It was about 3:00 p.m. on Thursday when Fr. Matthew Kauth, the Rector of St. Joseph College Seminary, made the decision that despite an unfavorable forecast due to Tropical Storm Florence, the college seminary would proceed with its groundbreaking on Saturday, September 15. Fr. Kauth stated that while he would never put the safety of the seminary’s supporters or seminarians at risk, the date has special meaning for Catholics and plans should continue if possible.
September 15 is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, which commemorates Mary’s intense suffering during the passion and death of her son. It is fitting that the hymn for the breviary on this memorial includes,
“May the numerous tears of the Mother of God
be conducive to our salvation;
with which tears Thou, O God,
art able to wash away the sins of the whole world.”
Fr. Kauth said, “If there is rain on Saturday, I will receive them as the tears of our Blessed Mother.” Later that night, the college seminarians and faculty led a “good weather procession” around St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte. Apparently, it worked.
The rain stopped just before the ceremony began on Saturday and did not start again until the bishop offered a final blessing over the seminarians.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis presided over the ceremony with nearly 75 in attendance. The crowd chuckled when he said, “We pray that God will continue to shower down His blessings upon this effort of ours.”
“We’re here today to ask God’s blessing on St. Joseph College Seminary,” Bishop Jugis said.
“We pray that what we begin today, He will be happy to bring to a successful completion, because this is the Lord’s work after all. It is His work that we are cooperating with, collaborating with, and it is all of course for the greater glory and honor of His name.
The winds picked up a bit as Deacon Peter Tonin read Matthew 7:25, “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”
No umbrellas were needed as the bishop, formators, and special guests tossed ceremonial shovels of dirt while a choir of seminarians sang Psalm 126 with its antiphon, “May the Lord build us a dwelling.”
After the groundbreaking, Fr. Kauth thanked those in attendance, reminding them of the significance of the seminary’s groundbreaking on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. “In the Stabat Mater which we read this morning, there is a line that says, ‘Iuxta crucem tecum stare,’ that means ‘Next to you by the cross we stand,’” said Fr. Kauth. “And that’s why you’re here. In the midst of the tumultuous weather that the Church is experiencing, we stand by the cross. When the storm has ended, those who remain at the cross will still be there. I thank you for supporting us and standing with us. I could not be more happy that it happened on a day like this for Our Lady. May her Seven Sorrows all be turned to joy.”
Following the ceremony, the bishop offered a final blessing over the college seminarians. He thanked them for their vigilance in holding a large canopy throughout the ceremony. Fr. Kauth had fashioned the canopy from a tarp and 12 two-by-twos purchased from Home Depot the previous day. The 12 poles symbolized the 12 apostles and were held by 12 seminarians for nearly an hour. The Bishop told the men that they held up the canopy like St. Francis held up the Church in the Pope’s dream. He said they would be the ones to hold Her up in the near future and renew Her.
Thanks be to God.
You can see the full video of the groundbreaking here.