Their bus never arrived to take them to the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium. They had no ride home from New York City. And, the day before, one of them had been shut out of the close-up area where the rest of his group from the Rochester Diocese was waiting to see Pope Benedict XVI.
Yet all in all, this local contingent — which included diocesan vocations-awareness staff and the five Becket hall residents who are in discernment for the priesthood — said they made the best of these misfortunes on their trip to see Pope Benedict April 19 and 20 in New York City.
The 10-member group stayed in Huntington, N.Y., with seminarians from the dioceses of Albany, Syracuse and Ogdensburg on the campus of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, which is operated by the Diocese of Rockville Center. They also met up with Rochester seminarian Brian Carpenter, who is studying in a seminary near Chicago.
The discerners said they enjoyed the chance to see the pope up close during his April 19 meeting with youths and seminarians on the campus of St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers. They also were able to attend Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral as the Yankee Stadium Mass was taking place.
“Even if we could have gotten to Yankee Stadium, we had no way to get home,” said Carol Dady, coordinator of priesthood vocation awareness for the Rochester Diocese.
And even though their bus — the one that never showed up to take them to Yankee Stadium — was also their ride home, the discerners said the train ride back upstate gave them more time to make friends with other discerners and seminarians from across New York.
“We enjoyed the camaraderie on the train, talking and chatting,” said Michael Costik, a discerner from St. Matthew Parish in Livonia who is assigned to Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brighton.
The attitude of making the best of a situation was one Pope Benedict promoted during his speech to young people and seminarians.
“The path of that journey (to God) twists and turns — just as it did for our saints — through the joys and the trials of ordinary, everyday life,” Pope Benedict said, according to a text of his speech on the Vatican’s Web site.
The pope described his own teenage years growing up in Nazi Germany as he talked about the darkness people should shun, such as repression and manipulation of truth. He suggested that they instead turn to God for personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action and vocations.
“People know him as a strong intellectual, but his words about love and relationship with God were very inspiring to me,” said Costik, 34, a former music teacher in a private school in Pawling, Dutchess County.
The pope told the young people that Catholicism is not the prohibitive religion that is often portrayed.
“It’s saying yes; it’s freedom; it’s liberty,” Costik said.
The pope also had advice for young people attempting to discern their call. He told them to recognize the benefits of having different dimensions and different abilities.
“He said everything I’d hoped he’d say, and he said things I think seminarians need to hear,” Costik said.
Dady said the discerners were happy to get the chance to know the pope better.
“They were struck by how genuinely happy the pope seemed to be to be speaking to young people,” Dady said.
One discerner missed the chance to get an up-close view of the pope. Matt Jones, a discerner from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Elmira who is assigned to St. Mary Church in Rochester, said security guards prematurely shut the gates on the standing-room-only section right in front of the stage. This area was marked off for seminarians and was where the other Rochester discerners had positioned themselves.
Jones said he found himself shut out of the section along with seminarians from Nebraska and Colorado, several Sisters of Life, and a woman who brought her ill son to meet the pope.
Although they were heartbroken at being shut out of the section, Jones said he found himself making friends with people that he might not otherwise have met.
“That was very inspiring, and that kind of raised everyone’s spirits,” he said.