CARTHAGENA — More than 160 priests, former priests, seminary alumni and their families gathered for the Amici Gathering/Brunnerdale Reunion July 26 to 28.
The event was held at the St. Charles Senior Living Community in Carthagena, which used to be known as the St. Charles Seminary. The St. Charles building is the central house for the Cincinnati Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, an apostolic community of priests and brothers who still reside there. It was built in 1922, but the seminary part was moved in 1969, becoming the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. The building was then expanded to include a home for active and retired priests and brothers until 2006 when that area of the building was renovated into individual apartments for anyone age 55 and older.
Amici means friend in Latin and is a group that has expanded to include not just former priests and brothers but also anyone who has studied at one of the Missionary of the Precious Blood’s seminaries.
Brunnerdale High School Seminary was operated in Canton by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, and a little over 2,500 young men started their study of the priesthood there during the years it was opened from 1931 to 1981.
Conducted every other year, the gathering began over 20 years ago as a few informal get-togethers of those that had been a priest or former priest associated with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
“Its origins were priests who had left the priesthood but still wanted to connect with their classmates who remained priests,” said the Rev. Alfred Naseman, who preaches at retreats throughout the country and is also a resident at St. Charles Senior Living Community and a liaison between the planning committee and the religious order. “It was an informal thing at first. Then they started thinking wouldn’t it be interesting if we got together regularly.”
The first formal gathering was in 1991, and at first only included priests and former priests, as well as any spouses or children. The event was such a hit, the group decided to continue the gatherings every couple of years, and eventually expanded it to include former seminary students and brothers of the religious order. Brothers are those that want to live within a religious community but do not want to become ordained priests.
A six person committee started planning the event almost immediately after the last gathering in 2011. Michael Feltz, who lives in Celina and is the closest one on the committee to the event, said the committee held regular meetings and Skyped frequently to pull the event together.
The gathering kicked off Friday evening. “Friday evening was informal,” said Naseman. “We planned a pizza party and everyone just got to reminisce.”
Saturday morning attendees could come down for coffee and doughnuts at 9 a.m., but the program featuring three speakers did not begin until 9:30 a.m.
The three featured speakers were Dr. Ichak Adizes, an international speaker and author from Israel, the Rev. Barbara Prose, a Unitarian minister from Tulsa, Okla., and Brother Anthonio Sison, a professor of theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. All the speakers took about 30 minutes to speak on the topic of “Coming to Know Your Personal God.”
In the afternoon, attendees could choose between two options: a women’s symposium chaired by Prose or a gathering specifically for seminary alumni.
“The symposium was also open to the men, too,” said Naseman. “It was difficult for me to choose since I can’t be at two places at once, but I ended up at the gathering.”
Saturday evening was once again a time for socializing and reminiscing among the attendees. Sunday morning started at 10:30 a.m. with a choral presentation. The choir was made up of attendees wishing to participate.
“Music, liturgical music, was a big part of our growing up,” said Naseman. “Over the years, the seminary had some very good choirs. We also have some priests that compose religious music, and we honored some of them as well.”
Following the 30 minute choir concert, there was a liturgical Mass and a memorial for all the former members who had died since the last gathering. The event was concluded with a lunch.
“Our kitchens here at St. Charles are very good and they provided the food,” said Naseman. “It’s all local people and they do an absolutely great job.”
Naseman said they had about 160 people registered to come, but also had walk-ins. “Whenever we have an event we try to get a good count,” he said, “but you know how it is. There are always walk-ins, and we tried to envision how we would take care of those so it’s not really an issue.”
The event itself was a success with those who came looking forward to the next gathering. “It’s a very dynamic weekend,” said Naseman. “It’s a delightful type of experience and everyone was very enthusiastic to see each other.”
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Retired priest gathering