A seminarian does everything to prepare for the priesthood – Newsroom


Located just over a mile east of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi houses a painting titled “The Call of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio.

The iconic artwork depicts Matthew the Tax Collector on the left, hovering over a stack of coins as he counts them. On the right is Jesus, pointing to Matthew with his right hand in the exact same pose as God reaching out to humanity in Michelangelo’s famous images on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

During the spring semester of his sophomore year at the University of St. Thomas, an affable, fun-loving corporate entrepreneurship major entered the Contarelli chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi and spent a good moment in front of “The Calling”, which he had studied in art history class.

“I saw myself in Matthew – still very sinful,” said Deacon Mike Selenski, now in his final year of theology studies at Saint Paul Seminary. “I just felt Jesus saying to me, ‘I know everything you’ve done. I know who you are, and I always call you to live with me.

“That planted the seed.”

And to think that Selenski was on this study abroad trip for the purpose of “chatting,” he said. “I just had friends who wanted to do the program.”

“The Call of Saint Matthew” by Caravaggio

Even an introductory conversation with Selenski reveals that almost everything about him is big. His build, his personality, even his mustache that would make Tom Selleck jealous. Perhaps that’s why fellow seminarians call him “Deacon Big Mike.”

Behind his thunderous laugh and approachable demeanor, however, lies Selenski’s penchant for always getting bigger. After this trip to Rome, he began to take his faith more seriously. After a few nudges from a friend, Selenski served as a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)—a Catholic outreach ministry on college campuses—missionary for six years. And after thoughtful discernment and years of seminary training, he is now ready to “go all out” as a priest.

“I would describe Deacon Mike as genuinely joyful and deeply intentional,” said fellow transitional deacon John Utecht. “He will be a high priest because he is an example of the joy of a life lived for Christ.”

Influential impact

Selenski admittedly did not take religion seriously during his younger years.

But his parents did. Their home in Coon Rapids, Minnesota had a dedicated prayer room. Selenski’s mother and father were both actively involved at nearby St. Paul’s Church in Ham Lake.

It was there that Selenski, the youngest of four boys, met father Timothy Nolan. The late Saint Paul pastor was a frequent guest at the Selenskis’ dinner, including every year on St. Patrick’s Day.

And even though Mike didn’t embrace Catholicism as his own until college — starting that day in Rome — Nolan’s influence continued to grow after the priest’s death in 2021.

“He was always laughing,” Selenski said. “He was normal, he was social, he was jovial.”

Selenski was too as he dove into theology and philosophy classes at St. Thomas. Selenski had a secular job after graduation, but the fourth phone call from his friend – herself a convert to Catholicism – finally convinced him to try FOCUS.

What followed paved the way for Selenski’s eventual entry into Saint Paul Seminary.

Five years as a missionary on the campus of Drake University, then Harvard. One more as regional director. Missionary trips to China, Russia, Peru, France, Italy and Ireland. Selenski believes his countless interactions with students from all walks of life have prepared him for the pastoral responsibilities of the priesthood.

“I think the most defining part of my own professional journey was the fact that [I was] to reach out and build relationships with struggling young students who are just trying to find their way and be able to be an instrument in their lives that could lead them to the Lord and lead them to happiness,” Selenski said. . “There was nothing happier for me to do, and it resonated with who I was.

“It opened my mind and my heart to the idea of ​​serving the kingdom of God through the priesthood, that I could see myself joyfully laying down my life and giving it to him in a more radical way.”

Take the plunge

So what drives a young man with the world at hand to contemplate a life of celibacy, simplicity and docility to his local bishop?

For “Deacon Big Mike,” maybe a better question is “who?”

“The short answer would be that I think the Lord called me to this life, that he made me a priest,” Selenski said. “And it took me years to really be open to that reality. … But as a young man who was transformed by the Lord and fell in love with the Church, I think I had to start asking the question. question: “Is God calling me to this life?

“Finally, I took the plunge.”

The dip included rigorous theological and philosophical study, pastoral training, spiritual growth, and holistic human development. He also included a great sense of brotherhood with other Selenski seminarians.

This was only reinforced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the seminary became its own self-contained bubble. A self-proclaimed food junkie, Selenski saw his cooking responsibilities increase at the seminary residence, located on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in St. Paul.

“It actually weirdly opened up a lot of opportunities to try to have fun in a way that you weren’t doing before,” Selenski said. “So we started using the kitchen a lot more and experimenting with a lot of dinner parties. And it was a great gift to be able to have other brothers with whom you were a little isolated during this period.

Selenski’s longtime friends Josh and Beth Santo — and their five children — joined him for his diaconal ordination.

Selenski even dusted off his piano skills and formed a band with other seminarians.

“When I think of Deacon Big Mike, the image of him preparing food in the kitchen for a big dinner party, music blaring, happily accompanying him on the belt, always comes to mind,” said the Deacon Nathan Pacer of the Diocese of Rockford.

Among Selenski’s menu favourites: carbonara, burgers and steaks. As for the tunes blaring in the background, Selenski said he would listen to “pretty much anything but rap.”

He is also a sports enthusiast, from fantasy football to cheering on the Minnesota Vikings.

Seminar formators and teachers will tell you that they have seen countless different personalities and charisms translated into strong and holy priests. But those who know Selenski best point to his friendliness as a strength that will serve him and his parishioners well throughout his life.

“Deacon Big Mike is a gregarious, fun-loving child of God whose great joy comes from a deep love in Christ and spills into the lives of all who meet him,” Pacer said. “What is most attractive about Mike’s personality is also what will make him a high priest; he is modest, humble, attentive and engaging, all traits that make others, even strangers, feel comfortable in his company.

The same can be said for Selenski’s old friend and mentor, Nolan. Selenski served as master of ceremonies at Nolan’s funeral mass earlier this year.

The same day, he learns that Nolan left a gift for Selenski: the priest’s eucharistic chalice.

After ordination, Selenski plans to use the same chalice for every liturgy he celebrates.

“I realized how rare he was as a priest,” Selenski said. “To see the impact he has had on hundreds, if not thousands of people has touched me deeply as I enter my final year of information and am about to be ordained a priest in May. And my prayer was really like, ‘Lord…I hope one day to be a positive example and role model as a priest for others…in the future.’ »

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