Reflecting on the loss of a seminarian

Two Dandelion Seed Heads

The living reality given to us by God

The following reflection was written by Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, a frequent contributor to our province blog:

Yesterday at Sacred Heart School of Theology, the first day of the fall semester, I witnessed something that is hard to describe. It was like a “sobriety dance.” A sensible pall seemed to fall over everyone, staff, faculty, student alike. I knew it. I recognized it. I did not know what was causing it. Everyone walked as they usually walked, moved between room and class, office and conference room, in and out of the dining room. The usual bubbliness and hubbub were gone and a sensible reduction in sound and noise was evident. I noticed, too, that the usual laughter and loud bursts of conversation were lacking. Why the pall? Why the shroud over normal conduct? It was like some invisible weight was pressing down on flesh, causing it to flex and depress.

Then, at the lunch table, as I was seated with some Vietnamese nationals attending the ESL [English as a Second Language] program here – actually, two priests, a brother, and a religious sister – I was asked: “Why does God take some people when they are young?” I found the question strangely timed but valiantly tried to give the stock answer in an acceptable way. My hearers did not seem to buy it and the problem was not due to language. Shortly thereafter, Msgr. Ross Shecterle, the president-rector of the Sacred Heart School of Theology, came over our table to announce the death of one of the seminarians in case we hadn’t heard the news yet. He choked up a little as he spoke. I hadn’t known, but others at our table were aware of the death.  Now I knew the cause of the pall I had witnessed. I finally learned the answer to my wonderment. His name was Javier and he was from Mexico.

We humans ascribe to God a lot of things that happen, even dying. Earlier I had read a very intelligent and intelligible phrase in a brief essay by Douglas Bushman that said: “…the ultimate explanation of all that God does is that he is faithful to himself.” He has created the physical world of time and space that operates so very consistently that we can draw our “science” from it: the laws of physics, chemistry, zoology, biology, etc. In that same world of time and space, God allows living organisms to grow in evolutionary ways according to their own laws.

While we all have to die, God has meant us for life and that is why he sent his Son, Jesus, to show us the way to life – through death and resurrection. This same God once in time sent his Son, Jesus, to heal us and our world. In Jesus’ resurrected absence from our world, the healing art of medicine developed and made use of science. Unfortunately, the art of medicine, for all its science, is unable to keep up with evolving organisms. Where it does, there are cures; where it doesn’t the laws of nature follow their natural course and we die. Once again, the ultimate explanation of all that God does is that he is faithful to himself, to his work, his creation, the laws of science and the evolution of living organisms.

There is no blame. There is no fault. There is only living reality given to us by the God who is faithful to himself.

Let us remember Javier in our prayers.

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NOTE: Javier Ibarra Hernandez was a seminarian at Sacred Heart School of Theology for the Diocese of Salina, Kansas. The diocese posted the following on its website:

Javier Ibarra Hernandez, a seminarian for the Diocese of Salina, died Monday, Aug. 26, at Via Christi-St. Francis Hospital in Wichita.

Ibarra, 35, had been hospitalized several weeks and was being treated for an unusual strain of pneumonia.

“It is with a mix of human sadness and Christian trust that I share with you that our dear friend and seminarian, Javier Ibarra, died earlier today,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger said in a statement Monday. 

“As most of you know, Javier became sick several weeks ago. His condition quickly showed signs of being catastrophic, and for that reason we brought his elderly parents and his sister here from Mexico. We believe Javier received exceptional care from committed doctors and a very devoted nursing staff,” the bishop said. 

The day his family arrived, Ibarra was alert and able to communicate, Bishop Weisenburger said. 

“That day proved to be the last day that he was able to be alert for any lengthy period of time. It was an immense blessing that his family members were able to have that special day with him,” he said. 

“A great many of you have prayed for Javier throughout this sudden illness. Your concern for him was always apparent, and he knew of your affection. He treasured the new home he had found in the Diocese of Salina, his rapport with his brother seminarians and the good people of north-central and western Kansas. I know that he will be remembered by us with great kindness,” Bishop Weisenburger said in the statement.

Click here to visit the diocesan website.

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