Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Priest Next Door or Down the Hall

Living among seminarians reminds professor of one of his priest heroes

“How would you like to live with your professor?”

Father Scott Carl, left, talks with seminarian James Lannan at the St. Paul Seminary during an informal gathering before night prayer Oct. 18. Father Carl is a faculty member at the seminary. - Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit
Father Scott Carl punctuated the question with a loud laugh. “There’s the challenge of seminary.”

As an instructor at the St. Paul Seminary, Father Carl, 35, works to form future priests — both inside and outside the classroom. In addition to teaching Scripture, Father Carl lives among seminarians on the second floor of the seminary’s four-floor, dorm-style housing area.

“It’s a vocation, not a job,” said Father Carl. “The reason I am there is to be an example.” He does it primarily because he wants to do God’s will; however, it’s clear he finds great joy in the ministry, too.

Father Carl is one of three priests who live on seminarian floors. He moved there in 2008 and started teaching that fall.

“The seminarians are very welcoming, very encouraging,” he said.

Father Carl eats meals with the men at the nearby cafeteria and prays night prayer with them several times a week.

The activities may not be extraordinary, but they meet the seminarians’ needs. Last year one told him, “We just want to spend time with a priest,” he said.

A seminarian from St. Paul in Ham Lake, Tim Lawrence, 31, lives across the hall from Father Carl. He appreciates the time the priest takes to ask about his day, eat a meal or give advice on an assignment.

“On those tough days, you walk outside your door, and there [Father Carl] is, very cheerful and joyful, and that joy for his priesthood gives us inspiration and hope,” he said.

Sam Patet, a seminarian from St. Augustine in South St. Paul, lives near Father Carl and took one of his classes last semester.

Patet, 23, admires Father Carl’s personable, easy-going nature.

“Father Scott is the same man on the floor as he is in the classroom,” he said. “In the classroom, he is a man who is going to teach and give us knowledge and help us learn it, but he still has his fun spirit, his laughter.”

Inspired by priest, ‘hero’

Father Carl grew up in Hastings and attended Guardian Angels, now St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. When he was a freshman at St. Thomas in 1992, he lived in Ireland Residence Hall on the same floor as Msgr. James Lavin. Msgr. Lavin was in is early 70s, recently retired, and living with freshmen because he knew he could offer something through his priestly presence, Father Carl said.

Although he doesn’t live with college freshmen — or have to wear earplugs to sleep at night, as Msgr. Lavin did — Father Carl finds it providential that he is doing the type of ministry today that Msgr. Lavin provided him 18 years ago. Msgr. Lavin is still one of Father Carl’s greatest heroes.

“The greatest joy is just [that] this is where the Lord wants me to be a priest,” he said. “Thinking back again to Msgr. Lavin, what’s beautiful is his priestly heart, the authenticity, the patience and generosity.”

After ordination in 2000, Father Carl served as an associate pastor at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Maplewood and Highland Catholic Community — now Lumen Christi — in St. Paul, before Archbishop Harry Flynn asked him to study at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He graduated in 2008.

Father Carl knows that being a seminarian is challenging because the men are under constant evaluation. As a formation director, he integrates the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation for 10 men.

Living among seminarians inspires Father Carl’s own priesthood.

“They’re really serious about this sense of call and fulfilling that,” he said. “It’s not easy to be evaluated, but it’s the humor that’s there, the playfulness and positiveness, and that’s something that gives me a sense of peace about what I am doing.”
Catholic Spirit
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