Friday, September 26, 2008

Hello there guys...

I'm writing to let you know that here in Mexico City we are working really hard in the preparation of the 2008 Conference for seminarians in Hispanic Ministry. During the last Conference, the Hispanic Seminary here in Mexico City was designed to be the host this year.

The reflection this year is about the Migration phenomenon, but the analysis will be about real situations in the lives of the migranst before they arrive in the USA.

Today’s Migrant Christ.

Migration, a global phenomenon that gives life and hope to new generation, is also the font of a mixture of culture, religion and some other aspects of humanity worldwide.

Every year a large amount of people walks the earth looking for a better way of life and there is something in particular that we, future pastors of the Church, care about, they carry their faith with them.

At this very moment, more than forty million migrants from foreign countries live in the US, and the number increases as the time goes by. Most of these people are Catholics from all over Latin America and mostly of them are from Mexico and Central America, that’s why the focus of the new Annual Conference for Seminarians in Hispanic Ministry – VISIONS, Today’s Migrant Christ – is the migratory phenomenon.

One goal is to give our seminarian guests an analysis of migrant families from four different campus of knowledge: Politics, Religion, Psychology and Anthropology. This way, we -seminarians in Hispanic Ministry- will have some tools to attend our migrant faithful.

VISIONS, Today’s Migrant Christ, will take you out of your US context and insert you in a Latin American context to give you a general view of the roots of the migratory phenomenon.

Within this vision, the topics to discuss will be: Migratory Laws, Deportations, Human Rights and Economic Impact.

A pastor from the Church will make an analogy between the Sacred Family and the Actual Migrants.

A specialist will analyze the migratory families as well as the individuals themselves from a psychological point of view, this will embrace: Family, Enculturation, Affectivity and Identity.

The migrant phenomenon will be viewed Sociologically and some History will complete the theme.
VISIONS, Today’s Migrant Christ, Mexico 2008 will give you a great experience of culture and knowledge.

For more info, you can email me or in where you can find a link to a pdf that has the program of activities.

Best wishes.

Alberto Enriquez

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feast of St. Matthew

Random silent retreat for the week starts this Sunday. Please keep me in your prayers. I have a feeling I'm in for a ride. :) I'll report back something next week.

Ok, the feast of St. Matthew was this past Sunday and since it was on a Sunday, we didn't really get to celebrate it. But it's a good feast worth noting. Heck, that's my brother's name too! The calling of St. Matthew has always rung deep in my heart. There is something about seeing St. Matthew caught up in the affairs of money and is daily routine and hearing the words of Jesus, "Come, follow me", that strikes a clear chord to me. How could you not get up? How could you not just leave everything behind and go? He is calling. He is calling you! GO!

So on the feast of St. Matthew I quote not from myself but from a homily of a wise priest who tells this story and much more.

The link to the site is here. And the author is Fr. John Jay Hughes.

"A cardinal was visiting a community of Carmelite nuns in Italy. After celebrating Mass for them, he asked the Mother Superior if he could see how they lived. Carmelite nuns are enclosed. They don’t leave the cloister. And visitors talk to them through a grille. The cardinal’s request violated their rule. But when a cardinal asks, you don’t say No. So the Prioress asked one of the nuns to show him round.

They visited the refectory, where the nuns sit on wooden benches without backs to eat their simple meals off bare wooden tables. The cardinal saw one of the cells where they sleep: a small room furnished with a narrow bed, a table to serve as a desk, and a hard wooden chair; a single light bulb overhead and a gooseneck lamp on the table. Instead of a basin with running water there was a large washbowl on a stand, and on the floor next to it a large crockery jug. The nun explained that water was brought from the bathroom down the hall.

At the end of the short tour the nun led the cardinal up a narrow stairway to the flat terraced roof above, furnished with hard benches and a railing all round. “On feast days like Easter and Pentecost,” she explained,”we can come up here, if the weather is fine, for our recreation period.” The view was beautiful. Across a valley they could see a magnificent villa surrounded by formal gardens and several fountains. It was summer. A gardener was cutting one of the hedges. Children were frolicking in the swimming pool. A couple were playing tennis on one of the two courts.

