Faith of Seminarians Renewed By Pandemic as School Starts at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers

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By Jessica Easthope

Class is in session at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. This year, due to the pandemic, there are a lot of extra rules and precautions. But when it comes to vocations, it’s back to basics.

“It’s been a time of challenge and a time to get back to basics for them, prayer, dedicated to the common life and renewing friendship and fraternity, supporting each other,” said Father Michael Bruno, the Dean of Seminarians.

Fr. Bruno’s priorities are usually faith, classwork and everything else. This year, safety is added to the list.

“All of the common areas went through a deep clean, in the common areas everyone is wearing a mask and we have several options for remote learning,” Father Bruno said.

Father Bruno says the seminarians are diving headfirst into their formation. For Callistus Ibeh, the months leading up to his first year in a major seminary have given him a closer look into what it’s like to be a priest.

“Being able to work with the people in whatever challenge they’re going through like this pandemic, it was really tough but as a leader, a priest you need to have a strong spirit,” Callistus said.

Unlike Callistus, the first day of school jitters are long gone for Joseph Hadzovic, a third-year-Theologian. He says the pandemic has been a lesson learned. It made him examine his relationship with God and his vocation more closely.

“If it’s for the glory, if it’s for people praising me, no one could praise me during COVID-19,” he explained. “I couldn’t see anybody, so you really have to ask yourself why am I doing this?”Joseph said.

For the seminarians, being back at school means being back in the community they love.

“They realize the importance of community, studying in an environment where they’re supported by fellow students, their teachers are in person, I think there’s a real desire to be together in the learning process,” said Bishop James Massa, the Rector at St. Joseph’s Seminary.

For the seminarians, the pandemic has renewed their priorities and their faith. God, prayer and community, matter most.