St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

St. Patrick, Pray for Us!
St. Patrick, Pray for Us!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Haunting Day: The Day I Gained the Ultimate Friend

Today, April 28, is a day that will forever haunt me for the rest of my life. This was the day I lost my best friend, Patrick Pudlewski, in a car accident in 2013. I never thought that my best friend I had just hugged and said "See you at school tomorrow!" after the 9:00 A.M mass would then be called to our Lord Jesus just 15 minutes later. I never thought I would drive by the accident on my way to work and not even realize he was gone. I wish my mom did not wake me up from my nap later that day and sit me down to tell me he was gone. I was in such shock, I jumped into action. Within the next hour, I had set up a candlelight vigil for Patrick and for our Lehman community in order for all of us to come together and pray. 

Candlelight Vigil and Prayer Service the night of the accident
The following week was the hardest time of my life. Having to help plan your best friend’s funeral is so hard, and processing everything that happened made for a long week. During this week, I was asked many a time "Why did God do this?" "Why does this happen?" 

That week I responded to these questions with the phrase of "This is not the end!", emphasizing that it was through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross, whom Patrick loved and was growing in his relationship with, that allowed Patrick to attain salvation; the very Jesus he had just received before he died. I also told people that "This is not the end, for one day we will see him again." What many people didn't know, however, is that I had my own faith crisis that was going inside of myself during this time.

Everyone knew I was the "religious one" of my class, and however true that may have been, this was a great test for me. I didn't understand why God did this, and I sure as heck had doubts about what will happen. After talking to Fr. Hess a couple of weeks after the funeral I started to get better about the whole thing. Many people like to view it as God calling him away to save him from some horrific life event or trial, which is how I felt too, which is a valid thought and feeling. I believe it goes deeper than just that, however. 

Reflecting on death has been something I have been doing for the last couple of years, as not only did I lose Patrick, I lost a good friend from my childhood Austin, a family my family is friends with lost their father Steve, and the loss of my Great Aunt Betty. I have asked why God has done these things. I have come to this realization about death: people need a realization that this life is not all there is, that is why what Jesus Christ did is so important, and that we need people praying for us and examples to us of how we can change ourselves toward a life for God. I have prayed for Patrick and others here and there every day since that day, and I know he is praying for me, and has shown me how to love God more. I am not saying God took Puddles away for me, but because Patrick had a time on earth just like everyone else, and God felt his mission in life was fulfilled, and our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to give Patrick the chance to leave this world and join in that Eternal Reward that Christ won for us.

This can be true with any death we experience, that it is not the end, not only of the possibility of us seeing them, but for their eternal life. God gives all of us different missions; vocations in which we are to respond and glorify God in, and some are called away sooner than others, but death should not be feared. While it is sad to lose someone close to you, it is an opportunity from God to reflect on one's own life, and also pray for and look at the person who died, whom God created for a purpose.

Patrick has helped me keeping going in my life, and helped me know how to love our Lord even more. I knew this during Kairos, but I know it even better now. I was honored to be able to read his Kairos application essay yesterday, and I was going to quote out of it to show you how Puddles exemplifies Christ and helps me, but I think it is best if Puddles tells you about his relationship with our Lord:
"Quite honestly, Jesus tends to be the one person I turn to when I need help with something out of my control.  My faith is what helps me get through the tough days and just helps me in general.  Jesus is my role model; I want to be like him in just about every way.  I know I will never be exactly like him but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.  If I didn’t have Jesus in my life I have no idea where I would be right now.  He guides me on my way through life.  I know sometimes I fall but I always turn back to him and ask for his help.  I wish I could meet him in person, but then again I guess we all will at some point.  I want to get to know him more and more though.  I realize I will never fully understand him, but I can’t think of something more worthwhile to spend time studying.  I honestly can’t imagine not knowing Jesus and his awesomeness.  Life must be depressing for atheists; I mean they don’t know the joy of knowing God and they deny that He even exists.  That has to be a tough life; they essentially cut out hope of something more than themselves.  That is why Jesus is so important in my life; he gives me hope that there is something better after this life.  He inspires me to continue every day and try to be more and more like him.  I can honestly say I love him and would do anything for him.  That is essentially the role Christ plays in my life; he is my rock.
            I think I am called to be a Kairos leader because I think I can help others know the faith more fully, granted I only know so much.  I still believe I can be a good Kairos leader and help my peers know what I see when I see God.  I feel like God can use me to bring others more fully into the faith.  I am devoted, loving, and I rarely give up once I start something.  So, I guess you could say that I am a little stubborn, but I don’t believe anyone is a lost cause or that they can’t be saved.  I guess what I am trying to say is that, I know I can help others, I want to help others, and I believe I can help others.  That’s pretty much why I think I am called to be a Kairos leader." 
          - Patrick Michael Pudlewski (December 26, 1995 - April 28, 2013)

