When I first entered the seminary, three years ago, I thought Bishop Martin Amos was crazy when he said the time would just fly by. However, his wisdom was right and I can’t believe that I have been through three years of seminary.
This year was my first at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary and I was nervous being in a new environment. My college seminary, Conception Seminary College near Conception, Mo., was more rural; Walmart was 20 minutes away and there wasn’t anything in between. Mundelein Seminary is in a northern suburb of Chicago and though Walmart is still 20 minutes away, there are many more things in between.
I was installed as a lector this year which felt like a small step, the first real step towards the priesthood. It was a great moment for me in my vocation because I was installed along with my entire first theology class.
This past year had its challenges as a very good friend of mine, Matt Marshall of the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., had a medical emergency. His heart stopped, but by the grace of God, he is still living today. Matt, along with Anastacio Ponce (also of the Davenport Diocese) and Steve Arisman of Springfield, Ill., were the seminarians who took me out to eat on my birthday.
Matt’s heart situation brought us closer and showed me the awesome power of prayer. There are 159 seminarians at Mundelein and we spread the news of Matt’s medical battle far and wide. Some of us sent message through Facebook, others called seminarians or contacted their parishes back home. Cardinal Burke, who previously served as a bishop of LaCrosse, even called the hospital where Matt stayed. The prayer network spread so far that Pope Benedict offered mass for him. This led my mother, Maria Treviño, to conclude, “I want Mundelein” praying for me when I get sick.”
When Matt, first woke up, he asked the doctors if he could still be a priest. Matt had done so well in his first year at Mundelein that he was asked by his diocese to attend the Pontifical North American College in Rome. However, because of the heart issue, he decided that he would stay at Mundelein. God helps us on our journey, if we’re open to it. It seems like God wanted my friend Matt to become a priest and that’s why Matt lived even after his heart stopped. As I reflect on Matt’s battle, I find comfort in trusting God in difficult times.
“Lord, help me be what you want me to be” is the vocations motto for the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. I live in Moline, in the Peoria Diocese, so I see this saying all the time — but it never really made sense to me until now. Since I’m from the Peoria Diocese you might wonder why I’m a seminarian for the Davenport Diocese. I have two reasons. First, because Davenport is right across the river and any assignment I might have in southeast Iowa would keep me no farther than three hours from Moline, where my family lives. Second, two Davenport Diocese priests inspired me: Father Rudy Juarez (pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City) and Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese. I met Fr. Rudy through my Boy Scout master, Quint Ford, and the first thing Fr. Rudy did was take me to the vocation director in Davenport, who at the time was Father Bob Gruss. Now he’s Bishop-designate Gruss, who will become bishop of the Rapid City Diocese in South Dakota on July 28.
The second time I met Fr. Rudy was when I interviewed him for a story I was doing on the tornado that hit his parish in Iowa City. Immediately after the story was published, he took me again to Fr. Gruss’ office. Fr. Rudy could relate to me being Hispanic and the importance of family in our culture and that made me feel at home.
I got to know Msgr. Mottet through his involvement in advocating on behalf of people who were mistreated because of the Postville immigration raid. I went to Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Davenport and there he was celebrating the Spanish Mass. I was very inspired by how active he was in the community, even being retired. As a result you can blame Fr. Rudy and Msgr. Mottet for me being in Davenport.
Bishop Amos’ message of my time in seminary going by so fast makes me reflect on what’s in store for me. In second theology, I get installed as an acolyte and will spend 10 weeks in a parish in the spring. I’m two years from becoming a deacon, God willing. And, I’m three years from becoming a priest, God willing. Wow, is all I can say. Where has the time gone by?