Vocations View: A Day in the Life of a Seminarian

The Notre Dame Seminary flag football team at their annual game against St. Benedict's. Duncan is pictured back left. (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Seminary).

by Nicholas Duncan, Seminarian

I often encounter people who have no idea what a seminary is or how it functions. People are left to ponder what a typical day is like at a seminary. Are we working and praying all day like Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act? Is it like shipping off to basic training, or is it like going to a trade school where you live in an apartment somewhere and have a job on the side?

The seminary I happen to attend is essentially a boarding school for grown men. Instead of a covenant or monastery like you would see in The Sound of Music, it is more like the X-mansion from the X-men film franchise. But instead of young mutants learning to control their powers so they can protect the world from evil, the men at seminary have heard a calling from God and undergo formation so they can bring Christ to the people of God; thus also protecting the world from evil.

Notre Dame Seminary is the biggest house on Carrollton Avenue in the uptown district of New Orleans. We have about 140 seminarians and 10 priests that live in residence.
I’d like to share what a typical day is like for a seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary. I am writing this during my spring semester, and just like any other day at the seminary it is guided by the community horarium, Latin for “the hours,” which is the schedule of prayer that takes precedence over everything else. After this community prayer is our class schedule, followed by our personal horarium of prayer, work and leisure.

7:30     Morning prayer in the chapel.
7:45     Breakfast in the refectory; otherwise known as a cafeteria, but us Catholics love to give things weird names.
8:00     Most seminarians are off to class, but my group has a professor on sabbatical, so our schedule is a little different. I’m off to the library to work on a presentation for my class on evolution (PH 205) on how science and religion are compatible.
9:45     I move to classroom 7 for PH 203, political philosophy, where we studied the errors in Machiavelli’s The Prince and Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan.
11:15 After class I head over to classroom 2 to rehearse for the day’s Mass with the schola (ie, the choir).
11:45 Attend Mass.
12:30 Lunch in the refectory.
1:05 I run up to the NDS Store’s storage closet to get 20 pint glasses to give as gifts to the priests who have come as mentors for the diaconate internship orientation that was going on that day. Running the NDS Store is one of my house jobs.
1:30     I’m back in classroom 7, this time for PH 204, my Philosophy/Theology seminar class. I have already given my presentation on John Wycliff, but today three of my classmates are giving hour long presentations on Rene Descartes, Henry VIII/St. Thomas More/Erasmus, and Jean Jacques Roseau.
4:30     Formation Conference: Father J.D. Matherne gives a talk to my class on his first year as a priest.
5:45     Evening Prayer with the entire community in the chapel. I arrived early and prayed daytime prayer as well.
6:00     Dinner in the refectory.
6:45     I go back to the library to work on my Latin homework for the next day’s class.
8:30     I head up to my room straighten it up, sweep the floor, and change into workout clothes.
9:00     I head to the gym on campus to workout.
10:00 I go back to my room, shower and get everything ready that I will need for class the next day.
10:30 I go to the chapel on my floor and pray the Office of Readings and Night Prayer from the Breviary (Catholic for prayer book)
11:30 I return from the chapel and go to bed.

This a pretty typical day at the seminary, Mass is always at the center, as the Eucharist is the source of our faith, and the day is bookended by community prayer in the morning and evening. The class times may differ depending on how far along you are in your studies, and different guys choose to do their personal prayer and exercise at the times that best suit them.

But a typical day is not the norm here. There is always something going on; the relics of St. Padre Pio or St. John Paul II might be here, we could be having visitation services for the New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, or perhaps a fancy dinner with some of our benefactors. We could be staging a play, or hosting a lecture for the community. They keep us very busy, but I love being here and feel blessed to have the opportunity to study for the Diocese of Shreveport.

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