The cardinal turned to the nun who was showing him round.
“How long have you been here in Carmel, Sister?” he asked her.
“I entered twenty years ago next Easter,” she responded.
“Sister,” he said, “if the young man of that house had asked you twenty-one years ago to come and live there with him there as his wife, do you think you would be here today?”
“Your Eminence,” she replied. “That was my house.”

Why? Why would a young woman give up all that luxury and all that beauty? I think if we could have asked her, or hundreds like her round the world, she would have said something like this:
“I wanted to be with Jesus”...

...Jesus is offering you something he offers to only a few, something precious beyond words. He is offering you a life that will sometimes be hard, but which will be filled with meaning and filled above all with joy...When Jesus calls you, go for it! And one day you too will be able to say what I say to you right now: What a wonderful life! I have experienced already here on earth a little bit of heaven. Is God’s call just for religious professionals, priests and nuns? Don’t you believe it! While you were still in your mother’s womb, God already had a plan for your life. He calls each one of us, as he called those four rough fishermen in today’s gospel. He calls us to walk with him, to be so full of his love that others will see the joy on our faces and want what we have. Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught. It must be caught.

“I could never do that,” you’re thinking? You’re wrong. Here is a list of some of the great people in the Bible. Every one of them had a reason for thinking God could not use them. So the next time you feel like God can’t use you, remember:

Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused by his brothers. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. Jeremiah and Timothy thought they were too young. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah thought himself unworthy. Jonah ran away from God’s call. Naomi was a widow. Job went bankrupt. Martha was a perpetual worrier. The Samaritan woman was five times divorced. Zaccheus was too small. Peter denied Christ. The disciples fell asleep while praying. At Jesus’ arrest, they all forsook him and fled. Paul was too religious. Timothy had an ulcer. And Lazarus was dead!

So what’s your excuse? Whatever it may be, God can still use you to your full potential. Besides, you aren’t the message. You’re only the messenger.

When you were born, you were crying, and everyone around you was smiling. Start today (if you haven’t started already) living your life so that when you die, you’re the only one smiling, and everyone around you is crying."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Lady of Peñafrancia

This year I decided along with a friend of mine to join and actively participate in the Filipino Community at Mt. Angel Seminary. For most students, it is usually custom to learn Spanish and observe the Hispanic Community to prepare yourself for the cultural diversity in your home diocese. In Sacramento, although we do have a large number of Hispanics, I feel that some priests are very unfamiliar with Filipino Culture. In our Diocese, we have many Filipino Priests and Seminarians but I feel it a necessity to be aware of the customs and traditions of many of our people.

This past Saturday, I joined the Filipino Community in celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. ( I enclosed information about the feast and a link to a website at the bottom of the article.) A mass was held in Beaverton, and a reception was hosted in the parochial school cafeteria following the mass. It was splendid to be able to hear the Word proclaimed in Tagalog and to be able to sing parts of the mass in their native tongue. I have enclosed some pictures of the event and I hope you read more information about the story of Our Lady of Peñafrancia at the bottom.
Thomas Dooley of Mt. Angel Abbey, Joseph Malinis of Sacramento, Manolito Jaldon of San Francisco, and myself and Michael pose with a parishnor

Michael Andrade, Ysrael Bien and I all wearing Barongs. Barongs are a formal garment in the Filipino Culture.

"The official coronation of Our lady of Peñafrancia our Patroness of Bicolandia took place on September 2, 1924, offiaciated by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Guillermo ______ their Apostolic to the Delegate. The image therefore of Our lady of Peñafrancia enshrined in her sanctuary in Calle Balatas is about 275 years old. It is an antique statue that has even become the object of desire for many an antique collector. On the morning of August 15, 1981, this miraculous image was stolen from her shrine at the Peñafrancia Church. The entire region was shocked by this news and every devotee of Our Ina could not believe that such a dastardly and sacrilegious act could be perpetuated. Immediately a network for the massive search of the image was military and civilians alike. In the course of following leads to the theft, a policeman was killed and a police lieutenant was wounded when the jeepney they were riding in were ambused by heavily armed men somewhere in Bolo Sur, Sipocot, Camarines Sur.

It seemed that the search would be futile altogether and people almost resigned to the sorry fate of having lost a most beloved image. Most of the leads proved a haux. Meanwhile the approaching feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia necessitated an image to be borne during the translation and the colorful fluvial procession. One was made at the instant of church authorities and another image was donated by the First Lady.

A little over a year later, the region was shocked, with equal unbelief, with the news that the image has been returned to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Florencio Yllana, P.A.,Liaison Officer of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and former Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia here in Naga City. On September 8, 1982, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, the motorcade from Manila bearing the Image arrived in Naga City at the height of typhoon Ruping. The inclement weather did not deter thousands of devotees who braved the raging winds and the devastating floods to welcome the image of Our beloved Ina. At 10:00 in the evening of the same day, the image was safely enshrined at the Metropolitan Cathedral where a pontifical concelebrated mass offered in thanksgiving for the return and safe arrival of the image.

The image is now enshrined at the Basilica Minore at Calle Balatas in the City of Naga. She has returned to her flock and her people have gratefully built her a home worthy of her dignity, honor, and maternal position."
(2005 - 2008 Our Lady of Peñafrancia. All rights reserved)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Numbering the Shepherds in Training...

Though I sadly was not there for the gathering, 30+ seminarians from the Diocese of Sacramento gathered together for our annual retreat and meetup. This year, with the entry of 10 new men, we total 37 seminarians. This includes men doing English studies as well as a couple men in Mexico doing their philosophy. Please pray for more vocations! Picture of them below including Bishop Weigand and our two vocation directors, Fr. Brian and Fr. Humberto.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Picture Highlights of my first year of Seminary

Today is the birthday of my best friend Jeremy Lamb, of the Diocese of Fresno. We met last year as we both entered our first year of college at Mt. Angel Seminary. We bonded quickly because of similar age, music, movies, food, and prayer life. This past summer he discerned that he was not ready to continue his seminary education so he joined the United States Marine Core. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to post this picture review of the year.

Michael Andrade, Chris Gray, and Jeremy Lamb and I are about to summit Multnomah Falls

Jeremy, Adrian and I before we left for Christmas Break.

Yeah I was that close to BXVI. = )

Gabriel Kang and I at the Papal Youth Rally

In NYC for the Papal Visit, Michael and Chris are eating pizza

Diocesan Brother Jason Handcock

All Saints Day
( I am portraying Fr. Liem, Jeff Mattern is Fr. Martin, Trevor Ball is Fr. Paschal)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Source and Summit


I know that I am preaching to the choir here, but I think that emphasis can only be good. It is so imperative and vital and life-giving for us, as seminarians and the people of God, to be deeply and madly in love with Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. I was just talking with someone, and I realized that part of the reason I am at the seminary has become a bit compartmentalized.

In my conversion, the Eucharist was such an integral part of my life. After a month of going to masses, the youth group had a LifeNite which ended with adoration and benediction. At that point I was unable to really know what was going on, or have the vocabulary to really express what I was feeling. I will say this, I knew that there was something so very important before me, and I felt a pull to it. There were so many things running through my head at that particular point in time. I was taking in the experience of being before, what I can now say, Jesus, and watching the devotion and actions of those around me – I don't think, looking back, that I could really put all the pieces together. It wasn't until March 30, 2002, when at the Easter Vigil, I was received into the Church and I received the sacraments of initiation that this experience came to its climax. For those who may not know me too well, I can tend to be a sappy kind of guy, and I was proud of myself, I was doing good – no major waterworks after I was baptized, and confirmed. When I went to receive Eucharist for the first time though, that is when I began to lose it. I was now able to partake, in a very special way, Christ and now let him live in me and transform me. I flashed back to that LifeNite, and I knew why I was drawn towards the monstrance. I knew why those other people around me were there with such joyful, peaceful, faces and spirits.

