Seminarians Are Home In L. R.

The front of the House of Formation. Photo from the East Harding Construction website.

Way down on 12th Street, there’s an inconspicuous-looking building. To the average viewer, it’s nothing more than part of Our Lady Of Good Counsel’s school complex. But it’s nothing ordinary. There, a group of men is training to be extraordinary. 

The Dioceas turned the old school into the House of Formation. A webpage explains their mission: “The House of Formation gives seminarians and discerners a place to live and become acquainted with the four pillars of priestly formation — human, spiritual, pastoral, and intellectual — as they seek the will of God for their lives,” said the House’s webpage. “

Bishop Anthony Taylor dedicated the $1.6 million House of Formation on the grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock on Sept. 20, 2012. The 6,000-square-foot building includes a chapel, kitchen, meeting room/library, dining room, common area, 10 student rooms, [the bishop’s apartment], and two priest apartments.”

House life isn’t exactly what most people would expect it to be. Current resident seminarian Pedro Alverez’19 said, “I would describe it in three words: prayer, study, and fraternity. What I mean is that life here is a unique mixture of the life of a regular college student regarding the study, plus prayer and a simple and joyful fraternity.

“So a typical day in the life of a seminarian at the house looks somewhat like this,” said Alverez. “We start with Mass and morning prayer in our chapel at 6:45 a.m. Afterward, some of us hang out in the kitchen making ourselves breakfast and getting our daily dose(s) of coffee before classes begin. Depending on what our schedule looks like, our classes are spread throughout the day between the house, UALR, and Newman University in Kansas (online). So between 6:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., we are pretty much free to develop our schedule around our classes,” said Alverez. 

“We individually do our holy hour (time of silent prayer) at our convenience throughout the day. Some of us work out in our state-of-the-art bunkroom/gym/storage/music room at different times, and other guys take walks in the afternoons after they’re through with their classes. At 5:45 p.m. we gather for evening prayer which is followed by dinner as a community.”

While the House is a home for the seminarians, it is also the home of Bishop Taylor as well. “Living with the bishop is a unique blessing and a fun experience,” said Alverez. “Zero if not any seminarians from other dioceses can say that their bishop has dinner with them almost every night and knows their names. Our bishop does. He celebrates Mass for us a few times a week; he’ll sit down and watch a movie or a show with us; he’ll crack a beer and join us in a board game or a bonfire. He’ll even try playing video games with us, if we can convince him.”

While it might seem that it’s all fun and games, there is still work to be done. The seminarians are responsible for keeping the House clean and orderly. Sweeping the patio, cleaning the classroom up, or taking care of the vehicles — each person is expected to do his part. “I’m currently in charge of updating the bulletin board in our hallway and getting the mail,” said Alverez. “In addition to these chores, we have chapel duties and these typically change every two weeks. One guy is in charge of setting up for Mass every morning, another is the lector, another will be the server, and still another will set up for our communal holy hour on Thursday and our rosary Saturday mornings.”

Life at the House, however, always seems to keep people on their toes. “I have to say, we do have some of the strangest conversations,” Alvarez said. “I think it’s hilarious. At one moment we’ll be arguing about which animal would win in a fight, then we’ll take a steep dive into metaphysics and natural theology, and out of nowhere we’ll start making fun of each other because we’re bad at Smash Bros.”

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