Busy Hands

“Ask the Lord of the harvest that he send labourers into his harvest.” (Lk. 10:2)

The Benedictine rule, with its admirable wisdom, combines work and prayer. This is indicated in the famous motto “Ora et labora”. Young seminarians must form themselves in this spirit which is not just monastic but is also proper for all Christians.

In effect, seminarians will have to dedicate themselves to both prayer and labour during the whole of their priestly life. God seeks labourers for his harvest, but it is He who gives the fruit, and it is prayer which draws down God’s blessings on all the activities of the priest’s exterior apostolate. “Neither he that plants is anything, nor he that waters but God who gives the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:7)

The long hours spent scrubbing plates and mopping floors teach seminarians humility and the spirit of sacrifice for the common good in little things. This common good, later on in the apostolate, will be the good of souls.

There are two types of tasks in the seminary: house chores and department work. House jobs change every week, while department work is assigned in a quasi-permanent fashion. This allows for the house jobs to be distributed equally among the members of the community, and for the tasks which require greater qualifications to be given to those who have the necessary experience.

Department work

Departments are special areas of work, under the leadership of a major seminarian and of a priest prefect. Departments make use of the special abilities of each seminarian for the benefit of the community and help improve those abilities in view of the seminarian’s future ministry.

Seminarians generally start off in each department doing the least important work and then gradually advance to positions of greater authority and responsibility. As in the parable of the talents, the one who is faithful in small things shows himself capable of accomplishing greater ones. In this way, seminarians gain experience in organization and leadership, in view of the day when they will have to run a priory.

The main departments in the seminary are the following:

  • Masters of ceremonies: they organize the liturgy at the seminary. They train the seminarians to serve in the various roles at Mass, as well as the other ceremonies, such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. To this end, they frequently hold practices, and they also make books listing the rules for the ceremonies and liturgical customs.
  • Sacristans: they are entrusted with the beauty and the tidiness of the church, and with looking after all of the materials necessary for the ceremonies. They must take care of the side altars, vestments, altar cloths, sacred vessels, Mass linens, and the many other items that must be in place for Mass.
  • Schola members and organists: they are responsible for the beauty of the sacred music that is performed in the liturgy. This primarily concerns Gregorian Chant and its accompaniment by the organ. Members of this department conduct chant practices for the community, preparing for upcoming Masses or improving the normal chant performed at Mass or during the Divine Office.
  • Librarians: they organize the borrowing from and the returning of books to the library of the seminary. They are also responsible for making and binding little booklets and supplements for classes.
  • Jobs department: it assigns the weekly house jobs, the jobs for days of work at certain special times of the year, and the jobs for Saturday manualias, when all the seminarians have a period of work.
  • Maintenance department: this department is involved in maintaining the building, and so does work in the area of plumbing, electricity, flooring, carpentry, painting, and so on.
  • Infirmarians: they take care of the sick members of the community, make sure sufficient medication is on hand, and take the gravely ill to the doctor or the hospital.
  • Groundsmen: they take care of the seminary grounds, by doing landscaping, mowing lawns, weeding, planting flowerbeds and such like.

Besides the major departments, there are many other departments which do important work for the seminary, such as accounting, computer work, maintenance of the website, writing of the seminary chronicle, making airport runs, taking care of the seminary livestock, cutting hair, and running the seminary bookshop.