A couple weeks ago I got a call that I never thought I would ever get. Father Jerry, the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, called me and asked the question that every seminarian would give anything to hear: “How would you like to serve for the Holy Father in New York?”
First I thought he was kidding, then I was speechless and then I was flying high on cloud nine. Of course I did! This was a chance of a lifetime. I could not believe that not only would I be attending the Papal mass in Washington, D.C., at National’s stadium, but now I was going to New York to serve one of the masses. It seemed like a dream.
On April 17 my papal extravaganza began. All of us seminarians from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Homeland went to the mass at National’s Stadium. We could not have asked for a nicer day for the Holy Father to celebrate his first Mass in the United States. Not only was the day and Mass beautiful, but we also had great seats. Our section of seats was right above the dugout that the Holy Father processed out of and recessed back too. Great pictures were taken, and I began to get even more excited because in just a couple days I would be even closer to him.
On April 18, fellow seminarian John Boyle and I headed to the train station to catch our train to New York City. While waiting in the station Bishop Denis J. Madden showed up and then Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien with Father Adam Parker. It was great to be with our local shepherd prior to seeing and serving for the universal shepherd of the Catholic Church. The weekend in New York was amazing. Serving at the Cathedral is something I will never forget. What honor it was to represent the Archdiocese of Baltimore in New York.
Since our return, I have been reflecting on the visit. I began to think about the Holy Father and his role as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Chief Shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church. On his shoulders rest all the problems of the church and all the concerns of the world, and we know they are many. But with all that, he radiated a joy that I have never experienced in another person. In his eyes, in his movements, in his words was the love of God. I realized more then ever that all he wants to do is share the unconditional life-changing love of God with all of us. The Holy Father knows that it is only the love of God that will get us through all the rough times in our lives. Therefore he is trying to help us open up and encounter the living God. With this realization I began to think that if the Holy Father can radiate God’s love in such a beautiful way even though there is so much on his shoulders, how much more should I live in and share the love of God. This has become my prayer and hope for, God willing, my future priesthood. All I hope to do is share the love of God with all of you, the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Please pray for me and all seminarians that we may always desire to share God’s love before anything else. Thank you for the great honor of representing you in New York! May God bless the Archdiocese of Baltimore!
Carlo Stebbings is a 28-year-old seminarian from the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Homeland.