Tuesday, February 2, 2016


To all of our friends, family, and in particular to all of our generous benefactors:

Sincerest thanks for supporting the Saint Paul Seminary Theology IV class of 2016! May God abundantly bless you all and your family and friends for your generosity in supporting us on our journey to the Priesthood!

We are onto the stage of packing on our final night here in the eternal city of Rome.

We will be joining our brothers and the SPS community and resuming classes for the Spring 2016 semester beginning Monday February 8th.

See you all stateside!

In Christ,
Theology IV

FINAL WEEK: Monday Feb 1 - Evening

ABOVE:  Mass with Fr. Joseph Carola, SJ, chaplain of the University of St. Thomas undergraduate Catholic Studies semester abroad in Rome.

ABOVE:  The room in which Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (i.e. the Jesuits) died.  Notice the painting of the scene of his death on the right wall.

FINAL WEEK: Monday Feb 1 - Afternoon

The Casa Santa Maria is a residence in Rome that serves English Speaking priests who are sent from their Diocese for graduate level studies (i.e. Sacred Scripture, Canon Law, etc.)

Many of our esteemed faculty of the Saint Paul Seminary completed graduate level studies while residing here in Rome.  This includes our group leader - Fr. Juan Miguel Betancourt who studied Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

ABOVE:  Photo of the group in the chapel at the Casa (dedicated to Our Lady of Humility).

ABOVE:  A picture of the inner cloister / courtyard of the Casa residence.  It's a 17th c. building (1601 AD) that was originally founded as a Dominican monastery for young women.  In 1859, the building was given over to the American Bishops who established the North American College in Rome for the training of priests.  Once the amount of seminarians out grow the space, the NAC was relocated.  Now about 72 priests from 42 U.S. diocese and other English speaking countries reside here for further studies.

ABOVE:  Picture of one of the two inner gardens.  Gives a nice quiet to all the outside business of Rome!

FINAL WEEK: Monday Feb 1

ABOVE:  Group shot of the 7 men to be ordained priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  The photo was taken atop the roof of the residence in which we had the midday meeting with Cardinal Burke.

FINAL WEEK: Monday Feb 1 - Cardinal Burke

ABOVE:  Our group was received for a midday appointment with Cardinal Burke.  He was the bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, WI for almost nine years of service.  During that time he founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Final Days in Rome!

BELOW:  Mass at 7:30 AM on Friday January 29, at the Chapel of St. Joseph, in the Basilica of St. Peter.


MONDAY February 1:

  • Appointment with Cardinal Raymond Burke 
  • Mass and tour of the Church of Gesù which is the mother church of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  
TUESDAY February 2:

  • Mass with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the celebration of the Presentation.

ASSISI: more

ABOVE:  Sunset in Assisi.

ABOVE:  Distant view of the Basilica of St. Francis which contains in the crypt his tomb.

ASSISI: In the footsteps of St. Francis


The little original church of St. Mary of the Angels at the Portiuncula. 

After zealously working to reconstruct the little churches of San Damiano and then St. Peter's, Francis skipped down to this church. 

It was here that St. Francis began the life of radical simplicity and took to his side his first 'followers' or companions.

This modern day church, built all around St. Mary of the Angels, is among one of the largest in the world.

ASSISI: Another view

BELOW:  Another view from Assisi.


"We as priests will always stand on the shoulders of past 'giants' in the ministry."

During these days of retreat, Fr. Dunavan, our retreat leader, to begin each conference would share the story of a priest who spent his life serving the people of his Diocese of Lincoln.  So many amazing priests who gave their lives to the people!  I was so struck to reflect on my own diocese that I will serve and how many priests have come before and given their whole lives to serve the people.

Deacon Paul Strommer, Diocese of Duluth, Ordination Friday June 3, 2016.  Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and day traditionally dedicated to praying for the sanctification of the clergy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

ASSISI: Retreat Reflection

ABOVE:  The original Crucifix from the Church of San Damiano which was an old shrine in Assisi which was a bit neglected and falling apart during the lifetime of St. Francis.  It was here that Francis was in the habit of praying before the crucifix.  One day, while at prayer, he heard a voice in prayer saying to him, "Francis, do you not see that my house is in ruins?  Go and rebuild it for me."

St. Francis than promptly went and sold his own horse in order to start getting funds to physically rebuild the San Damiano Church.  He also zealously took several bales of his father's clothe (stole) and sold them for the same purpose.  This lead to a dramatic quarrel between Francis and his own father that ended up being taken to the bishop.  The bishop told Francis that he had to restore the money to his father because no blessing could follow a good work done by unjust methods.

Francis then proceeded to tear of all his garments but his hair shirt and tossed the money on top of the pile and took off into the winter woods and began his radical religious life which would eventually lead to the Fransican Order.

