June 2016 - By Way of Farewell

The last ordinations in Winona was a truly momentous occasion with a record number of priests (90) and of faithful attending (3,300).  The events of the weekend and presence of priests and faithful combined to create an atmosphere of charity.   

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

The ordination ceremonies and the days that have seen our young priests celebrate their first Masses have been particularly blessed this year by God. Let us thank Him and praise His inexhaustible goodness.

These festive days have taken on a particular solemnity this year at the Seminary since they mark the end of an era: priestly ordinations have been conferred at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary annually since 1989. Happily, the faithful have been coming each year in increasing numbers and have joined themselves to the homage paid to the priesthood, the only answer to the needs and anxieties of a world numbed by luxury, pleasure and violence. Let us pray ceaselessly so that these young Levites may be the holy priests so much needed by the world and the Church.

More than 3,300 people were present at the Seminary to pray for the young priests and deacons and render testimony to their indefectible hope. This farewell to Winona exceeded even our most extravagant expectations: we have never seen so many faithful present! It is certain that throughout the years, at the time of these ordination ceremonies, many graces have been distributed and only He who can probe the reins and the hearts of men knows how many people have found peace of soul during a confession, how many others have gone away reassured and stronger in their faith, and how many have converted.

We turn the page not without a pang of nostalgia – but the beauty of these days has permitted that this understandable nostalgia does not turn into sadness or worse, into bitterness. On the contrary, all those who had the grace of attending are witnesses that joy was the dominant note of these days.

When we look at the photos of the first ordinations, we see that the altar is covered by a simple tent and that the attendance is sparse… What a contrast! Here is a living testimony of the work of our priests against which no specious argument can be made.

Moreover, many priests gathered around the altar of ordinations. We had the joy of receiving two bishops, Msgr. de Galarreta, who officiated, and Msgr. Tissier de Mallerais, who made a point of giving us the honor of attending, thus paying homage to so many years and graces. Following the bishops, we counted the presence of more than 90 priests who imposed hands on the young priestly ordinands.

Friday evening, at a dinner organized jointly with the District, more than 400 people came together and attended a slideshow recalling the history of the travels of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary through the U.S. – from Armada to Winona via Ridgefield, and now waiting to be anchored permanently (at least if one judges by the size of the buildings) in Virginia.

This festive meal strengthened the bonds between the faithful and from the start it was slated to become an institution. It will thus be perpetuated, for it is so good to be among brothers, united by the same faith, in an atmosphere of charity and animated by the beautiful virtue of hope. Afterwards, a candlelight procession was to render honor to Our Lady in gratitude for these years of graces passed on Minnesota soil. A violent storm, however, suddenly broke and it became impossible to go in procession under the downpour. A ceremony of homage to Our Good Mother of Heaven was thus organized in an impromptu manner. In the tent plunged into darkness, the candles formed a majestic procession of homage. The young Knights of the Immaculate who surrounded Our Lady’s statue stood proud in their beautiful uniforms and formed a guard of worthy and solemn honor around our Queen.

Compline, sung in the presence of a large crowd, auspiciously put a divine seal over this beautiful day. It was then time to go rest in order to be able to assist the following day at the first Masses.

We would like to thank all those groups that came in uniform to enhance these days with their presence and their devotion, as the already mentioned Knights, the young Scouts of Denver and the Guard of Honor of Kansas.

We had also the joy of receiving, distinctive in their respective uniforms, the pupils of La Salette School (Georgetown, IL) and of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God Academy (Syracuse, NY). We hope that this official presence of these schools becomes a beautiful tradition which will in turn inspire other schools to attend. Isn't it in these Catholic institutions that the vocations of tomorrow are to be found?

We firmly believe that this farewell to Winona is not a farewell to these beautiful days dedicated to the priesthood; quite the contrary. Strengthened by these successful experiences, we hope to continue in this line. Thus, next year we will have a dinner on Friday evening and we hope to be able to have a candlelight procession in honor of the Blessed Sacrament on our beautiful Virginia property. We want also to introduce a night of prayer on the eve of the ordinations so that a guard of honor and prayers takes turns before Our Lord, imploring for priests and consecrated souls the grace of fidelity to the sanctity of their state.

Even as we say good-bye to Winona, we invite you right now to keep in mind the date of July 7th, 2017, when H.E. Bishop Fellay will confer holy orders on the young deacons of this year.

In Christo sacerdote et Maria, 

Yves le Roux