PROVIDENCE — Father Christopher Murphy was installed as rector of the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence at the Mass of the Holy Spirit on September 4, officially marking the start of the school year.
“I am very pleased that Father Murphy has agreed to lead the seminary as its new rector. It’s a very important role in the Diocese, and I am confident that Father Murphy will be an excellent leader. Most of all he is an exemplary priest, a great role model for our young seminarians to look up to,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
Father Murphy shared that it is a gift and joy to serve as rector of the seminary where his own journey to the priesthood began just over a decade ago.
“I have fond memories of my time here as a seminarian and so I have always reverenced this place as a kind of sanctuary where men of faith meet God everyday and talk to Him about their calling,” said Father Murphy. “He in turn responds by guiding, clarifying, confirming, and strengthening that call. I’m honored and humbled to be back here in this new ministry.”
This year the seminary welcomed back 11 students, along with eight incoming freshmen.
“We have a good number of new seminarians this year, from Providence and from several other dioceses, who will share their own experiences, gifts, and talents. Together the seminarians at Our Lady of Providence will form a community of disciples who will journey together to draw closer to Christ and to discern God’s will in their lives,” Bishop Tobin told the Rhode Island Catholic.
Father Murphy has been serving as rector of the seminary since March, but he was not officially installed as rector until last week. At the Mass, Father Murphy made a formal profession of faith, which was witnessed by Father Timothy Reilly, chancellor for the Diocese of Providence.
“Today we celebrate the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit because we recognize, regardless of our state of life, that we can’t survive and prosper all by ourselves, that we need God’s presence and help in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to grow in holiness, who brings us together into a community of faith, and who sends us forth into the world to be witnesses of Christ in word and deed,” Bishop Tobin said in his homily.
Seminarians said they found inspiration in the bishop’s words. Anthony Caruso, a first year student from the Archdiocese of Hartford, said he was struck by the bishop’s exhortation to grow in holiness day by day and recognize that God was carrying them through their journey through the good and bad days.
Lucas daCosta, a third-year student from the Diocese of Fall River, recalled the bishop’s emphasis on holiness as well as his exhortation to lead lives of integrity.
DaCosta noted that there were almost as many priests as there were seminarians at the Mass. Those attending included the vocation directors for the seminarians. “It was very powerful to see them and all the people who are supporting us,” daCosta said.
The Mass was followed by a formal dinner, which Bishop Tobin attended.
DaCosta also said the seminary community is excited Father Murphy has been formally installed as rector. “He’s a great priest and I think a great role model for all of us,” daCosta said. “We’re all ecstatic and really, really happy to see him installed as rector and we all have no doubts that he’s going to do a great job here.”
“Even just in my two weeks here I’ve seen how holy of a priest he is and now he’s become a role model to me in this time,” Caruso said.
Seminarians live in community on campus and attend college classes at Providence College. “It’s good because it helps us with real-world experience so that while we’re training to become priests we’re also seeing what the real world is like and we’re becoming close to the people that we’ll be ministering to,” Caruso said.
Beyond real-world experience, the college also reinforces their experience on campus because of its strong Catholic identity, Caruso said, noting the prominent presence of Dominican friars on campus during the day.
There are four dimensions of a priest’s formation: the intellectual, the spiritual, the pastoral, and the human. The intellectual dimension is fostered at Providence College, while the other three dimensions are addressed at the seminary itself, according to Father Murphy.
The seminary life includes a heavy emphasis on liturgy and prayer including daily Mass, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic adoration, and time for meditation and Lectio Divina, the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture, according to Caruso and daCosta.
The opening Mass came about two weeks after seminarians arrived on campus. Although Caruso said he was initially homesick he has since found a strong sense of fraternity at the seminary. “I’m loving it very much,” Caruso said.
Caruso has four years of seminary at the college level after which he will have four years of graduate studies in Detroit or Rome.
“I’m excited. It’s a long journey but it’s an exciting journey,” Caruso said.
With six years left to his education and formation, daCosta already feels like time is speeding by. “It goes by really fast. It’s crazy to think two years already happened,” daCosta said.
“In the beginning of seminary when you have the whole eight years ahead of you it kind of seems daunting,” daCosta added. “Then when you start getting into it, you’re glad it’s so long.”
He said he welcomes the time to pray and prepare for ministry.