By Tony DeGol
What have you been doing while laying low during the pandemic?
A group of seminarian buddies found a way to powerfully evangelize without even leaving campus.
Men in priestly formation at Saint Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore have had no pastoral assignments at parishes, hospitals, or homeless shelters this academic year. They were instructed to stay put, with the exception of running occasional necessary errands.
Two Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown seminarians attend Saint Mary’s, including Brian Norris.
He and some classmates from other dioceses – all fans of Bishop Robert Barron’s creative use of media as an evangelization tool – decided they wanted to spend some of this unprecedented year producing a video series that highlights the gorgeous and historic stained glass windows in the seminary chapel.
“They’re very beautiful stained glass windows with a biblical image up top and then an image of a priest doing some sort of priestly activity such as celebrating a sacrament or preaching, and it corresponds to the biblical image up top,” explained Norris, a member of Saint Mary Parish in Hollidaysburg.
When the seminary brothers pitched their idea to the President-Rector, Father Phillip Brown, PSS, he gave the thumbs-up.
Besides showcasing the cherished windows, the project was, indeed, an opportunity for the men to connect with those on the outside at a time when no guests were even permitted to enter the seminary.
“Nothing motivated us more than this basic goal: reaching people during an extremely difficult time,” explained Ben Daghir, a Diocese of Erie seminarian who first proposed the video idea to his pals. “It was that simple – this quickly became mission work.”
And so, the project began.
Besides Norris and Daghir, the production team consisted of Luke Daghir, Ben’s twin brother; Brendan Foley of the Diocese of Syracuse; James Gebhart of the Diocese of Wilmington; and Jon Callahan of the Diocese of Buffalo.
After analyzing other quality videos, including Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire, and looking at the chapel layout and lighting, the guys utilized iPhones, tripods, painter’s lights, and other tools to get the job done.
“The set-up we had was an interesting one because we had such limited resources, but we made it work, and I think we did a pretty good job,” summarized Norris, who will be ordained a transitional deacon in May.
The title of the video series is For the Glory of the Father, a line in the prayer written by Father Jean-Jacques Olier, the founder of the Sulpician religious community, which operates the seminary.
In fact, another goal of the videos was to highlight the life of the community. The producers included spiritual reflections from seminarians, priests, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore.
“This approach was powerful, intellectual, spiritual, and provided a perspective into the seminary that could extend beyond mere architecture,” Ben Daghir noted. “In fact, it could show the depth of prayer and discernment. Rarely, can one find videos on prayer, discernment, creativity, and reflection from seminarians. We think this series presents both the spiritual depths of our seminarians and the sheer beauty of the chapel.”
The series includes 17 videos, all of which can be found on the Saint Mary’s Seminary and University YouTube page.
One of the videos features the Saint Mary’s Schola performing three songs in the chapel.
“It’s a very beautiful video and probably the best place to start,” added Norris.
[Photos: (Top) Altoona-Johnstown seminarian Brian Norris (top row, center) is among a group of seminarians at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore that produced a series of videos highlighting the chapel art. Other photos highlight behind-the-scenes activity from their production shoots.]