||David Carrano, left, and Greg Ihm enjoy a trip to Florence, Italy.
Future diocesan priests David Carrano and Greg Ihm say the last four years studying in Rome have been an exciting and enriching experience.
The two will be ordained to the transitional diaconate on October 8, 2009, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, Mo., will ordain about 30 men from the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome.
On June 25, 2010, Carrano and Ihm plan to be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Madison by Bishop Robert C. Morlino in Madison.
In an interview while they were home this summer, the two seminarians discussed their experiences in Rome.
“It’s been a great opportunity to encounter the Holy Father on a personal basis,” said Ihm. “By being there in Rome, there’s more of a personal connection.” Both seminarians have served at Masses celebrated by the Holy Father.
Carrano said he especially appreciates the NAC itself. “I’ve appreciated the faculty and getting to know seminarians from all parts of the United States,” he said.
“With the geographical diversity of the students, I’ve come to understand the Church throughout the country and different models of parish leadership. It opened up my understanding of the Church in America.”
With the shared struggles of learning a foreign language and being away from home, the seminarians in Rome have formed strong friendships with each other and other seminarians.
Keeping in touch
Carrano and Ihm keep in touch with each other on a regular basis. Another diocesan seminarian, Mark Miller, also studies in Rome and Scott Jablonski will join the contingent this fall.
“We try to keep a focus on diocesan fraternity by doing something each week with each other in Rome,” noted Carrano.
They’ve also gotten together with fellow Madison seminarians Chad Droessler and John Putzer, who are studying in Louvain, Belgium. They note that countries in Europe are like states in our country, so the distances aren’t that far.
They’ve also been happy to have Fr. Tait Schroeder, a diocesan priest doing advance studies in canon law, join them in Rome. He celebrates Mass with the seminarians on a regular basis.
Contrary to what people might expect, the seminarians noted that the Diocese of Madison actually spends less to educate seminarians in Rome than at seminaries in the United States.
Ihm is entering his eighth year of seminary studies. He will earn a degree in sacred theology equivalent to a Master of Divinity degree with a specialization in liturgy. His classes have been in English.
Carrano will receive a similar degree with a specialization in marriage and family. He is entering his fifth year of seminary studies. His classes in Rome have been in Italian.
Besides their academic experience at the NAC, they’ve had the opportunity for spiritual pilgrimages within Italy and in other countries. For example, they both went to the Holy Land over this past Christmas.
“They call the Holy Land the ‘fifth Gospel,’” said Carrano. “You read the Scriptures differently when you’ve prayed where Jesus would have walked.”
“We visited the Sea of Galilee. It is so beautiful,” said Ihm. “We realized that Jesus took himself out of the pleasing atmosphere because he had a mission, the salvation of souls.”
Carrano hopes to do his retreat before ordination in Ars, France, where St. John Vianney -- the patron saint of priests -- lived and worked. “The opportunity to do that will be so rewarding,” he said.
Ihm remembers spending the summer between his first and second years at the NAC in Venice. He gave tours of the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice.
“I got a new appreciation of religious art and architecture and its ability to communicate the teachings of the faith. It had a big influence on me. I appreciate art and architecture much more.”
While at the NAC, the seminarians have done apostolic work in Rome. Both Carrano and Ihm have been involved in ministry to college students.
Ihm has worked with the Loyola of Chicago campus in Rome, which has about 200 students. It draws from other Jesuit colleges around the country for its undergraduate program in Rome. Ihm has taught catechetical classes and as a deacon, he will preach at Masses.
“I’ve worked there for the past school year and now I’ll be a deacon, taking on the role of giving direction to other guys from NAC,” said Ihm.
Carrano has served at the Rome program with the College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., for the past year and will continue this coming school year. There are about 30 students involved in the Catholic Studies Program, a specific major at St. Thomas.
Carrano and Ihm have been able to return home about once a year. They’ve helped at parishes to gain some pastoral experience. This summer, Ihm worked at Sacred Hearts Parish in Sun Prairie and Carrano was at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison.
Carrano and Ihm are both looking forward to their ordination to the transitional diaconate and ultimately the priesthood.
“For me, it’s extremely exciting to take that step. All the work I’ve been doing has prepared me for giving my life to Christ and the Church,” said Ihm.
“It’s great to be ordained to the transitional diaconate,” said Carrano. “We’ll always be deacons.”
He noted that Bishop Morlino wears the dalmatic — the deacon’s vestment — when he washes feet on Holy Thursday. “Service is at the heart of what we’ll be doing,” observed Carrano. “Jesus came to serve, not to be served. The priest is seen with respect, but we should remember that we’re always deacons at heart and have that mind for service.”
The two seminarians have been in formation for a number of years and note that there are few “milestones” along the way.
“We’re not in it for the rewards,” said Carrano. “It makes us trust more in the grace of ordination. But ordination to the diaconate is great because it directs us to the priesthood.”
They said they have a sense of unworthiness, yet they believe in the power of grace. “Throughout our ministry it’s constantly revealing itself,” said Ihm.
They are also happy that a number of family members, friends, priests, and parishioners from the Diocese of Madison are coming to Rome for their ordination in October.
“Given the economic circumstances, it’s quite a sacrifice to come and celebrate with us,” said Ihm. “We really appreciate their support.”
They also expressed appreciation to all the people of the Diocese of Madison for their financial and prayerful support. “It’s good to see how much they love priests,” said Carrano.
“They have such hope for the priesthood and it’s humbling for us,” said Ihm.