Seminary Life During A Pandemic

I still recount the day in March sitting in a business writing class at the University of Scranton saying to myself the following: “This virus is nothing.  School will resume normally after spring break.  To my surprise, as well as the rest of the university, a message from Fr. Scott Pilarz SJ, the President of the University of Scranton, was sent to all of us informing us that spring break will last an extra week.  Eventually, every institution in the United States found itself in the current situation we are in.

My name is Russ Sullivan, and I am a seminarian with the archdiocese.  God willing, I will move into Saint Mary’s Seminary and University this August.  On May 31, I will receive a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Scranton in Scranton, PA.  Indeed, it is disappointing for all college seniors that all graduation festivities have been canceled or postponed, but we still worked hard to earn degrees.

For the past several weeks, I have been in residence at my home parish Saint John the Evangelist in Severna Park.  I never thought I would see this day!  Nonetheless, it has been a blessed experience thus far, especially living with brother seminarians from the archdiocese.

The guys that I am living with have been in seminary formation for a year or more.  This has been beneficial for me in many ways.  In a sense, we have created a “mini seminary.”  One of the ways in which this has benefitted me the most is my prayer life.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is something that is done by seminarians daily.  I will admit that it was a challenge working this into my daily life.  Before being sent home from the University of Scranton, I tried but failed.  I would imagine that any seminarian would agree that this is a good habit that requires discipline to work into our daily lives.

Since the middle of March, I have been praying morning prayer, spending an hour with the Lord, and praying night prayer with my brother seminarians.  This was a piece of the puzzle missing in my prayer life.  Nonetheless, I have received countless graces from these daily practices over the past few weeks.

Serving at mass has been a different experience as well.  Never in a million years would it cross my mind that I would be serving mass with an empty congregation.  Livestreaming Mass on the internet has become the new normal for parishes across the world.

It has been amazing and heartbreaking both at the same time reading through the comment section on any given day from Facebook after our daily mass was streamed.  People miss their parish families, but what people miss the most is receiving the body of our Lord Jesus.  I can only imagine the position Catholics currently find themselves in.  We have been social distancing for the betterment of our own health, but this reality we find ourselves in still occasionally brings me to tears.

Blessings will always arise in times of hopelessness and despair.  For me, the blessing has been living here at Saint Johns.  God has given me the blessing of living with wonderful men.  My prayer is that all of us Catholics will be able to gather and worship our Lord together.  May God bless you and keep you.

Seminarian Russ Sullivan

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