Last month, I had the chance to get away for a few days and attend a 10-year reunion of the seminary Class of 2013 from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, my alma mater. It was a great time to see so many of my classmates, many of whom I had not seen since we were in Rome together, a decade ago.
We met in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on the Jersey Shore. Ocean Grove, known as “God’s square mile on the Jersey Shore,” is a fascinating place. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Ocean Grove is noted for its abundant examples of Victorian architecture. It was founded in 1869 as an outgrowth of the camp meeting movement in the United States, when a group of Methodist clergymen formed the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to develop and operate a summer camp meeting site on the Jersey Shore. By the early 20th century, the popular Christian meeting ground became known as the “Queen of Religious Resorts.”
While out East, a classmate and I had a chance to drive to Philadelphia and visit the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. There we were able to venerate the tomb of St. Katharine Drexel, the second American-born saint and patron saint of racial justice and of philanthropists. We also visited the newest basilica in the United States, the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, located in the East Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, which was named a basilica just earlier this year. Within the church is the shrine to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a title of the Virgin Mary originating with her apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830. While at the Shrine, I prayed specifically for all members of OQLH Parish. While in Philadelphia, I would be remiss to not stop and get a Philly Cheesesteak. Having to decide between the famous rivals, Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s Steaks, we settled on Pat’s. It was a great lunch!
Back in Ocean Grove, as we sat on the beach one evening reminiscing about out time in Rome and the joys and struggles of the past decade of priesthood, I thought of an inscription over the North American College in Rome that says, “Young men who have come to this place from the distant shores of America, keep their gaze upon the Vatican hill, strengthen their faith and their love for the Roman Pontiff.” Here we were, sitting quite literally on the now not-so-distant shores of America, together after 10 years: it was a great moment. In your kindness, pray for the Class of 2013, and pray for all priests and deacons in our Church. God bless you.