ABOVE:  Reliquary of St. Clare of Assisi's remains in the Basilica of St. Clare.


What a great time in Assisi for retreat!

Believe me, "In the silence of the heart God speaks.  If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.  Then you will know that you are nothing.  It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself," Mother Theresa.

Sometimes we are preoccupied with so many earthly things that we think are great and maybe they are, but none of these will give us the real happiness, love, and joy that we need.  But finding some little time and visiting the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament-the beating heart of any parish community, you will find all that you need. 
-Deacon Charles Mugabi, Kabale Diocese, Uganda, Africa.  Ordination to the Priesthood is this Summer.

ABOVE:  Rev. Mr. Charles Mugabi at the doors of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the mother and head of all Churches.

Friday, January 29, 2016

DAY 20 to DAY 25: ASSISI - Days of Retreat (Sat Jan 23 to Thur Jan 28)

ABOVE:  Tomb of the mortal remains of St. Francis of Assisi.

ABOVE:  View of the Basilica of San Francesco which contains the tomb of the Saint.

Our retreat leader was a priest named Rev. Thomas Dunavan of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.  He was ordained to the Priesthood in 1998 and currently serves as a pastor in his Diocese.

Our days:

  • 8 AM Morning Prayer 
  • 8:15 Breakfast  
  • 9 First conference of the day 
  • 11:30 Mass
  • 1 PM Lunch
  • 5:30 Evening Prayer
  • 5:45 Second conference
  • 7 Dinner
  • 8 Holy Hour

The retreat was a great experience! The Lord really helped me to see that He will reward our efforts no matter how small or how large they are, even if we can't see the rewards.  The Blessed Mother helped show me this through seeing her suffering at the foot of the cross and then seeing her in glory with her Son, being crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.  I will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on May 28th this spring.  Dcn Joe Zabinski

Saturday, January 23, 2016

DR. LIZ LEV: The Unheard Story of the Sistine Chapel

Above is the link to video of the recent 17 min 33 sec TED TALK delivered by DR. Liz Lev.  She is the art historian who walked us through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel this past Wednesday.

Some Previous Occasions

ABOVE:  Here we are back on the afternoon of Monday January 18 at a 4 PM appointment with the Pontifical Council for the Laity.  Of their many great works for the Universal Church, they are responsible for the coordination and planning of World Youth Days.

ABOVE:  Here we are back on the evening of Sunday January 17.  We were out to dinner with our Rector Msgr. Callaghan and Professor of Liturgy, Sacraments, and Homiletics, Fr. Tom Margevicius.  To conclude the evening we sang Lady of Knock at the restaurant.

DAY 18 Thur Jan 21: Catacombs of Saint Callistus tour and Mass

ABOVE:  Tombs of the early popes.

ABOVE:  Long hall in the catacomb where bodies were laid.

ABOVE:  Tomb where St. Cecilia was laid.  Her body is not there now, but can be found in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva under the altar.  The statue is a replica of how her body was laid and found in the tomb.  St. Cecilia is the patron saint of singers. St. Cecilia, pray for us!

Friday, January 22, 2016

DAY 17: Wed Jan 20 morning - DR LEV - Round II

ABOVE:  Tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with Dr. Lev, Art Historian.

ABOVE:  Early Christian Art.

ABOVE:  The Transfiguration.  Raphael.

ABOVE:  Raphael.  The great philosophers.

ABOVE:  Raphael.  Faith.

ABOVE:  Sistine Chapel.  The Final Judgement.  Michelangelo.


ABOVE:  Group photo following the prayer with the Community of Sant' Egidio in Rome.

The Community of Sant' Egidio began in Rome in 1968.  It followed the period after Vatican II.  Today it is a movement of lay people with more than 60,000 members.  They are dedicated to evangelization and charity, primarily in the city of Rome, but also in more than 73 countries around the world.

Their primary emphasis' as a lay community are prayer, solidarity with the poor, peace in the world.

DAY 18 Thursday January 21

ABOVE:  Rev. Mr. Charlie Friebohle and his brother deacons - day by day - brick by brick - getting closer to ordination to the priesthood!

The 15 men will be travelling to Assisi, home of St. Francis and Clare.  We will depart Rome at 2pm on Saturday January 23.  Our time there will be spent in 5 days of silent retreat in preparation for our ordinations to the priesthood!

St. Francis and Clare, PRAY FOR US! 

DAY 19 Friday Jan 22: THE LATEST

ABOVE:  Just this morning, 7:15 AM, in the Basilica of St. Peter, we celebrated Mass at the altar containing the body of Saint John Paul II.  Assisting deacons were Rev. Mr. Michael Daly and Doug Leibsch.