I believe that was his mission: To "help my peers know what I see when I see God". Although he did not get a chance to lead Kairos, he was able to do this with his life and example. I will never forget as our relationship developed, the more eager he was to learn about the faith and go on retreats, that we would go to confession together sometimes, and I even got him to come to church with me for some special events, such as Divine Mercy Sunday, which was just two weeks before he died. This is how I know he is praying for me and that he was doing the will of God in spreading his love for Christ with others. His death should not be seen as an end or loss of something great, but as a life that was lived and developing in the love of Jesus Christ. A life that reflects those very words he wrote on that page. I will never forget you Puddles, and I pray I am worthy to enter into God's Kingdom and experience that same joy you had when you saw Jesus for the first time. Requiescat in Pace.

Special thanks to the Pudlewski family for allowing me to write about Puddles and post his Kairos essay on my blog. Please be assured of my constant prayers.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Blessings of the First Year

The past year has been filled with so many blessings that I cannot even think of where to start. Coming into seminary is a challenging time in a young seminarians life. This transition involves changing some practices in one's life, such as being on time for community prayer and other activities, but also adjusting to living in the community. This adjustment was interesting, but I quickly learned how to adjust and find my place in the community, and I was pleasantly surprised; you realize that no matter how different you may be to the others in the community, you are all there striving for holiness and God's will and will help one another achieve that goal. This is one of the best aspects of living in a community. I will post a more in-depth analysis of personal growth and understanding of seminary later. I want this post to be more about the many blessed and amazing activities I have done since arriving at seminary.

The first move in day was awesome, as my good seminarian friend Chris Geiger and parents helped move me and my twin brother Stephen into our rooms. It was a great time to have Chris here and his support for us through this process. The freshman are in the new wing of the seminary, which was completed in 2013. These rooms are huge compared to the other rooms in the old convent part of the seminary, and with that we get to have roommates. Unfortunately, the man who I was to room with discerned that he was not called to come to seminary, and I was left with this big room all to myself! Call me lucky I guess, but it was an interesting first day to say the least.

The beginning of the year started off with orientation and a trip to the lake for a cookout. As a freshman, I didn't know who most of these men were, and was a little awkward at first, but quickly began to form what would become amazing relationships with all the guys at seminary.

John Paul, Fletcher, and myself searching for Fletcher's glasses that John Paul dropped into the water at orientation.

Me with other freshman and senior Tony Cecil

After this amazing time, school started. Holy cow, how different college is compared to high school! I had 17 credit hours, which is considered high for freshman, and was able to adjust to college life quite easily and with the help of my brother seminarians.

This year was also a very special year for the seminary, as it is the 10th anniversary of the founding of the seminary. This was a hectic time for us at the seminary, as a huge white tent appeared inside the walls of the cloister and right outside our windows. It was time to throw a party! The weekend of September 7th was a busy one! The celebration started with the Bishop's Bash at the seminary, which is a mass with the archbishop, and a gathering of college students for fellowship and being with the bishop. The next day continued with a dinner of benefactors and friends with the bishop to celebrate and support the seminary in it's 10 years, and the 10 more years and beyond, to ensure the education of seminarians at Simon Bishop Brute College Seminary. 

Me serving for the Bishop's Bash mass

After this it was a little quite with activities, as school was becoming more challenging and difficult, especially with the 10 page English paper I was working on. But a nice break came around when the seminarians were invited to go to the Indiana Right to Life conference at the Indiana Convention Center around Thanksgiving time. This was an amazing experience to hear from a pro-life speaker, fellowship with pro-lifers, and hearing Indiana Governor Mike Pence's amazing pro-life speech and what he is doing for the state for the unborn. 

Brute Seminarians and Rector Fr. Bob at the Pro-life conference 
The next big event came a couple of weekends after the conference. This event was Parent-Pastor Day at the seminary, when our families and parish priest(s) can come to the seminary for mass and a lunch-in with us and the seminary administration. It was a great time to have my parents over to see us, and be able to meet other guys families as well. This was a nice break from all the school work.

Ending procession for the mass at Parent- Pastor Day at the Marian University Chapel

Brute's Schola Cantorum, including myself, that sang for the mass. 

The next big event was the Christmas Party the seminary had just before finals week for the first semester. This was a load of fun to relax from the stress of finals that were coming that next week. We all participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange, and I got an ugly cat shirt, small Bengals football, and a Browns throw blanket. It was also when the seminarians got some good cooking compared to the regular Marian food! 

