Wednesday, Jul. 20th 2016

Beyond Conception: A Pilgrimage Close to Home

Like all other seminarians at Conception Seminary College, I am “home” for the summer. And by home, I mean in the Diocese of Davenport, IA. I am currently not at my real home, but sitting on this Sunday afternoon in a former convent turned retreat house in West Point, Iowa waiting for the rest of my Totus Tuus team to arrive for a team meeting. Like many of my fellow brother seminarians, I am doing Totus Tuus which is a summer program to teach kids about the faith.  While Totus Tuus is primarily about teaching kids about the faith, I have already found Totus Tuus to have countless other advantages and struggles. However, the greatest joy of doing Totus Tuus and the one which I wish to share is what I am calling my pilgrimage around the diocese.


Like any other pilgrimage, Totus Tuus has given me the opportunity to journey around the diocese visiting some remarkable churches. The architecture, as well as all the “church candy” like the statues, reflects the love and devotion of the people who built these churches. I realized very early on that one does not need to travel to far away countries like France, Rome, or the Holy Land to find neat churches. You do still need to be careful though. At Saint Boniface church (now a museum of the local churches in Clinton, IA), the person who loaned us a key did not know that security systems had been installed recently. Thankfully, the curator arrived before the police did. Oops. But back to my thought.

Despite all the beauty of these churches, a church by itself is just an empty building. The real beauty comes from the people who fill the church. It made me excited to see all three of these churches with full congregations. At each church, Cameron Costello, a fellow seminarian from my diocese, and I got to meet the local priests and people who call these parishes home.

In seminary, I have found that it can be easy to lose sight of the “bigger purpose.” It seems like there is just papers, reading, schedules, and daily drudgeries. This summer of Totus Tuus has been a reminder of the real meaning of being a seminarian. In my journey, I am not only seeing beautiful churches, but I am also meeting amazing people from dedicated youth ministers to ordinary parishioners whose prayers make the church run. Seeing the excitement in these people’s eyes when they hear that I am a seminarian and hearing “I’m praying for you. Thank you” is a humbling experience. It’s a reminder of being a servant and all things to all people. During the week, I am a fire of the faith for youth. On Sundays, I am an image of the future for people. Each and every encounter, I am a witness for Christ.

Getting to see people and meet priests from the diocese has been an unexpected treat of doing Totus Tuus. The teaching is fun, but the “extras” are very rewarding and uplifting. Totus Tuus is teaching me many things on my pilgrimage, and this is only week two. I feel there is much more in store.


Ben Snyder, a seminarian of the Diocese of Davenport in Iowa, will be a junior at Conception Seminary College next fall.

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