Growing up I do not recall being tempted to write my name or a slogan for posterity onto the property of others – public or private. However, one of my first memories of Mundelein Seminary was attending retreats as a student from Quigley South during the early ‘80’s. Staying in what was once known as the philosophy building, I was amazed to discover inscribed in the top drawer of the desk, the names of former seminarians; many who were later ordained priests and even bishops! So much for their Catholic education prior to entering the seminary!
Leaving aside the moral question of graffiti, the experience immediately connected me to the history of the seminary and the Archdiocese. Somehow, I felt a deep appreciation for those who had gone before me and walked the same hallways and traveled similar paths. Sadly, with the passage of time and the repurposing of that building most of those names were sanded off or faded away. But the lesson I learned has remained. As Cardinal Newman writes in his prayer My Mission in Life: “I am a link in a chain; a bond of connection between persons.”
I was ordained from Mundelein in 1991 and returned in 2000 to teach and later serve as the rector. There were many moments when others in this chain of life supported me in my work and I hope I was able to support them in their need. All times and places offer challenges, and between the years 2005 and 2010 we buried four seminarians from Mundelein. Those who lived through those experiences became aware of our fragility and the bond of connection between us.
As a priest and a pastor, I am keenly aware of my role as a “bond of connection between” the people we serve, the diocese in which we live and the universal church. Many pastors have gone before us and many more will follow. Yet, the mission entrusted to each generation of priests aims to link and bind us to Christ and one another. To accomplish this every priest must imitate the Good Shepherd and put on that love that is the “bond of perfection.” (Col 3:14)
My thanks to those who left their mark on the desk drawer in the philosophy building at Mundelein Seminary.