If priests are people too, then seminarians just a short stone’s throw from ordination are like any other college student champing for graduation to arrive so they can get on with their life’s work.
“I have to admit, I’ve had a little bit of senioritis,” said Deacon Robert Cigainero. “I love the seminary, don’t get me wrong, but ever since I got my assignment, these last few weeks of school have been hard. I am ready to get started.”
Cigainero will report to St. Joseph Church in Conway in June, as the parish’s new associate pastor. He said he was looking forward to the opportunity to work with young people through St. Joseph School as well as learn more about the ins and outs of managing the many elements that make a parish function.
For that, he’s grateful for the presence of St. Joseph pastor Father John Marconi as well as other priests for advice on everything from sharpening a homily to dealing with a counseling issue to the decidedly non-liturgical issues surrounding building maintenance.
“Yeah, I’m a little bit nervous about the administrative things, but at the same time I’m ready to step up and learn,” he said. “The brotherhood of priests we have here is very important to my development. I know I can call on any of them and ask how they would handle something.”
Cigainero said he learned early on how humbling his vocation can be. Landing at seminary in 2006, he said it took about two weeks before all of his youthful visions of what it meant to be a priest started to unravel.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Here I am studying to become a priest and I don’t have the slightest idea what that means.’ I knew the priest was another Christ but that was about it. All I could do was pray that God would reveal it to me and I pray for that to this day. I pray that I grow to love people more and that I see people differently.
“Prayer is key. It’s like a human relationship, the more you are around someone the more you get to know them. Well, the more time you spend with the Lord, the more you know what his voice sounds like.”
Cigainero’s spiritual awakening through prayer was fed by the seemingly boundless love exemplified by Pope Francis.
“The thing that gets me the most is how nonjudgmental he is,” he said. “The way he talks about gay marriage or divorce or atheists or abortion, he wants to focus more on people as fellow human beings. He talks about these very important issues, but he doesn’t do it with a hammer in his hands.
“I used to think that the Lord loves us in spite of our sins. What I’ve learned is God loves us because we’re broken and becoming less judgmental is learning how to love other people the way God loves us.”
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