, the vine.”
Nguyen’s attachment to the diocese runs deep. Nguyen was born in the United States after his family emigrated from Vietnam. He grew up in Queens and still lives and serves at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Astoria. The 26-year-old says he was called to the priesthood when he was nine. He said activities at Douglaston cemented that calling.
“Through prayer, study and service,” he said, “like midnight runs [to help the home-less] or visiting nursing homes to talk with the people there and be a disciple of Jesus.” Nguyen’s mother, Chau Bui, speaking through her son as a translator, said she did not initially want him to become a priest but now is happy. She asked for prayers for him.
“Prayers help overcome all difficulties,” she said.
Luis Marquez is from Colombia and lived in New Jersey before coming to Cathedral Seminary. He said meeting priests from the Diocese of Brooklyn made him realize this was the place to fulfill his priestly calling. Like he did last year, he will again teach religion at Our Lady of Sorrows’ summer camp in Corona. Marquez cited a daily occurrence at Douglaston that reinforced his vocation.
“Every morning we begin in the chapel to say hello to God and you know you are talking to him.” This fall, Marquez will attend Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., while Nguyen will study at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., as both begin their theological studies en route to ordination.
At the convocation ceremony, the graduating seminarians were honored with medals for completing their bachelor’s degrees and master’s studies in philosophy. Father George Sears, rector of the seminary, told the graduates that their formation doesn’t stop here but that they need to con-tinue to use what they have studied to find the truth, which is Jesus.
The seminary then bestowed the Salus Animarum Award on Bishop DiMarzio to recognize his efforts to increase vocations.
In accepting the award, the bishop said the seminary is a great testament to the cooperation of all the dioceses that send young men to ICC for formation. He said seminary enrollment would increase to more than 80 students next fall and praised the quality of the seminarians arriving at Douglaston’s doors.
“We will make this building come alive,” he said, “because it is built to the glory of God.”