Seminarians at the Mount Hold Open House
By Danielle E. Gaines /Frederick News-Post
The students in the relic room of Mount St. Mary's Seminary let out a small gasp.
Just a foot or two away was a relic from the Virgin Mary's veil. Nearby was a relic containing bone from each of the 12 apostles. In another container was a fragment of wood from the cross where Jesus was crucified.
Documents from Rome were also on display, verifying the authenticity of the relics.
The items were shown as part of an open house at the seminary, which opened in 1808 and is the country's second-oldest.
About 170 men are studying there.
On Sunday, they took a break from their studies to give visitors a peek into their lives at the six-building seminary complex.
Each floor of the dormitory-style buildings was decorated with elaborate themes. On one floor, a "Mary Blue Christmas" hallway was decorated with lights, wrapping paper and various characters of the color often associated with Mary. Some of the characters included Genie from Aladdin, Smurfs and the Blues Brothers.
"I thought that was a very beautiful scene, and it was nice to hear Elvis singing 'Blue Christmas,'" college employee Bessie Andrew said of the glowing hall. Andrew said she comes to the open house every year to meet with the men and see their decorations.
She also enjoyed the "Under the Christmas Tree" decorations on another floor, which transported visitors to another world with huge Christmas gifts stacked underneath a web of green garlands, lights and ornaments that hung from the ceiling. Visitors had to cross through a tunnel representing the tree's trunk to reach a human-sized toy train and its track.
Andrew said she loved a quote posted at the end, which said the true gift of Christmas doesn't come from underneath the tree.
The floors compete with each other to have the most creative decorations for visitors.
"We talk about ideas from the very beginning of the year," said Jacob Valle, of Woodstock, Ill., who is in the second theology year of the four-year Master of Divinity degree program at the seminary. He was leading tours Sunday and said he enjoyed sharing information about the seminary with others.
"The seminary is a unique part of the community," he said. "It's a great idea to have the open house and welcome people in."
Joe Richardson and his son, Al, of Rockville, who attended the open house for the first time, enjoyed the sights in the hallways and were planning to take part in the Advent readings and carols later in the afternoon. They were invited by Joe's sister, Julia Parker, the university's director of music and organist.
"It was really interesting. I thought the creativity was quite good," Joe Richardson said right after his tour.
Richardson said he also enjoyed talking with the guides and learning about their daily life in the seminary.
On an average day, the seminarians pray together at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in the morning and evenings. They are encouraged to sit in meditation and prayer regularly, they explained during the tour.
There are more than 2,000 Mount seminary alumni, and about half of them are alive and active in ministry, according to the school.
Photo by Sam Yu