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Bishop Blesses Rome-Bound Seminarians

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On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass at the Catholic Center in Raleigh. Concelebrating with the Bishop were Msgr. David Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese, Msgr. John Williams, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Raleigh, and Fr. Ned Shlesinger, Diocesan Director of Vocations.

Bishop Burbidge took the occasion to give a special blessing to two seminarians, Mr. Timothy Ahn and Mr. Michael Schuetz, who will be departing Wednesday for Rome, Italy, to begin four years of studies at the Pontifical North American College. 

“The North American College belongs to all the Bishops of the U.S. and is a source of pride to us,” Bishop Burbidge said. “In my first six years in Raleigh I’ve worked at fostering a strong fraternity among our priests and seminarians, and I thought now was an appropriate time for this new opportunity for these men to share the wonderful fraternity experienced at the North American College. This year, for the first time in a while, the College is at capacity, with 250 men from 100 different Dioceses.”

Neither of the young men has ever been to Rome. Although their class work will be in English, they have begun studying Italian. The orientation at the College will also feature a month of intensive Italian language study, Mr. Ahn said. He said he was “eagerly anticipating the chance to represent the Diocese of Raleigh in the heart of the Universal Church, and to be for the people of this Diocese a certain presence in the Eternal City.”

Mr. Schuetz agreed. “This is a wonderful opportunity to experience the Universal Church and to bring that experience back to our Diocese. I’m eager to see how various Catholic cultures worship and pray, and to allow that to foster my own prayer life and devotions.”

Pope Pius IX formally inaugurated the Pontifical North American College on December 8, 1859, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the patroness of the United States of America. At present, many countries have national seminaries in Rome which serve both as a house of formation and as a residence for the students pursuing theological degrees at one of the major Roman pontifical universities. In 1953 the seminary department of the North American College was transferred to its current location on the Janiculum Hill overlooking the city of Rome. Purchased by the Bishops of the United States in 1926 through the generosity of the Catholics in America, the property is not very far from the Basilica of Saint Peter and enjoys extraterritorial status linking it to the Vatican City State.

Above: Fr. Ned Shlesinger, Msgr. John Williams, Timothy Ahn, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Michael Schuetz, Msgr. David Brockman following Mass and special blessing as two seminarians prepare to leave for Rome. Click photo to view larger.