YONKERS — Sixty-five seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary and College have officially completed their first week back to school. The seminarians are living on-campus and attending classes in a traditional, in-person format while adhering to health and safety guidelines.
“It’s been a good beginning to the year. We’ve learned a lot through this experience, we see beyond the post-COVID period, and we’re hopeful,” Bishop James Massa, St. Joseph Seminary’s new rector, said on Sept. 4. “We’re ready to apply the lessons we’ve learned during this time and be a program that effectively trains our future Catholic leaders.”
One of those future leaders includes third-year Theologian Joseph Hadzovic from Dyker Heights, who couldn’t wait to move in and come back to campus.
“To see my friends and fellow brothers again, after being so far [away] and so much time apart, was great,” he said.
Fourth-year seminarian Chin Nguyen from Vietnam also recently returned to St. Joseph’s after spending the last six months at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Astoria. He said his time there was wonderful as he spent more time with God by praying in the rectory’s second-floor chapel. Nguyen also learned more about fraternity from the six parish priests and helped repaint the church with its maintenance crew.
As the first week of classes came to a close, Nguyen said he hopes everyone will remain safe and healthy while continuing their studies.
“We know that we are still amid a pandemic, yet, first, we trust in God’s providence as well, practicing social distancing in the seminary,” he continued. “Father Michael Bruno, dean of seminarians, always reminds us to practice three things: prudence in making decisions, vigilance, and communication — especially if something happens in the house or if someone feels sick.”
Unlike the seminarians, professor of Moral Theology Father Charles Caccavale remained at St. Joseph’s for the duration of the pandemic lockdown. He said the ample space on site was truly a blessing and that he wasn’t lonely given that several brother priests were there as well. He noted, however, that not being able to go to his parish and assist with weekend Masses was tough.
“I very much missed seeing parishioners at Sunday Mass. Though my main work is teaching at the seminary, I came to realize even more than before, how important it is to have that contact with a parish, even if just on Sunday,” Father Caccavale said. “As we are mainly preparing seminarians for parish priesthood, I discovered that consistent connection with a parish community is helpful in my work with the seminarians. I think it helps me fulfill my main responsibilities to the seminarians and other students studying theology at St. Joseph’s.”
On Sept. 3, the seminary celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit, which is traditionally held at the beginning of every new school year. The Mass also happened to coincide with Bishop Massa’s 60th birthday.
“We had a very beautiful celebration and a picnic afterward outside, and the twofold celebration was really nice. It reminded us that Christ is at the center, at the heart of what we believe,” Bishop Massa said. “Plus, I couldn’t imagine being at a more joyful place to mark this milestone in my life.”