A Pilgrimage to Notre Dame

Six College 4 seminarians eagerly wait in anticipation for the start of the game

by Mat Olson

     Almost four years ago, I was attending a Fundamentals of Speech class. In the class, there were well over twenty seminarians. All of the seminarians were new to the school, and their ages ranged from 17 to 28. One Thursday in October, the President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, Fr. Richard Paperini, entered the classroom. Fr. Paperini began a playful conversation with the students about his personal support and devotion to Notre Dame and its football program.
      At that point, he made a promise to all of the students in the class. He declared, “If you guys are on track to graduate in four years, I will take you all to a Notre Dame football fame.” The promise was not easily forgotten. Out of the well over twenty seminarians, only six successfully made it to their fourth year of college at Mount Angel Seminary. These students are Michael Andrade, Alvaro Romero, Guadalupe Vargas, James Balajadia, Joseph Malinis, and I, Mathew D. Olson.
      As the six of us continued through our studies, we would remind Fr. Paperini of his promise. James Balajadia admitted, “I did not believe that he would actually take us to the game.” Last spring, Fr. Paperini told us that he was keeping his promise. The six of us would attend a Notre Dame football game on October 15, 2010.
      After a long flight to Chicago and a drive to Indiana, we finally rested our eyes upon the famous Notre Dame Stadium. It hit us. We finally made it. Rain could not deter us from watching the game. Although a good amount of the fans left due to a high score and precipitation, we were immune to any external forces. Guadalupe Vargas said, “I liked the rain coming down because you had to decide whether or not you were going to leave the game early or continue to watch until it finished. I wanted to stay.” Undeterred by the Indiana rain, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish successfully defeated Western Michigan University, 44-20.
      Following the game, I knew that the pilgrimage was near completion when we saw the back of the library on campus at Notre Dame. The six of us looked at one another and smiled as hundreds of other people were posing for pictures. There is a large mural of Jesus in a pose that resembles a referee declaring a touchdown. As the six of us stood in front of the library, we were able to capture a photograph with “Touchdown Jesus.”
      The journey to Notre Dame wasn’t just about a football game. It was about the fact that we had made it through four years of studies in a seminary. We started out as young men who felt they had a calling to the priesthood. Now, we were men who had accomplished a challenge. The challenge was more than the completion of four years of academic studies. The challenge was based on the completion of four years of human growth and development. The real reward of this trip was the realization of four years of friendship. Six seminarians went to more than just a football game. They completed a pilgrimage.

Striking a pose with Touchdown Jesus: left to right, Guadalupe Vargas, Michael Andrade, Mat Olson, Joseph Malinis, James Balajadia, Alvaro Romero)

Enjoying dinner in South Bend, Indiana, following a victory for Notre Dame.