Gift Exchange

Me with Jose and Nick
I finished the first semester quite well with all my classes, and was happy to get a break and go home to Sidney for a month. In this month, I got to get to know my new pastor and associate pastor better, work at my beloved Culvers, and serve some awesome Christmas masses, including midnight mass. It was such a joy being home, but I missed seminary, too. Not necessarily the school work, but the community and prayer. I kept up quite well with my prayer life (I hope) during Christmas break, but being at seminary gives you... I don't know... It's hard to explain. Knowing that you can visit Jesus in the chapel in the middle of the day, or even in the middle of the night, is comforting and strengthening. Being able to visit Jesus whenever you want, who is only right down the hall, is an amazing blessing we seminarians are blessed to be able to do.

Second semester of seminary started with a 3 day seminary retreat down at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. This was a great retreat filled with amazing talks, fellowship, and prayer in the beautiful hills of southern Indiana at "Holy Hill" as it is commonly referred to as. After this retreat we had 4 days of relaxation to go home or go back to the seminary to hang out. I came back to seminary early and had a great time just being able to hang out with my fellow brothers and relax before school started.

Second semester started off quite rough, as I now have 18 credit hours to deal with this semester. This was difficult for me, but once I got the rhythm of it, I was able to do ok in my classes. There was also not many activities this semester as last, but one big event which was amazing.

2 weeks into the semester, the seminary has a unique trip: 3 days for the March for Life in Washington D.C. This was an amazing experience, as we not only had hotel rooms and did not have to sleep on a bus for 2 nights, but were able to have a free day in Washington D.C before going to and processing in the Vigil Mass for Life at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C the night before the mass. My free day was quite busy, as I got up at 7:00 AM to go down and view the national monuments, and war memorials, as I have never seen them before. It was so powerful! The most powerful, though, was going to the Holocaust Museum. It was so powerful and I could not take it in in 3 hours. It was overwhelming. But I had to quickly leave in order to go to a very special place in D.C
Looking from the Washington Monument to the WWII Monument 

Lincoln Memorial

I had the privilege to go to the Vatican Embassy in D.C with my seminary brothers Adam, Dcn. Ethan, and Matthew. We went to visit the sisters who work there, whom two of my brothers know from their parish. We got a tour and eat with the sisters and meet different priests who work at the embassy. What a joy this was to be able to see! Then it was time to head to the Basilica Vigil Mass for Life. Wow! Almost 500 seminarians, 300 priests, and many bishops all in one procession! The whole entrance procession lasted 45 minutes! That mass was absolutely amazing, and so powerful for me. I also got to catch up with my Diocesan brethren from the Josephinum in Columbus before the mass, and it was great to see them! What a great experience this was! 
Me with my DB's Tyler and Brodie 

The seminarians at the March for Life 2015
After returning to the seminary, everything was quite quiet. Not many activities went on until Spring Break in mid-March, which was spent at home resting up and helping at Holy Angels. It was not until Holy Week that some amazing activities came alive.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, I had the pleasure and blessing to be able to go to Cincinnati for our Chrism Mass. Not only that, I was able to serve that Chrism Mass as a torch bearer! It started with dinner and fellowship with Archbishop Schnurr, Bishop Binzer, Fr. Dan my Vocation Director, and the other college seminarians at the Cathedral rectory. This was amazing to be able to hang out and get to know everyone better! It was then time for practice before mass and serving. What an experience! I have never been able to serve at the Cathedral before, and I was blessed to be there for the Archbishop's amazing homily, and helping with the Chrism for the whole Archdiocese. This was an amazing experience and a great way to start Holy Week and for what came next!

We at Brute were only able to go home from after classes on Holy Thursday till Easter night. While this was short, it was busy! I served and or was MC for every holy week mass, mostly doing the incense, and even got to be at the Easter Vigil! What an amazing mass that is! This gave me great joy and deepened my prayer life during Lent, and I am blessed to be able to do these things, for it gives me great joy! Ended the weekend by serving 2 Easter masses on top of the Easter Vigil mass, and rush back to Brute that day. I loved every minute of it! I also got to have a lot of fun with the priests at my parish. 

Altar of Repose during Holy Thursday till Good Friday morning

The servers, seminarians,  priests, and deacon at Easter Vigil 2015

This was an amazing experience and I cannot wait till next year! Sorry for the extremely long post, I will not be posting posts this long; I intend on shorter, more frequent posts about Seminary as to not overwhelm or make people board. I am finishing up the final semester the next two weeks, and will have some more events between now and then to post about! Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Summer Adventures!

I have some exciting news to share with all of you. This summer, I will be moving down to West Union, Ohio to live at Holy Trinity and Mary Queen of Heaven parishes with Fr. Jason Bedel! This is an amazing experience I am blessed to be able to do. I will be leaving May 11th to live down there this summer. While I am sad to leave my beloved Holy Angels Church for the summer, this experience will be so powerful for me and I cannot wait to get to know the people of Adam's County! Be assured of my constant prayers for all of you, and please include me in yours. God is so good!