National News

Rockville Centre Seminarians Get Up-Close Look at Trump

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Three seminarians from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, L.I., attended the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump Jan. 20, thanks to help from their representative in Congress.

John Crozier, Kieran Maelia and Paul Clores were offered tickets by Rep. Peter King, R-New York, who is close friends with a priest-mentor for the trio. The priest could not make it to Washington, but he suggested King offer the tickets to the seminarians.

Thus, for the cost of gas, tolls along Interstate 95 and a quick meal at a rest stop, Crozier, Maelia and Clores got to see the inauguration from what Crozier estimated was a distance of two football fields from Trump. The trio saved money by staying at Theological College in Washington.

Despite being seminarians, they went incognito, according to Crozier, 23. “Shirts and ties. It’ll be a little tense out there. If we’re not at ecclesial events, we don’t wear our collars.”

Their first moment of tension, Crozier told Catholic News Service (CNS), came not long after they emerged from a subway station. “We ran into some protesters. They had D.C.-area police closely monitoring the situation. They said if they notice any tension or violence, they were on top of it,” he said. “We turned the corner and they let us into the secured area before there was any physical contact.” The protesters, he added, were expressing their views about the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for terrorism suspects and the Palestinian statehood cause.

Crozier said he heard further unrest when, during the presidential oath, some people in his section chanted, “Not fit for office.” And soon after Trump started speaking, he added, a few people used whistles to try to drown out the president.

The seminarians didn’t spot anyone they knew in the throng, but they went to King’s office afterward to thank him for his generosity in giving them the tickets.

“He was very friendly, very gracious,” Crozier said. “He asked us how we were doing. The fact that we were seminarians, the fact that we know a priest that he’s close with – he wanted us to have that experience.”

It was the first inauguration for Arasely Rios Quinones, who came with her husband, Tony. They had a longer commute to Washington than the seminarians did, flying to the nation’s capital from San Diego, Calif.

The time spent in an airport waiting to board a plane is probably longer than this year’s inaugural ceremony was, not to mention the round-trip cross-country flight, the early wake-up call, and the shuffling wait in line to get to an assigned section on the Mall, which Rios Quinones estimated was about one-and-a-half football fields from the swearing-in site.

But it was “all worth it,” Rios Quinones told CNS, even though security “took my umbrella” on a warm, wet day, with off-and-on showers starting again as Trump advanced to the podium for the oath of office.

Rios Quinones, who has what she calls a “high-end” rosary-making business called Seraphym Designs, fairly gushed at what she heard from him in his inaugural address.

“I absolutely loved that he gave the country back to the people. What made me shed some tears is that he gave it back to God’s people. And he spoke about unity, all unified,” she said. “One thing I absolutely loved as well is that he unified it under God. He talked about unification under God and the importance of unification of the country.”

Trump had said during his address, “The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”

“We all unite to create to make America great again. It was really inspiring,” Rios Quinones said. “I thought it was the best speech I ever heard.”