By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
Several seminarians from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were chosen by lottery to serve Mass for Pope Francis on New Year’s Day. Bryan Amthor, Joshua Barlett and Gabriel Lickteig, third year Theology students at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, were among 11 seminarians from different dioceses who served the Mass on Jan.1.
The New Year’s Day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, honoring the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, was attended by the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps, the various nationalities of the ambassadors attesting to the Church’s dedication of Jan. 1 as a promotion of world peace. Thousands of Catholics also attended the Mass, or waited in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis to appear for the annual New Year’s Day blessing.
The seminarians were in Rome for their Christmas retreat, held before their springtime ordination to the transitional diaconate. Both Bryan and Joshua had visited Rome before, but as Bryan told the Catholic Key in an email, “There is always something new, hidden or something that strikes you different the second time. In many ways the second visit is more prayerful as you tend to move quickly toward the tombs of your favorite saints, without feeling the necessity to see everything.” He added that the pasta and Gelato were “of course, so good.”
Joshua thought along the same lines. “Our week -long tour of Rome brought us directly to the heart of the Catholic Church. The churches, architecture and other art tell of the history of the Church from the Apostle Peter to the current living successor of Peter almost 2,000 years later; that is a lot to take in! As we walk the streets each day we literally are walking among the saints whose remains lay in the churches we pass. One cannot help but be overwhelmed by the power of God lived out through His followers through the ages and even to today.”
Bryan recalled the celebrating New Year’s Eve on the roof of the North American College in Rome with “fellow Roman KC seminarians Alex Kreidler (St. Joseph), Andy Mattingly (St. Joseph) and Trevor Downey (Lee’s Summit). At midnight you could see tons of fireworks in all directions. Seeing fireworks all over the Eternal City was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.”
Meeting and shaking hands with Pope Francis was “amazing,” “extraordinary,” and “a blessing” for Bryan, Joshua, Gabriel and the other seminarians.
Joshua wrote in an email that, “Before Mass we shook hands with the Holy Father and his simplicity and humility shone through. What an honor to serve the successor of St. Peter as he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the same sacrifice the we, God willing, will celebrate as future priests. It was truly an amazing experience!”
Bryan said the seminarians arrived at the Vatican at 8:30 in the morning and practiced serving Mass. “Then we all lined up in the Pieta Chapel as we waited for the Holy Father to emerge through the doorway. We prayed the rosary as we were waiting, which helped calm the nervousness. Finally, without pomp or circumstance, the Pope was there, came through, shook our hands, wished us Happy New Year, and was on his way to say Mass. Then we served Mass for the Pope! The whole thing was surreal!”
The seminarians were to return to Josephinum on Jan. 10. Bryan and Joshua continue their educational journey toward the priesthood. But as Bryan said, meeting and serving Mass for Pope Francis “was such an extraordinary experience. So quick and yet life changing. I was truly blessed to have that experience and I will never forget it.”