One of the unique characteristics of the Archdiocese of Portland is that we are blessed to have the most beautiful backyard in the United States. This gives seminarians ample opportunity to explore God’s creation. This past weekend we took advantage of the slow start to a new academic year and headed out for a hike in Opal Creek Wilderness. The trail we hiked follows the Little North Fork of the Santiam River. We crossed over Gold Creek on a 60-foot high bridge, passed by 700-year-old trees, peered into abandoned mines and climbed around the remnants of a 1943 steam powered sawmill. A steam engine repurposed from the U.S.S. Battleship Oregon still lies in the clearing.
Even though the scenery was breathtaking and the trail was rich in history, the greatest blessing of the day for me was to spend quality time with the seminarians, both new and old. We are blessed to have 25 men studying for the Archdiocese of Portland, five of which are new this year. During the course of our four hour hike I was able to talk to the new seminarians about their feelings going into the new year – feelings of joy, happiness, hopefulness, and of course a little fear and anxiety which is perfectly normal. I also had the opportunity to debrief with the returning seminarians regarding their summer assignments in local parishes. It is always a joy to hear them say that they loved getting to know the people in the parishes as they walked with them in their journey of faith. Summer assignments allow the seminarian to settle into his role as a public figure and spiritual father among the people of God. It stretches them in so many ways as they strive to put their theological knowledge into practice.
Shortly into our hike I noticed myself being stretched as well. As we were traversing the rocks and exploring the high cliffs that drop into the Opal Creek Pools, I couldn’t help myself from reminding the guys to BE CAREFUL! At times I thought one or two of them were going to have a nasty fall into the water. Praise God we all made it out safe. I guess it was just the “father” coming out in me!
Please pray for vocations!
Fr. Jeff Eirvin
Director of Vocations
Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon