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Once a month, a day of silent retreat — led by a priest invited by the seminary — breaks the regular schedule. Silence is the rule that day, even during meals. There is also a weeklong retreat, held at Máriapócs early in November, with many liturgies and devotions.

“It’s very good,” said Father Tamás Horváth, the prefect of the seminary, “but it’s hard for the boys to be quiet that long, just as it is for adults.”

Two months into the academic year, seminarians may travel home for a weekend. They may also celebrate Christmas and Easter with their families. The feast of St. John the Baptist, 24 June, marks the end of the academic year, but seminarians are expected to work in their home parish during summer. They also spend a week at Máriapócs, helping the constant flow of pilgrims.

Greek Catholic candidates for the seminary first spend a year with their Latin Catholic peers in a house of studies in Vác, near Budapest. There, they study introductory theology and philosophy, while learning to live away from home. Adjustment to seminary life remains a challenge: First-, second- and third-year students are assigned three or four to a room.

“We have enough rooms,” explained Father Horváth, “but it is important for them to learn to live together, to live with others.”

All of the seminarians I have spoken with felt they were more or less ready for the rigors and demands of seminary life, particularly the studies. More unexpected was the intense spiritual life. Hardest of all, perhaps, was having to get up early every morning.

Of more immediate concern for some, however, was the lack of girlfriends; first- and second-year Greek Catholic seminarians are not permitted to date.

“It’s harder to get married,” said Péter Szkoropádszky, a native of Ukraine, “than to decide to become a priest. It’s hard to find a girl who will accept that decision.”

Only in the seminarian’s sixth and final year in formation — and with the bishop’s approval — may he get engaged. Before his ordination as a priest, the seminarian must complete his academic work, participate in the pastoral life of a parish and marry.

Ironically, two sons of priests, Bence Polgári and Tamás Kocsis, took longer to enter the seminary than their colleagues.

“I didn’t want just to follow in my father’s footsteps,” Bence Polgári said. “I wanted to decide on my own and wanted to make sure I could do well. For this reason, I spent many sleepless nights.”

Tamás Kocsis faced much the same. “My family didn’t expect me to become a priest, but I didn’t want other people to think I was doing it simply because my father was a priest. But my old friends are happy for me and support my decision.”

Péter Szkoropádszky was four when the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church resurfaced; the Communists had forced the church underground, persecuting bishops, priests, sisters and members of the laity.

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Tags: Eastern Churches Monastery Seminarians Hungarian Greek Catholic