This past Wednesday we took Evan to the Salt Lake airport at an early hour. (Did you know there’s a five in the morning now?) As I’ve been talking with my colleagues and telling them that he’s gone to the seminary, one question keeps coming up over and over:
Can you talk to him?
In fact, on Friday he took a few moments out of his day to call and wish my mother a happy birthday. On Saturday, he gave us a call to update us on his first three days at St. Paul’s College.
All along, he’s been swapping texts with his older brother and we’ve been able to send him e-mails.
I think the reason the question keeps coming up is that many of my colleagues are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — Mormons — and they speak out of their experience of sending children off on religious missions. Although it is not required, young Mormons are encouraged to serve a voluntary mission. During the time that these young people are away from home (two years for men, eighteen months for women) they are not permitted to call home except on Christmas and Mother’s Day. Beyond that, Missionaries are encouraged to write a letter home once a week. In recent years, these letters have come in the form of weekly e-mails.
Since many of these missionaries are young and serving in distant lands, parents are understandably concerned and eager to hear that their children are safe and well.
And, perhaps, some of my colleagues are confusing seminary with a cloistered order in which all communications are strictly controlled. To be fair, there are seminaries which are more strict and seminaries which are less so. The Paulists seem to be interested in having their seminarians engaged with the world and so Evan is readily available to communicate with us. When he was away at college, he called us once a week to chat. I expect that will continue so long as he’s available.
While we’re on the topic, let me share a few highlights of Evan’s week.
- He and the other novices got to select their rooms and settle in.
- They learned how to ride the DC Metro System.
- He and fellow Novice Dan Arthur went and prayed a Rosary at the Shrine of our Lady of Poland at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
- They had pictures taken to be posted on the Paulist website.
- They celebrated a Signing-In Mass on Saturday night at St. Paul’s College.
I asked Evan how he was doing and he admitted that it was a lot to absorb in just three days. He was looking forward to this week’s opening retreat at Lake George.