As the sun rose over the mountain on the morning of Nov. 19, the Mount seminarians began their day as they always do, with a prayer and the dedication to model their lives after Christ’s, this day, by embarking on the first seminarian-initiated “Go Forth” Mission to serve the local poor communities.
On the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the final day of Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the seminarians combined spiritual and corporal acts of mercy by offering prayers and delivering donated bags of food to those in need.
The mission was directed by Jim Bors, a second-year Pre-Theology seminarian from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who was inspired to adapt the project from a ministry he had led at his home parish, St. Andrew by the Bay in Annapolis, Md. At St. Andrew’s, Bors and fellow parishioners gleaned vegetables at a farm and personally distributed them to the local poor. For “Go Forth,” the seminarians harvested fresh potatoes themselves to include in the bags of food, along with turkey breasts.
The potatoes and turkey were originally expected to be the extent of what could be provided in the bags. Thanks to the generosity of 67 people, with donations totaling about $1,850, those expectations were far surpassed. A full Thanksgiving meal of the turkey, five pounds of potatoes, a turkey ham, stuffing, three cans of vegetables, cranberry sauce and Fig Newtons were procured and distributed to more than 165 people, across 57 households, in 6 different areas nearby. A team of twenty seminarians volunteered to coordinate the food supply, resources, and the six mission areas over the course of five weeks.
These mission areas included the Hispanic community of St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Walkersville, Md., the Emmitsburg Food Bank, Seton Outreach Center, the Thurmont Food Bank, the Thurmont Village Apartment complex and finally the Crow’s Nest Campground. On the day of delivery, thirty seminarians delivered the Thanksgiving food, “two by two”, including three deacons who gave house blessings to the parishioners of St. Timothy’s.
The Echo was invited to accompany the group of seminarians on the mission to the Thurmont campground, located less than 7 miles from the Mount’s campus.
While searching for locations, Bors learned about Crow’s Nest, hidden in the woods just off Route 15 and barely situated outside the boundary of Catoctin Mountain Park. He contacted the owner and the manager about his idea for the mission and visited the site; both were supportive of the idea. While there, he met resident Wydell Buzard, who kindly agreed to go door-to-door and ask his neighbors if they were interested in receiving the food from the seminarians and donors.
Buzard greeted the seminarians the morning they arrived to distribute and personally escorted them through the leaf-carpeted grounds to each of the 12 interested households. He and the four deliverers, led by mission coordinator Ryan Budd, a second-year Pre-Theology seminarian from the Archdiocese of Hartford, Ct., knocked on each of the residences, which consisted of both stationary and mobile trailers.
At each home, residents opened their doors to the small group, who introduced themselves as seminarians from the Mount. After short conversation inquiring about each resident’s well-being and plans for the holiday, the seminarians then handed each resident their Thanksgiving meal, asking nothing in return except what intentions they might be able pray for over the Advent season, and perhaps if they could be remembered in the residents’ prayers themselves. Intentions varied from family members to medical issues to hope for a mild winter.
Each resident graciously accepted the offering; some even engaging in a quick prayer through their doorway. One gentleman even stepped out of his home to join hands with the small group for a short prayer right on his front stoop.
“It’s so beautiful to see them open to prayer,” Michael Folmar, one of the deliverers and a third-year Theology seminarian from the Diocese of Arlington, Va., remarked.
With over 100 rentable plots available for residents, from all different walks of life, each moment of prayer was a solemn sight. Residents range from the elderly to young families with small children. Some have lived at Crow’s Nest for quite a while; others have only lived there a short period.
One gentleman, Jim Mason, lives in his stationary trailer with his wife, Peggy. He has lived at the campground since last December, and though he says his trailer is small, he is looking forward to expanding it, having just been given permission to do so. He also noted that, having been all over the world, Crow’s Nest is the first place he has lived in a neighborly community.
“Everybody kind of looks out for each other,” Mason acknowledged. “If anybody needs something, they come down and check on each other.”
Buzard has lived at Crow’s Nest for three years. “It’s a great place for me because the trout stream’s right there, and I work in town, and it’s just easier for me to live here by myself,” he said about his home. “It’s an easy place for me to be.”
Though Buzard says he likes that he can be “left alone” at Crow’s Nest, it is apparent that he watches out for his neighbors, having volunteered to identify for Bors the households which might benefit from the donated food. Buzard has since developed a close relationship with the Mount seminarians, inviting any interested to join him fishing at area trout streams.
“For lack of a better word, this is awesome,” Monsignor Andrew Baker, rector of the Seminary, said of the mission before the seminarians departed, “this is really awesome.”
Baker continued, “The year of mercy has provided us with two opportunities. One, certainly, is a deeper encounter with Christ, who is mercy, but also we know that in encountering that fire of mercy, who is Christ, we can’t contain it. It can’t just be kept to ourselves, it must, by its very nature burst out and ‘Go Forth.’ So, that mercy that’s ‘going forth,’ encountered in the person of Christ, is done through our love of our neighbor.”
“That’s what this project ‘Go Forth’ is about, it’s about the year of mercy if you will, bursting forth,” Baker concluded.
“I was hungry and you gave me food.” – Matthew 25:35
Photo courtesy of Alex Krall.