HOMILY:  We are all beggars before God, in need of His mercy.

Rev. Mr. Michael Daly preached at the morning Mass.  He recounted a remarkable story in which a priest had come to Rome to meet with the then Holy Father, John Paul II.  Just prior to greeting the Holy Father with a number of others, he recognized a beggar on the streets of Rome as a former seminary classmate.  He stopped and discovered the man indeed to be his former classmate and brother priest.

He went on to discover that the mans life had fallen to pieces and hence, he was now living on the streets of Rome as a beggar.  He promised to pray for him on his way to greet the Holy Father.  The dischevelled man shrugged it off as mere sentiment.

The priest went on to greet John Paul II in the audience.  As JPII came by to greet and shake his hand, the priest quickly made known his request for the Holy Father to pray for his former classmate who was now begging on the street.

To his suprise, that afternoon, the Holy Father requested that the priest be located and called in order to invite him and the man on the street to a private dinner.  So it happened.

All though, weary and dischevelled, the man on the street took up this invitation, and went to have the private dinner with the Pope.  At the conclusion of the meal, the Pope requested that the priest leave the room so he could meet privately with the former priest who found himself now begging on the street.

Next, John Paul II, got on his knees, and requested this man to hear his confession.  Dismayed, the man said, "I can't hear your confession, I am not longer a priest, I am a beggar on the street."

John Paul II replied, "You must hear my confession, I am the Pope, but above all, I am a beggar just like you, before God, in need of His mercy."

Saint John Paul II, PRAY FOR US!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

DAY 16 Tues Jan 19 afternoon: Appointment with Congregation for Evangelization of the Peoples

ABOVE:  Here we are in the Chapel at the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples.

The image above the altar is of the three magi who came to Jesus in Bethlehem.  This gospel account is of particular relevance for the Congregation whose aim is to support the mission of the Church to the entire world.  The three magi are the first pagans to encounter Jesus Christ.

ABOVE:  A habit of St. Terese of Lisieux, patroness of missionaries.

FURTHER:  Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman was Ordained a Priest of the Catholic Church in this chapel.

Please pray for all the missionaries and missions of the Church!

DAY 16 Tuesday Jan 19: Our Rector Msgr. Callaghan in Rome!

Msgr. Callaghan, our Rector of the Saint Paul Seminary, arrived to visit and spend time with our class in Rome.  BELOW:  10 AM Mass with the Theology IV class at a Chapel in The Major Basilica of Saint Mary.

ABOVE:  Our Rector of Saint Paul Seminary, Msgr. Callaghan, celebrating Holy Mass with concelebrating priests and assisting deacons.

ABOVE:  In the Major Basilica of Mary, Rev. Mr. Douglas Liebsch preaches at Mass.

DAY 11 Thursday Jan 14 evening: Mass and Dinner with Emmanuel Community

BELOW:  Group photo with the students of the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome, Italy.

The Emmanuel School of Mission is a school in which a community of young people come together to be formed into Catholic missionaries.  Their pillars of formation are:  Spiritual, Academic, Community Life, and Mission (Evangelization).

We meet young adults from 11 different nations in the group including:  Egypt, Australia, Wales, England, Netherlands, U.S., Germany, Ireland, France, and Vietnam.

We began with Mass in their house of formation chapel.  This was followed by dinner.  At the conclusion of dinner we heard from members of ESM about their daily life, mission, and experience.  To conclude we were requested to sing them a song.  We sang Lady of Knock.

In March, the ESM students will be visiting three cities in the U.S. for 6 weeks as part of their program of formation.  They will spend a portion of their time at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in South Minneapolis with Fr. Joseph William's who is a member of the Emmanuel Community.

DAY 11 Thursday Jan 14 morning: Appointment with Congregation for Clergy

 BELOW:  Here we are on Thursday January 14 at our 10 AM appointment with the Congregation for Clergy.  Center; Bishop George, born in Mexico, Grandparents from China.  Far Right; Msgr. Richard from Diocese of Peoria, IL.

In the Roman Curia, there are currently 7 major congregations.

  1. Doctrine and Faith
  2. Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
  3. Bishops
  4. Clergy
  5. Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  6. Catholic Education
  7. Evangelization of Peoples

Congregations exist to assist the Pope in governing the Church and Administrative affairs.  They are somewhat comparable with Departments that assist the President of the U.S. in Washington D.C. (i.e. The Department of Agriculture).

After learning about the general affairs of the Congregation for the Clergy from Msgr. Richard, we were blessed to have time to meet and present questions to Bishop George regarding our expectations and challenges in our future priestly ministry.  What a gift!  The Bishop responded with a wealth of wisdom for us who are preparing for ministry in our year of priestly ordination!

Thursday, January 14, 2016