PROVIDENCE — The Seminary of Our Lady of Providence celebrated the beginning of its academic year on Sept. 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, with an Opening Mass.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin served as principal celebrant, welcoming the 21 seminarians beginning the year, as well as priests from both the Diocese of Providence and other dioceses whose seminarians are in their priestly formation at the seminary.
“It’s so good, so appropriate that we come together at the beginning of this academic year to ask for God’s presence and his grace and blessing upon the seminary community as we begin a new year together,” Bishop Tobin said.
The Seminary of Our Lady of Providence welcomes four new students this year — three representing the Diocese of Providence, and the fourth from the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. There are a total of 11 Diocese of Providence seminarians in formation this year at OLP, with an additional six local seminarians studying in Boston and Rome.
The outside dioceses represented include the Archdioceses of Boston and Hartford, along with the Dioceses of Manchester, New Hampshire; Burlington, Vermont; and Fall River, Massachusetts.
Bishop Tobin thanked those who had come from the other dioceses for making the journey to the opening Mass and asked them to extend his personal appreciation to their respective bishops for their support and care for the local seminary community.
“I know that your presence here today is a sign, an expression, of their presence and their support and care as well,” he said.
The bishop said that he was dedicating this academic year to the Guidance of the Holy Spirit and is entrusting the new year and all prayers being offered to the Blessed Mother.
In his homily, Bishop Tobin spoke of how Jesus gave Mary to all of us as our spiritual mother and what a blessing that was.
“The Church honors Mary as the Mother of Sorrows, Our Lady of Sorrows. That’s a very evocative and very poignant image for the Church,” he said.
The bishop expressed his appreciation to a choir of seminarians for singing the 13th Century Christian hymn “Stabat Mater,” which is typically related most closely with the liturgical season of Lent due to its reference to the Stations of the Cross.
Bishop Tobin quoted some of the verses, noting how powerful they are for Christians: “At the Cross, her station keeping stood the mournful mother weeping. Close to Jesus to the last. Is there one who would not weep, wound in miseries so deep? Christ’s dear mother to behold.”
He spoke of how devotional writer Father Larry Lovasik, S.V.D., once wrote about how Mary’s sorrow in Calvary was deeper than any sorrow ever felt on earth because she was able to see things from Jesus’ point of view rather than her own.
“Devotion to the sorrows of Mary is the source of great grace, because it leads us into the depths of the heart of Christ,” the bishop said, quoting Father Lovasik.
Father Christopher J. Murphy, rector of the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence and director of Pre-Ordination Formation, told Rhode Island Catholic that on the Feast of Sorrows Bishop Tobin celebrated a very powerful and moving opening Mass.
“He encouraged the seminarians to never be afraid of future challenges, and to stand confidently and trustingly by the foot of the Cross like Mary did. I can think of no better message,” he said.
Father Murphy also said he was pleased that God has blessed the seminary with another year and another great group of seminarians and encourages people to continue praying for the Holy Spirit to guide the work of priestly formation.
“I want the lay faithful to know how grateful we are for their prayers and support,” he said. “I also want them to know that the future of the priesthood is bright. Our seminarians are prayerful, courageous and joyfully committed to our Catholic Church and her mission.”
Our Lady of Providence Seminarian Lucas Manzo, 23, a first year Pre-Theology student, said he is looking forward this year to building strong relationships with his peers and growing in his knowledge of the faith.
“Most importantly, I’m excited to see what God has in store for me,” Manzo said.
Assistant Editor Laura Kilgus contributed to this story.