Saturday, March 29, 2014

Article I wrote for "The Fountain" Magazine, the Graduation/Ordination edition for St. Paul's National Major Seminary

Globally, Our Catholic priests are the leaders of all those things in life that make life matter. A priest infuses a community with purpose and meaning, brings people closer together in relationship to each other and to Jesus Christ, our Lord. A priest is a facilitator for the deepest encounters we human beings can have with our holy, mighty and infinite God.

He feeds us with the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Savior, allowing the Word the universe was created through to become one with who we are. He helps clean us from the dirt of our sin, heal us from the effects of our sin and He reunites us with God, with each other and with our Mother Church. 

These actions the priest takes secure the lives of our soul for eternity. Jesus Christ is active in the life of his children more through the priest than any other human beings. He calls our priests and chooses them to bring us, His flock, more in union with Himself. While being a priest is the most important job a man can have, a priest must realize the person he once was isn't needed anymore. He must decrease so that Jesus can increase, so to be a priest is actually, paradoxically, the most humbling job a man can have.

In today's world, issues of “spiritual warfare” are more important than those affecting physical welfare or survival of God's people on Earth. What good is it to live in an economically advantaged area if more souls are being lost? A quality life is made up of our connections and relationships, our families and our faith. 

Uganda is also one of the poorest nations in the world. For a young man to grow up in a region riddled with deadly diseases eradicated in other areas of the world, with lack of medical care, unsafe water, and difficulty accessing quality education, graduating seminary to become a priest is a profound accomplishment. 

Uganda is also one of the richest nation in the world spiritually. Uganda, a country about the size of the United States state of Arizona, has produced twenty-four saints. 42% of Ugandans are Catholic, whereas only about 22% of Americans are. Over the past few months, I have shared many conversations with seminarians who are more peaceful and joyous than Americans I know here in America. They write to me about the love in their communities, villages and at seminary. I've learned how people see themselves as being part of a team, or a larger whole, with a sense of belonging and purpose in the lives of all. 

In a country like America, we are connected well technologically, but we have forgotten how to be a part of a real community. It is easy to see ourselves as isolated individuals, to feel disconnected and alone. More economically “successful” countries have become morally bankrupt, but from what I have experienced through getting to know several seminarians, Uganda is rich in happiness, spirit and soul and has far more to offer the world than people realize.

I'm a convert. I tried every “spiritual path” considered “cool” by secular culture until I was left miserable, empty and in despair. So almost every day, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for all the Church has given me- and that would be, everything important to me and my soul, now and forever. 

I am deeply grateful for the priests (in America and elsewhere) who have helped bring me nearer in my relationship to God. Who they have been is not as important as who they have led me to love- Christ, all holy, great and infinite and without whom we have no life, here or in the world to come. I am very grateful for the many seminarians in Uganda I have come to know and love- not only as scholars but as soul mates in our journey together towards God. You are my family. I desire to serve the Lord as much as I possibly can, because of the inspiration you offer me. When my life gets “tough” by “first world” standards, I only need to remember what a day in your life is like to let my complaining go. No matter how many material comforts I may accumulate, I am usually still not as happy as you! 

I want to say thank you to you, the seminarians in my life who keep me going on difficult days. You send me Bible verses. You give me your prayers. You encourage me. You brighten my days. Some of you have had masses said for me and my family. When my spirits start to droop, you lift them back up. You are my "dream team" of friends and I love you all very much. I'm beginning to wonder what I did without you and you know, I am your greatest fan. So, if anyone thinks I am trying to help the poor, pathetic people of Africa, you couldn't be more wrong. You are brilliant. You are deserving. You have worked harder than most of us have had to work for anything in our lives and you dedicate it all to God. I want to honor some of you by at least listing your names- Godwin, Jimmy M, Jimmy L, Okodi, Leonary, Salvin and Deacon Mathias. (These are men from several different seminarians I have come to know.) I love you all dearly. I pray for you all day long.

Seminarians of Uganda, thank you for all the joy you have given my heart. I love you and celebrate this occasion of your ordination with great enthusiasm and respect. Thank you. You are truly my heroes.

Laura Paxton, M.A., OCDS,
President, Carmel Heart Media

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