Over the years, this overwhelming sense would come and go – nothing out of the ordinary. I wish I could say that it never left, but this is where the gifts of knowledge and faith kick in. It is sad and hard for me to admit that it has also been the case that I have not lived up to these experiences. There have been plenty of mornings that I wake up and go to prayer and mass simply because it is what I should (and am expected) to do. There are many times during adoration that I can get wrapped up in life and lose focus on Who is before me. I write these off as normal occurrences, but then when I go back to my room and reflect, it is hard to comprehend that this is so – that I can allow myself to think this way. I need to be living the great experiences and pray for the grace to do so. (This is not to say that my faith is to be necessarily based solely on these experiences for this is also not the case) I can say that I have been blessed with many great experiences with our Eucharistic Lord. It is a few of these experiences that have lead me to the seminary. I am sure that many of us have had many great experiences before the Blessed Sacrament, and I know that it is from Him that we receive the graces and strength to carry on in our lives and vocations. For truly it is in the Eucharist that all things flow from and should lead to. It is "a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47). It is in this sacrament that we can hope and live. It is my hope and my prayer that we, and all people, continue to look to the Eucharist for strength, encouragement, and love. It is here, in the Sacrificed Lamb that we will take refuge as future priests in the mass, and indeed now. We are called to conform our lives and to be transformed into that which we have received. We are called to live as Christ lives in us.

Now that I have rambled enough on something that we all know, I leave you with these words from the Gospel of Matthew:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when it drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father. (26:26-29)

May the Heart of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world, now and until the end of time. Amen.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Social Networking Sites

I'm going to put a quick disclaimer on this one. If you have a social networking site I do not think any less of you. The words I may use in this post may be very loaded but that is because of my strong feelings towards this subject.

I've been going over in my head how to compose this article for a long period of time. I've discussed this particular topic with many people over the years, including priests, seminarians, lay men and women and adolescents. I don't believe that there is enough criticism and attention being brough on this topic. This is something that engulfs Atheists to Christians, Americans to Europeans, and Priests to the Laity. It's called Social Networking Sites.

Social Networking sites such as Myspace or Facebook allow users to post pictures, videos, and personal information on a web page for the internet to see (Recently they allow users to make their profile private so that only their "friends" can view their page). According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "more than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a new national survey of teenagers."

As a young man entering high school, it was socially unacceptable to not operate and maintain such a site. I found myself uploading pictures from my hobbies and athletic events and blogging about my drama filled days of high school. Slander, gossip, accusations and immorality soon began being displayed on these websites. I remember attending a youth group and hearing from a few young women how they had posted pictures of themselves engaging in underage drinking on their Myspace. After an experience during my sophomore year in which through a bullentin over myspace I was declared dead, I ceased to maintain and operate a personal social networking site (I did however become part of a garage rock band and we had and maintained a Myspace. However after my application to the Diocese to become a seminarian, I removed the site.)

My issues with these websites is the blatant personal information and experiences on the website. These websites, through their users, promote underage drinking, drugs and sex.

Many people declare or give the defense that they use it to keep in touch with their friends. What happened to writing letters? What happened to taking the time out to hand write someone a letter rather than leaving a shallow picture comment on their Facebook or Myspace? What happened to learning about someone through dialogue and experience rather than reading all about them on a web page? Slowly we are desensitizing ourselves to one another.

As a young man in college, even in a seminary, I find myself near alone in not having such a website. I am well aware that many priests, seminarians and members of the church use and operate such websites and I hope that they realize what they are associating themselves with.
How easy is it to link to someone's page and see the immoral behavior of one of their "friends" on such a website?

When posting on the internet, more specifically this blog, I ask myself how would this look to the people who are praying for me and my vocation back home. What would they think if they saw some of my "friends" on my site behaving in an immoral way? The next time you sign into your Myspace or Facebook think about that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

College Beach Weekend

This past weekend was college beach weekend for the collegians of Mt. Angel Abbey + Seminary. This was my second year attending this event and it was held at Camp Meriweather/Clark near Pacific City, Oregon. The event is aimed to bring the collegians together and develop a greater sense of community for the year. Whether you have Pacific Islander, Asian, Hispanic or European ancestry you are ushered into the vibrant life of Mt. Angel. We spent the evenings of Friday and Saturday in cabins. We were located strategically next to the beach where we continued our tradition of having a bonfire every year. I also continued the incredibly fun tradition of renting a wet suit and bogey boarding during the afternoon. The majority of other seminarians visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory. As we departed on Sunday I felt that the goal of the event was achieved. I feel a lot stronger towards my college community and I am ready to take on the school year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Summertime Assignment

I thought I'd tell you guys a bit about a typical seminarian summer as this is always one of the greatest times for a seminarian. We're out of the seminary which means no academics and no homework. Well that is, unless you like reading, which I tend to enjoy a bit.

