I remember the devotion of your youth. Jeremiah 2:2
In one sense, each semester is very much like the last, but in another sense it becomes something totally new. Last year’s community dies each May only to rise like a phoenix from its own ashes in September with a whole batch of new personalities.
As a senior priest, I am blessed to be surrounded, not only by young people, but young people from all over the world. Last year alone there were 22 nationalities studying at Saint Meinrad Seminary. Instead of me traveling all over the world, it’s like the whole world coming to see me! I am truly blessed by this advantage.
That kind of exposure has a way of keeping your attention focused, not on what used to be, but what is about to be. To be successful in this kind of work, your mind and heart have to remain open to new ideas and new possibilities. Pearl S. Buck said, “You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.”
At Saint Meinrad Seminary, I try to be especially attuned to the needs of the international students, those who come here to be priests without the daily support of their families and friends. Most of them, if they are ordained, will never go home for good, but will serve in American parishes the rest of their lives.
About 33 percent of all American priests are now born outside this country. Two modern inventions help them manage the trauma of going off and leaving their families: cell phones and computer programs such as Skype. Even remote villages in Vietnam, Nigeria, India and Kenya now have cell phone service.
Seeing Mom and Dad on a screen — and Mom and Dad seeing their son — takes some of the sting out of missing their families.
At Bellarmine University, I get to celebrate Mass with Catholic students every Sunday night. I am always amazed at their faith. They are attentive during Mass and heroically generous in their dedication to service trips to such places as Appalachia and Guatemala instead of the more popular “spring breaks.”
No matter how tired I am on Sunday night, my energy level always rises when I walk down to the chapel.
Like a good father, I worry about them, especially managing the world that they will inherit. I worry about our newly arrived international priests, who are so family oriented, having to serve multiple parishes and living alone in rural dioceses all across the country. I worry about the fact that the student loan rate doubled a few weeks back, making a hard situation harder for those who will have to wrestle with student debt till they retire.
God bless and protect the young! They are a blessing to us!
Father J. Ronald Knott