On March 13, the community at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology celebrated the 50th anniversary of the building that now houses the seminary and Sacred Heart Monastery. Construction of the new building began in 1966; the current structure was dedicated on December 8, 1968. Due to the winter break schedule, celebration of the anniversary was delayed until the week of Founder’s Day (March 14). Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, provincial superior, was homilist at the anniversary Mass. After, members of the seminary community joined him in blessing several newly renovated areas of the building.
Fr. Ed Kilianski’s homily follows:
We are a people who like signs! How would we get anywhere without our trusty GPS giving us commands as we drive into the unknown? We like things spelled out for us in flashing neon or on big billboards. On the highway, road signs tell us how fast we can go and how far it is to the next gas station or fast food restaurant.
Have you ever pleaded with God to give you a sign? I can remember a handful of times asking God for a sign. I usually did this when I found myself torn with a decision I needed to make.
But how do we interpret these types of “signs”? How do we know that a sign is actually a sign and not my desire for a sign creating something out of nothing? Does God actually send us signs? I think it’s an interesting subject to ponder.
In the readings for today, Jesus says that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. Place yourself into our first reading. Imagine yourself as a Ninevite, minding your own business, chopping wood or washing the laundry. Imagine Jonah, a stranger, walking through town shouting that God was going to destroy your town. How would you react? Would you take this as a sign from God?
As I imagine the scene, I think I would be skeptical. I think I would pass Jonah off as a crazy man and go back to cutting wood. If I’m honest with myself, I might also secretly repent out of fear that he was right. I might ask God to give me a sign that his sign is truly a “sign”!
Whether signs are actually inspired by God or our own imaginations, the message of the readings today remains clear: repent. Jonah and the Son of Man preached the same message to different crowds and in different places. The message, preached to us through the scriptures, reaches us now in our own heart and as we go about our own daily routine.
When the Jews demanded that Jesus give evidence for his claims, he says that there is no need because He is God’s sign, that is, his very own person and presence to them. Jesus is the great sign of the Father’s love and mercy. He goes around showing people God’s generous love. Jesus confirms this with the many miracles he performs in preparation for the greatest sign of all, his resurrection on the third day but still they do not believe in him. They refuse to put their trust in him and in his word. For them Jesus is an ordinary sign. They want something spectacular and extraordinary. They want something grand and glorious. The religious leaders in Jesus’ time are not content to accept the Sign, Jesus Himself, right before their eyes. How about us? Are we willing to accept this great sign?
Fifty years ago, Frs. Peter Miller, Robert McGuire, Linus Merz, John O’Connor and many other SCJs recognized the signs of their times and built this seminary for the education of priests and later the laity to spread justice and peace in a world that hungers for both
Many years before that, our founder, Leo John Dehon, saw the signs of his time and responded by beginning the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1878. He saw the sign of: “The Heart of Jesus overflowing with tenderness and compassion for all those who suffer, those who endure hardships, those who go hungry, and for the sick and the infirm. He saw that, ‘the heart of Jesus is the heart of a father, the heart of a mother, the heart of a shepherd.”
The commitment to this seminary continues today in the remodeling and renovation that has taken place and will continue into the future as a sign of our commitment, our apostolate to the religious, diocesan and lay alike. Ours is a commitment to the Church in this country, and the Universal Church.
Dear friends, we too are called to be signs. The best sign you and I can give to the world is our very lives and our genuine love for each other. Jesus began His public ministry by calling us to do just that. In His words: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is what we ought to focus on during this Lent: accepting Jesus’ invitation to turn back to God, and discover the mystery of joy and freedom in that turning. This is what we ought to desire. This is what we need to pray for this Lent.