Although snow had freshly fallen in Minnesota, the minor seminarians of the Institute of the Incarnate Word gave up their chance to enjoy the winter weather and visited the Fulton Sheen House of Formation this month for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the investiture of the Institute's novices.
Bl. José Sánchez del Río Minor Seminary was founded in 2008 to serve the needs of high school students interested in pursuing the priesthood. Currently, nine students from across the U.S. study at the high school seminary, located in Mankato, Minnesota. Two seminarians from Chillum serve at the high school seminary, one of the few which are active and growing in the U.S., each year as teachers and chaperones, while the seminary is headed by its rector, Fr. Mariano Varela, IVE.
Fr. Mariano Varela has been a priest for fourteen years with the Institute and is a seasoned missionary. Before his assignment to the minor seminary, he served for ten years in the small Caribbean country of Guyana, ministering to the natives and inhabitants of its rivers, jungles and forests. On the eve of the reception of habits, he offered to the seminarians some of the wisdom gained over his years of missionary work.
He described how, as he was preparing for ordination, he had been told of his future assignment to Guyana. "Immediately I began to pray for the people of my mission," he said to the seminarians, "a thing Fr. Buela, our founder, always urges us to do - to pray for those we will one day serve." Fr. Varela stressed the importance of this prayer, and he recounted how it helped him to fall in love with the land and its people before he had even met them. Before he was ordained however, some of the deacons in his class received a change of assignment, and Fr. Mariano remembered "I prayed that my assignment would not change, for my heart was already in Guyana."
Amid his memories, Fr. Varela admitted to the seminarians a sober fact. "Some of us fall. And some get back up, through Confession and the Sacraments, through prayer, thanks be to God, but some were not able to. The missions can be difficult." Again, it is prayer that sustains one in the mission, "the Holy Hour, where, before the Lord, all melts away and you receive the strength to go on." Though one might be tired or disappointed, Fr. Varela encouraged the seminarians - "You must continue to pray! To do the Holy Hour, to celebrate the Mass!"
Fr. Varela's spirit of prayer has entered into the minor seminary, and he remarked that one of the apostolates of the minor seminarians is to pray for others and for vocations. "Many people come up to us, asking for prayers and giving petitions," he said, "and so we pray for them daily." The minor seminarians have a period of Eucharistic adoration daily, as well as some specific prayer practices, such as offering up the 30-day novena to St. Joseph twice a year.
We give thanks to the Lord for Fr. Mariano Varela and the work he and the minor seminarians offer this Institute and the world through their prayers. Through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, may we all receive the grace to live in the spirit of prayer and faith through every mission we are given in life.
Bl. José Sánchez del Río, pray for us.
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