Ordination Weekend

We are back from Evan’s ordination and, honestly, I think it’s going to take me a while to process everything. It was an extraordinary, wonderful, and transcendent experience. There will be a longer post later sharing some of my impressions.

In the meantime, the Paulists have posted links to the videos of Evan’s Ordination and Mass of Thanksgiving. If you have time and want to join in the celebration with us, please take a look. http://www.paulist.org/the-conversation/video-paulist-fr-evan-cummingss-ordination-and-first-mass/

— Dad (of Evan Fr. Evan)


First Promises Mass 2014

Fr. Eric Andrews delivers encouraging words to the novices during his homily at the First Promises Mass.Last weekend we made our first visit to St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC.  Taking advantage of a Utah state holiday, we left early Thursday morning and returned on Sunday.  The occasion was the 2014 First Promises Mass.

As I understand it (and if I get this wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct myself) the novice year is explicitly a time of discernment — both for the candidate and for the community.  As the end of the year approached, all four of this year’s novices were evaluated and a decision was made about their suitability for the community and their readiness to continue their formation.  It is also the point at which the novices become full members of the society and earn the privilege of putting CSP (Congregation of St. Paul) after their names.

All four of this year’s novices were invited to make their first promises.  This involves promising to be faithful to the Paulist Constitution and to fully engage in the community for the coming year.  (Aside: While they are students, the promises are renewed each year up to the point that these men are ordained as Transitional Deacons.)

This year's novices promising to obey the Paulist Constitution and professing their belief that they are called to be missionaries.Fr. Eric Andrews, the newly elected president of the Paulists, traveled to DC to celebrate the Mass and to receive the promises from the students.  Director of Novices, Fr. Rich Colgan, con-celebrated the Mass.

It is difficult to capture the Mass using the written word.


There are moments that stand out strongly in my memory.

In his homily, it was clear that Fr. Andrews knew each of the novices and could speak to the experiences they’d had during the last year — both inside the community and out.  Working from the readings (the 17th week in Ordinary Time Year A) he wove the story of Solomon asking for wisdom with Pauls’ firm belief that we are called according to God’s purpose with the parable of the Pearl of Great Price.  Each of the readings reinforced the idea that following God’s call is worth the cost.  (Aside: Evan and the other novices asked me to serve as one of the lectors for the Mass and I was honored and humbled to be involved.)

As always, the promises took place after the Liturgy of the Word and before the Liturgy of the Eucharist; the same place you’d find a Wedding or Baptism.  The novices stood, enunciated their names and joined their voices in making their promises.  (They had crib notes to work from to ensure they got the words right.)

The four moms presenting the gifts to Fr. Andrews.To her great surprise, Cathy found herself weeping when Evan took his promises and then signed the book recording the event.  I’ll have to admit it was a more powerful moment than I had expected.  (Note to self: bring tissues for future significant liturgical events.)

When it came time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the four mothers were asked to bring up the gifts.  This  was especially powerful.  It spoke to the fact that these women had made gifts of their sons to God — much like Hannah giving Samuel to God.  For me, this was a profound sign of their faith in God.

After the Mass, there was a reception in the common room with finger foods and good company. Of course the families of the novices were present including parents, siblings and more distant relations; our own contingent consisted Cathy, Ian and I as well as Cathy’s parents and sister from Erie.  The priests from St. Paul’s college were in attendance as were the externs — priests who are living at St. Paul’s while they work on their studies at the nearby CUA.  Although the students are all away on summer assignments, many of them returned for the Mass.  That gave us the opportunity to meet Stuart Wilson-Smith, Michael Hennessy and Matt Berrios (who was the cantor for the Mass — he has an awesome voice and an epic beard).  We also got to meet several of the Paulist Fathers including Fr. Frank DeSiano, Fr. Charlie Donahue (who was very kind and supportive when he talked to Cathy and shared his vocation story), and Fr. Steven Bell (Busted Halo and shortly to be re-assigned to Ohio).  We met so many people it was hard to keep track of them all and I apologize if I missed anyone.

Not remembering all of them is a shame because what we found was an incredible community filled with light and the joy of a shared mission.  As guests of the house, we were able to participate in the life of the community by attending the Friday morning prayers and Mass and by taking our meals with the community.  (Aside: The cooking staff at St. Paul’s college does an incredible job of providing great meals for all who live there.)  Everyone we met was genuinely welcoming and we had some fascinating conversations over our meals.

Likewise, it was great to meet the other novices and their parents; to hear about their spiritual journeys and how their experiences were similar to our own.  It made me wish we lived in a more Catholic part of the country so that we might be able to form some sort of parents’ group for vocations.

We also managed to fit in a few tourist-y things; the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the monuments of the National Mall, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

All of these were wonderful moments during the trip, but what I most remember is the joy of having our family together to celebrate this important moment in Evan’s formation journey.

Evan, Cathy, Kevin and Ian at St. Pauls' college after the First Promises Mass, July 26, 2014.

— Dad

Question: What Does A Novice Do?

The first few weeks of Evan’s Novitiate have been somewhat busy, but things are beginning to settle down.

In addition to the initial retreat, his unexpected trip back to Utah, and his brief stay in New York City, he’s had the privilege of attending Jimmy Hsu’s Final Promise Mass and Mass of Ordination as a Transitional Deacon.  The participation of the entire Paulist Community in DC in these events underscores the deep commitment these men have to the order and their connectedness and it was — by all accounts — a joyous celebration.

With that past, the novices are beginning to settle into the routine that will serve them in their discernment during the coming months.  I’m going to share (as best I can) a snapshot of that life.  If I miss something, I’ll ask that the novices be generous and gentle in correcting my errors.

7:45 a.m. — Morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.  (If you’re interested in sharing that experience, you can find out more at Universalis.com and DivineOffice.org)

Breakfast after prayer

9:30 a.m. — Conference with other novices.  This may be discussions of the texts the novices have been reading, current issues facing the Church or the order, events of the day, explorations of different forms of prayer and spirituality, and theology discussions.  From what I gather, this is sort of an updated version of the old academic notion of a colloquy or seminar.

Noon — Lunch, like all meals, taken in common with the community.

The afternoon is free time during which the novices engage in personal prayer and study as they seek to enter into a deeper relationship with God.  They have all been given a number of books — some of which are mandatory reading and some of which they selected themselves.  The mandatory reading includes 101 Questions and Answers on Paul and the biography of Isaac Hecker (founder of the order), among other books.  For the self-selected reading, Evan just finished a book on Native Meso-American Spirituality and Dan (another novice whom I have gotten to know through Facebook) is reading Where the Hell is God?

4:50 p.m.  — Prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

5:15 p.m. — Mass in the adjacent St. Paul chapel.

5:45 p.m. — Pre-Dinner Social.

6:15 p.m. — Dinner, again taken with the community.

7:30 p.m. — Communal prayer, led by the novices.  Each day (in rotation) one of the novices selects the prayer.  Sometimes they pray the Liturgy of the Hours for the evening, sometimes other prayers.  Evan chose the Chaplet of St. Michael last week when it was his turn.

In addition to the daily routine, there are certain special days during the week.

On Wednesday, the schedule is altered to accommodate Mass at noon in the Holy Spirit Chapel and the evening prayer at 5:15 is led by the students.  (Once a candidate complete the novice year and make his first promise, he is considered a student.)

On Friday, Mass and prayer are at 7:30 a.m. and the novices have the rest of the day free.  Evan has been using his time to explore DC a bit and spent last Friday visiting the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian.

Saturday is the work period for the novices when they are assigned chores such as cleaning and mopping.

Evan also tells me that a Paulist Father (Tom Ryan, I believe) has generously allowed the novices to participate in his class “Body, Mind and Heart” which connects Christian prayer to the meditative practices of yoga.

They novices are also being trained for their apostolates.  These involve the novices working the local community and parishes to help out.  I don’t have a clear idea of what Evan will be assigned yet, but once I do I’ll be back with another post.

As always, questions are welcome.

— Dad