Letter from Our Seminarian

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[This week I yield my space, a couple weeks late, to the epistolary eloquence of our seminarian, Robb Lester. Robb is studying at St Joseph's Abbey Seminary College in St Benedict, Louisiana. - Fr Allen]

Dear Fr Allen and Corpus Christi Family,

As I’m writing this Florence is rolling around off the coast trying to make up her mind where to go.  After just going through preparations a few weeks ago with Gordon, I understand the frustration of not knowing when and where these hurricanes go.  For us here at the abbey, we were lucky in that Gordon didn’t make it this far but we were prepared and well stocked with goldfish and other refreshments! I have offered prayers for all of you and ask St Scholastica to intercede for you. St Scholastica is St Benedict’s sister and is invoked against rain and storms.

It’s been a month or so since I arrived back at St. Ben's.  Mom and Dad helped me move back in and we all were able to take a side trip to Houston.  We attended mass at the cathedral with Bishop Lopes as celebrant and met up with a few of my seminarian brothers.  We dined with Bishop Lopes at his home. The bishop is not only a great shepherd who gives inspiring homilies but can cook a gourmet meal!  It was a wonderful evening to share with him and meet his mother, who is a delightful woman.

Classes have been the usual challenge, but I enjoy the opportunity to further my knowledge of the Church and continue my discernment process.  I must admit the recent scandal of abuses have shocked our community here at the seminary. As we have seen a small part of fatherhood, both spiritual and secular, has been affected, brotherhood and sonship must be protected. I know that our Blessed Mother will clean Holy Mother church by her authority as Queen of Heaven.  Please continue to pray for all seminarians, our formation directors and bishops and our Holy Father and that they who God has called to a holy priesthood will rightly and duly administer his holy word and be the fathers that the Church needs in these trying times. Please join with all in the Ordinariate Friday, 9/21 as we follow Bishop Lopes’ designation of this Ember day as a day of penance and fasting for the victims of abuse and for the Church’s healing.

I noted last year that I was the only one from the Ordinariate here at St Ben's. This year I have a brother seminarian who is part of the ordinariate. He, too, is learning that he has to do a little educating of those who do not know us.  It would have been helpful had Bishop Lopes had been able to come back the first week in September. He was to do our mass for the entire seminary and give a little background about us.  Gordon unfortunately had other plans! Tentatively, he is to come in December and show the beauty of our patrimony which is definitely a treasure to be shared.

All seniors have to participate in a mission trip for graduation requirements. Usual countries visited are in Central America, but I have been assigned to Ecuador.  We will leave in January for a few weeks to work with the locals there and share our common faith. Our faith doesn’t stop at the border, our faith doesn’t stop anywhere.  Where the poor and hungry are, Christ is still present.

I’m on several committees here, one being hospitality.  I am responsible for keeping rooms available for visitors in the hospitality hall thus making sure that Chapter 53 of The Rule of Saint Benedict is followed to always welcome guests and invite them to prayer.   I also have found myself on the Bonfire committee. Each November we have a joint venture with Notre Dame Seminary, not the famous Indiana one, but the major seminary in New Orleans! We host a day of flag football and fellowship and then light a bonfire that the men of St Ben's build on campus from trees on the property. It's a fun day just before we leave for Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to the construction and to the demolition!

Below is our class picture.  We have about 150 young men discerning from all over the southern US.  I am constantly amazed that there are so many men in this day and age who want to give themselves to Christ and his Church.  Please pray for them and the monks and our lay instructors that their words will be God’s word and raise up an holy priesthood.

As always, you are in my prayers and I will offer up all of you to Our Lady when I go to Houston in a few days to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham.  Please keep me in your prayers and I hope to see everyone at Thanksgiving.

In Christ's love,
Robb

Letter from Our Seminarian

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A letter home from our seminarian, Robb Lester. Please keep him in your prayers!

October 10, 2017

Dear Fr.  Allen and Corpus Christi family,

It has been 2 months since I arrived at St Joseph Seminary, or St Ben's as it’s called.  I have been busy from the start, settling in and making new friends and learning so much. The weather is not far off of from what I know from Charleston, with threats of hurricanes, too; I'm thankful that Irma didn't bothered you too much.  The campus is beautiful and peaceful.  Though there’s not a Bojangles anywhere near me, I have found it engaging and fun all at the same time.  

There are about 150 seminarians here from the southeast US.  I am the only one from the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter so I spent the first few weeks teaching those who were unaware of who we are.  My formation advisor is a Catholic priest whose father was an Anglican minister, so he is most assuredly supportive of my discernment.

Each day is filled with morning prayer, classes, Mass with the monks, evening prayer and lots of studying.  We do find time to socialize, play ultimate frisbee and of course, eat!  There have been day trips into New Orleans and Baton Rouge; (I prefer the piney woods and swamp of St Ben's to either city).   It is encouraging to see other young men like myself coming together to pray and build lasting relationships for the work of the Kingdom.

Recently on a Friday a few weeks ago, we had a Penance service and Silence day.  We went to confession and Mass and then the rest of the day we were silent.  No talking, not even during meals.  It gave us time to build the interior life that all of us need for our relationship with Our Lord.  No distractions of the outside world.  Saturday, after Silence had been completed, I drove to Houston to our Cathedral.  It was the weekend for the candidates of the Instituted Acolytes, coinciding with the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. I met the other seminarians of the Ordinariate, with the exception of one who studies in Rome. It was good to bond with them as we discern the path we are on together.  We prayed Evening Prayer with the candidates for Instituted Acolytes and had a wonderful dinner with the cathedral parish.  It was comforting to see familiar faces from home as Dr. Lackey was there as a candidate for Acolyte, along with Mrs. Lackey.  

Sunday morning arrived and I, along with the other seminarians, vested for Mass.  It was the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham.   The processional hymn was “Hail thee, Festival Day”, a favorite of my entire family (both my sisters have used this for their weddings for the recessional hymn!)  In case you didn’t know, I was trained as an altar server by my mother back at Holy Communion.  She taught that a server should keep facial expressions to a minimum, no smiling or weird faces.  While I kept that lesson in my mind I could not help but feel joy as I sat in the cathedral and before long I knew there was a smile on my face.  I felt the joy of being there, at Mass, a Catholic Mass, something that, when as a former Anglican, I never thought I would feel.  Back then, I thought being a Catholic meant giving up worshiping in the beauty of holiness.  I remember being cautioned as I was converting that I wouldn’t find the same liturgy in the Catholic church as I had known in the Episcopal church.   Yet, I have found the liturgy, even better than before.  It’s wonderful!  It’s beautiful!  We have a bishop who cares to preserve and enrich our patrimony.  We have a beautiful cathedral to worship in.  We have young Catholics who love the beauty of the Mass of Divine Worship.  As I drove the 5 hours back to school, I knew that the decision to swim the Tiber was what God had been calling for me to do.  I have so much joy and peace about my life in the One True Catholic and Apostolic Church.  I give thanks that Benedict XVI gave this opportunity to us and our Holy Father Francis supports us by giving us Divine Worship and Bishop Lopes.  I pray that with the intercessions of Our Lady of Walsingham, the true queen of England, we all shall become one.  

I thank all of you for your prayers for me in my discernment.   I look forward to seeing all of you at Thanksgiving.  Until then, please know that you are in my prayers.

In Christ,

Robb