Anyways, in our Diocese, we tend to do summer assignments where we may end up in a parish, summer camp, prison ministry, hospital ministry, Spanish immersion, and so on. There are a lot of different places to end up. It really also depends on what year you are in for formation. My first two years were really optional in terms of what I could do. I was doing my 2 years of philosophy. This past summer, which just ended for me almost 2 months ago because I was sent to Rome, I was doing ministry at a correctional youth facility for boys in Ione, CA. If you have never heard of Ione, well it makes sense, the town has a population of prisoners bigger than it's own civilian population. :)

But it was one of my favorite experiences so far. I worked with youth ranging from 15-20, mostly Mexican with a few other ethnicities mixed in there. The facility is basically a camp for the most violent and high-risk offenders from the juvenile hall facilities throughout California. I'd end up teaching catechesis classes, just sitting around talking to the guys, doing a few bible studies, and going up to the lockup unit - basically a version of solitary - and giving the guys some time to just talk.

I am always amazed where the faith can thrive. Because even in this prison camp I found guys excited and wanting to know their faith. While I was there, we even confirmed I think about 8 guys. And even though they differed in their ability to understand and more so whether they were ready to live out the moral life, they realized the challenge of the Christian life. I remember talking with a number of them about sex and contraception and why the Church calls men to respect their women and to love them enough to marry them, make that commitment, before they show their love through the act of conjugal union. It was fun. Part of my angle in appealing to them was the challenge to be real men and be willing to sacrifice. Often I think that is the main means of calling men to live a virtuous life. Because it truly is a challenge.

Plus I got to hear the crazy stories of what some of these guys had done, high speed car chases and such. It's interesting because once you start hearing them you feel sorry for them despite what they've done because you know they don't want to be there and more so that they are so young. If they maybe only had a better neighborhood, better friends, and better father figures, who knows.

I don't have any pictures. We can't or I would have taken some. But I think you can imagine. Solitary was the craziest one. It is always intense to see people, humans, confined in such a small space and easy to see how they can go crazy.

In a place like this you realize how much the human person craves God. Here so many of them were asking so many questions - many more than I ever hear in youth groups. They cared even if they struggled and questioned. And even more so it makes you realize how much we need to be out there ministering to souls. There is so much to be done! And there are many youth facilities where there is no Catholic priest or often even a chaplain.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Some Good Vocation News...

The North American College, the United States' Catholic seminary in Rome, has its largest class of incoming New Men in 40 years with a total of 61 new seminarians and giving the house about 208 seminarians and 5th year priests in formation. There is an article about this too. And it's an amazing diverse group too. Almost all the men are under 30 and it is amazing to see the variety of vocation stories, how the Lord has and continues to call men to be his priests. For anyone who has called for the end to the priesthood as it is today, these men give witness to a Church that is alive and well. And here is a picture to give you some more evidence. :)

Hopefully we are all encouraged to know that we are not alone as we continue to discern the Lord's calling in our lives. Many have gone before us and many continue to be called this very day to be priests of Jesus Christ or as the Archdiocese of NY says, todays heroes.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ordination of 2 Priests for Sacramento

Just the other week, Friday August 22nd to be exact, 2 men of the Diocese of Sacramento were ordained priests! We congratulate Fr. Ruel Mesa and Fr. Roland Ramirez for answering the call to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and thank God for the gift of their vocations. There is more on their stories including how they found themselves in the seminary if you just follow this link.

That makes 11 new priests ordained for the Diocese of Sacramento in the last 2 years. But I'll be honest, we need many more good men to step up to this calling.