In the sitting area on the main floor of the Diocesan Chancery, seminarians  pose for a group photo with Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., seated; Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life, left; Father Daniel Swift, an associate director of vocations, back row left, and Father Jason Parzynski, diocesan director of vocations, far right. Mary Stadnyk photos
In the sitting area on the main floor of the Diocesan Chancery, seminarians pose for a group photo with Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., seated; Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life, left; Father Daniel Swift, an associate director of vocations, back row left, and Father Jason Parzynski, diocesan director of vocations, far right. Mary Stadnyk photos
As a newcomer to the Trenton Diocese, seminarian Alan Bridges was happy to meet his fellow seminarians from the Diocese the evening of Dec. 18. 

“I really felt very much at home,” said Bridges, a member of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Middletown, who will enter Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., in January as first theology. 

“It was great to share the evening with everyone as brothers, and everyone was so very welcoming to me,” he said. 

Since the Diocese’s seminarians pursue studies for the priesthood in two different seminaries, Mount St. Mary and St. Charles Borromeo, Wynnewood, Pa., opportunities are provided throughout the year where they can get together, catch up and hopefully, strengthen their fraternal bonds as they prepare to become future priests.

One such occasion each year is right before Christmas when they join Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for Mass and a dinner. This year’s Mass, which was for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, was celebrated Dec. 18 in the Diocesan Chancery chapel in Lawrenceville and was followed by dinner at a local restaurant. 

“I always enjoy having the chance to get together with my brother seminarians and with the Bishop,” said Julian Young, a member of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, who is in his second year (College II) in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. 

“This year was particularly meaningful as we got to share company with two new guys who are strongly discerning the priesthood. It is always great to see that God is working in the hearts of my fellow brothers in Christ, and the prospect of having more guys to share in fraternity at the seminary is definitely exciting for us,” Young said. 

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell spoke of how the Readings for the four weeks of Advent present a glimpse of the whole of Salvation History, and how the “unfolding of God’s plan of Salvation through history has contained many surprises. 

“The Scriptures throughout these past four weeks describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, called ‘the Son of David.’ They also tell us that God's Revelation of the coming of Jesus was full of surprises, that David would have a long line of royal descendants culminating with a final king, Jesus Christ,” Bishop O’Connell said. 

He continued, “St. Luke’s Gospel surprises us by telling us that this King would be born to an ordinary virgin, not by means of an intimate physical relationship, but through the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus would be a descendant of David. This would occur through Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband and the ‘legal’ father of her son, as Joseph was ‘of the house of David.’  

“The Gospel narrative surprises us also by reminding us that God’s promise is best fulfilled not in buildings, or even great kings like Solomon, but rather in humble souls like Mary, who trusted in God’s promise,” Bishop O’Connell said.

Reiterating the unfolding of many surprises that in God's plan of Salvation through history,” Bishop O’Connell then asked the seminarians to think about some of the surprises they might have experienced in seminary life or what they may have learned about themselves.

After Mass, the Bishop held an informal dialogue in which he offered the seminarians words of encouragement as they pursue their priestly vocation. One topic he elaborated on was dealing with loneliness, and he encouraged the men to cultivate friendships with other seminarians that will hopefully continue in the years to come and long after they are ordained priests. 

“As seminarians, and I'm certain this counts for the priests as well, gatherings foster brotherhood and help us reaffirm our commitments to Christ through the conversations we keep,” said seminarian Pawel Derkacz, who grew up in St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, but currently attends St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville.  

The second pre-theologian in Mount St. Mary Seminary added that he appreciates opportunities to see his brother seminarians from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, who will one day “be my brothers in Christ when we're ordained. It's best to have a solid brotherhood now …” Derkacz said. 

“I always enjoy having the chance to get together with my brother seminarians and with the Bishop,” said seminarian Julian Young, who is in his second year (College II) in St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. “This year was particularly meaningful as we got to share company with two new guys who are strongly discerning the priesthood!  

“It is always great to see that God is working in the hearts of my fellow brothers in Christ,” he said, “and the prospect of having more guys to share in fraternity at the seminary is definitely exciting for us.”