The end of the summer means, among other things, cooler air, shorter days and the beginning of a new school year. Many universities and colleges initiate this with a parents’ weekend, where families can get to know one another and parents can meet their children’s school friends.
On Aug. 17, St. John Seminary in Brighton adopted this idea and held its first pre-academic year family day, with a majority of the seminarians, their relatives and friends turning out for the event.
Forty-seven seminarians are enrolled for the upcoming year.
Father Oscar Pratt, director of vocations for the archdiocese, decided to hold family day “as a chance for the seminarians to see each other and connect during the summer, and as a chance for their families to meet.”
"It's common for parents to meet other parents who have children going to the same university, but its not common for parents to meet other parents who have children in the seminary," he went on.
Father Pratt celebrated a Mass with the families before inviting them to an outside dinner held under a large white tent on the seminary grounds.
Father John Farren, OP, who was appointed rector of the seminary at the end of May, said the blessing before the meal.
"As Father Pratt said during the Mass, it's gratifying to be able to welcome the families of the seminarians. It gives us great joy," Father Farren said. "The occasion for this event is to say 'thank you' for bringing these men up in the faith because vocations begin in the home."
Father Farren took the opportunity to introduce himself to the family members by stopping to say hello and shake hands at every table, and greeting the seminarians he will be entrusted to help form for the priesthood.
One of those is the Fox family of Norwood, who will soon say goodbye and good luck to 18-year-old Matthew, who will begin his studies at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania this fall. Matthew graduated this past spring from Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood.
His mother, Denise Fox, jokingly asked Father Farren to make sure that her son keeps his grades up.
"I'm very happy for him," said Denise. "He's always wanted to be a priest since he was a little boy," recalling that Matthew used to pretend he was a priest and administer potato chips as communion to his cousins. "We're happy to help him get where he wants to be."
More “veteran” seminarians enjoyed the get-together as well, some seeing each other for the first time in two months.
Matt Westcott, 29, a first year theology student, was happy to see fellow seminarian, Ixon Chateau, 24, and surprised at how long his hair had grown since they’d seen each other last.
"It feels good to see my friends," Chateau, a second year theology student, said of the other seminarians. "I'm happy to be back to see everyone and to study new things and excited to be working at St. Francis House [a homeless shelter in Boston] this fall."
Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends of the seminarians were visibly enjoying themselves and happy to meet one another.
"I think it's wonderful to be here and a good chance to bond with other families and get to meet my son's classmates and friends," said Paula Wood, mother of David, 20, who will be a junior this year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. "I'm very proud of him. He definitely received a calling and I think I knew a lot before he did."
Bishop Richard Lennon, former apostolic administrator of the archdiocese and one-time rector of St. John Seminary, also attended. After greeting the families, he pulled up a chair and ate with Paula, her husband Stan, their son David and his grandmother, Carole Charles.
Joe Donofrio, 37, invited parishioners from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chelsea, where he spent his parish placement, because his family is from out of state and could not attend.
"We care a lot about Joe," said Lisa Martinello who attended with her daughter Amy. "We came to support him in his journey and to step in for his family."