By Ryan Keating
I recently participated in the third annual International Conference on Collaborative Philosophy, Theology and Ministry at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora.
It was an outstanding conference with many interesting presentations and attendees. At our closing Mass, a priest homilist asked those present: “Do not forget about us. Share with those when you get home about this experience of Christ the King Seminary.” It was an emotional moment, because the seminary will cease operations this summer of 2020.
Christ the King has been my home for the past six years as I journey through the program of priestly formation for the Diocese of Buffalo. It has been my home because in many senses, the people at Christ the King have been a second family to me.
I have been so fortunate to have been a seminarian in formation with others to develop spiritually, intellectually, pastorally and personally. Besides taking fascinating courses on topics in scripture, theology and pastoral care, we have made our mark in the community.
Each semester we as seminarians, deacon candidates and lay church ministers are spread out through the region engaged in field education. I have worked at a food pantry, participated in a support and counseling group for the incarcerated, worked with university students on the topic of racial and social justice and served as a chaplain at a hospital attending to the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, families and staff.
The news of the seminary closing this summer was sad and unfortunate for all who have been influenced by its exceptional mission. Numerous people, after visiting the seminary for retreats, conferences or days of study, have mentioned its stillness, quiet and deep peace. It truly is sacred ground.
I think of the many memories of my years here. I think of playing soccer on the front field near Knox Road, the hikes down to Cazenovia Creek (a yearly ritual for my classmates and me) and hundreds of reflective walks around the campus all seasons of the year.
I think about the people that make up this place, the community. I have been so privileged to have met and become friends with the many people who contribute to the life of this place.
I remember during my first year the community coming together during “Snowvember” when we got hit with over 5 feet of snow. We stepped up, helping each other with snow removal, support and camaraderie. I recall the many liturgies, celebrating Advent Vespers, the Easter Triduum and the many family day Masses.
After six years it feels like home. I can’t imagine what it is like for those staff members and faculty who have been here for 30 years.
I still remember the first day I arrived. I was welcomed by a group of seminarians in the parking lot who greeted me and assisted me with my belongings. Hospitality has always been a trademark of the seminary. Soon, I will be packing up my room for the last time.
I think about all the many graduates from the seminary, which started at St. Bonaventure University years ago. I wonder what will happen with this space now. I know it is not just me who finds this place like a home. Many have dedicated themselves to the mission in education and formation of future ministers.
I reflect again on the parting words of the priest at the end of the conference. “Do not forget about us.” Anyone who has experienced the seminary and all its goodness will not forget.
The mission will continue by all who have benefited by Christ the King Seminary.
Ryan Keating is a seminarian at Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora.