Every Thursday, seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary gather in the main chapel for a Holy Hour. While this community time of prayer is built into the weekly schedule, it’s anything but routine. For many of the men in priestly formation, it’s the most important part of their week outside of Mass.
Ryan Ferrigan is a first-year theology seminarian from the Diocese of Lansing. He had begun going to daily Mass in 2018 as a sophomore at Michigan State University. That year, the campus ministry added 90 minutes of adoration and confession prior to Masses. Ferrigan often went early for confession and soon found himself arriving even earlier to spend more time with Jesus. In hindsight, he could see that God was using his desire for reconciliation to develop a devotion to eucharistic adoration.
“It was the quietest time of my whole day, and yet it was also the time I could hear the Lord the loudest. It made me want to be with him even more,” said Ferrigan.
Less than a year later, Ferrigan attended a discernment retreat at Sacred Heart. He arrived on a Thursday evening just as the community Holy Hour was about to begin. Ferrigan was taken aback upon seeing the men gathered in prayer.
“The most profound thing for me was the communal aspect of it. In the past when I was at adoration, I would be one of the few people there. By contrast, here was a chapel full of men who are aspiring to be priests of Jesus Christ singing hymns and praying. I knew that this would be what seminary is like—praying together with a life centered around Christ,” Ferrigan said.
At the weekly community Holy Hour, a resident priest gives a short talk on a variety of topics for reflection and prayer. Msgr. Daniel Trapp, who serves as the spiritual director for the seminarians, remembers the Holy Hour as part of his seminary experience in the 1980s. Msgr. Trapp believes the hour spent in communal prayer is the most important part of the week outside of Mass.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Could you not spend one hour with me?’ For centuries, this is the way that priests have spent that hour with Jesus. It’s a great assist to their celibate relationship with the Lord, taking this time to review their difficulties and bring those to the Lord in his presence,” said Msgr. Trapp.
Ten years ago, first-year theology seminarian Mark Beukema had never even heard the term “Holy Hour.” Beukema, now 43 years old, spent ten years in South Korea teaching English after obtaining his master’s degree. Raised in a devout Episcopalian family with a grandfather who was an Episcopalian priest, Beukema assumed he’d follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become a priest for the Episcopal church he knew. But Beukema was disappointed in the direction his church was taking, and he had always been drawn to St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta as examples of holiness. To him, it felt natural to become Catholic.
When he returned to the United States, Beukema decided to discern the priesthood with the Diocese of Marquette while living in the rectory at St. John the Evangelist in Ishpeming. The day he arrived, he was introduced to the concept of a Holy Hour by Father Ryan Ford, pastor at St. John.
“I thought prayer was one thing, and I realized, with Father Ryan’s tutelage, it was something else entirely. It was more powerful than what I was doing and what I knew it could be,” said Beukema. “It took me a long time to build a Holy Hour so that I could enter into it in a meaningful way.”
When he entered seminary, Beukema embraced the community Holy Hour in addition to a personal, daily Holy Hour. As a poet, Beukema “thinks poetically,” and the beauty of the Holy Hour with his fellow seminarians in the chapel has not been lost on him.
“Recently, Father Steve Pullis gave a great talk about the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I think of all the images that he painted for us with his words, the incense lofting up above us, everyone getting on their knees to pray before the Lord in thanksgiving . . . it’s just a beautiful moment that’s seared in my memory,” Beukema said.
Ferrigan and Beukema plan to bring eucharistic adoration to their future parishioners regularly in hopes of showing others how to fall in love with Jesus the same way they have. Both say they’ll miss the community Holy Hour with their fellow brothers in Christ after they leave Sacred Heart.
“The community Holy Hour shows me that the best thing a priest can do is point people to Jesus,” Ferrigan said. “The communal aspect provides an important reminder to us that discerning priesthood isn’t something that we seminarians are meant to do alone. It’s true that we’re called to know the Lord in a personal way, but it’s also important to have an external element such as this which outwardly demonstrates that the whole community is centered around a total dependence on Jesus.”