The night before Sal was to go to major seminary at Darlington reality started to set in that this was not some kind of a lark. The past year at Seton Hall University had been relatively easy because he came home every day, but this was a whole different kettle of fish. The desire for service was still strong, but he had no idea what it would be like to be resident in the seminary for a period of five years. He began to pack and realized that he was smoking one cigarette after another ,and his level of apprehension was off the Richter scale.
There was little if any sleep during the night, and he kept tossing and turning with all sorts of thoughts that perhaps he had made a mammoth mistake. Was it too late for him to turn back? Would anyone think ill of him if he had decided that perhaps he didn’t want to go through with this? His mother seemed happy with the choice, but his father certainly had serious reservations about his son, and could not fathom that he opted instead of taking the Wall Street job over becoming a priest. The night seemed endless, and every time he looked at the clock on the wall he realized that only 10 or 15 minutes had gone by.
At one point he must’ve drifted off into a deep sleep because he was gently being touched by his mother saying”Sal I think it is time for you to get up.” Sluggishly he opened his eyes and said “okay mom I’ll shower and get dressed and come down for breakfast.” The water cascaded over his body in the shower, and he realized that never before in his life had he been this nervous. Most occasions Sal handled with a great deal of calmness, and almost always he felt self-assured. This was different, because it was so unknown and so far removed from what he had experienced in his life. What would it be like every day to be confined in a particular place with a very stringent set of rules and requirements? He knew that he wasn’t particularly holy, and new literally very little about the Catholic faith tradition despite the fact that he spent 12 years in Catholic school, and if you count college 16 years. But during all those years he took with a grain of salt much of what he had heard about the church and its rules and regulations., He wasn’t sure that he really subscribed to heaven and hell, and thought that limbo was one of the silliest ideas, but now this was different. Now he was handing over his life and freedom to the unknown.
After showering and going down for breakfast he tried to fake that he was hungry ,but he literally was pushing his food from one side of the plate to the other. When his mother wasn’t looking, he took a great deal of what was left over and threw it in the garbage. Climbing the stairs he told her that he was going to finish packing.Lighting a cigarette reality set in and he sat on the side of his bed wondering whether this was the appropriate time to tell them that he changed his mind. After an hour and a half of vacillating he came to the conclusion that there was no way he could turn around now ,and that if need be he could leave at any point in time that he decided.
His father asked him if he wanted to drive from Jersey City to Bergen County where the Darlington Seminary was located but he refrained saying that he would enjoy watching the scenery as they drove along .The reality was that he was so nervous he thought it would probably be very inappropriate time for him to be behind the wheel. The ride which under ordinary circumstances would be probably 45 minutes to an hour seeing interminable because there was a great deal of traffic. The first part of the trip seemed familiar because most of the highway was filled with towns which in some degree resembled Jersey City but as they progressed he realized they were more and more into what he would refer to as the countryside. He became keenly aware that seminary at this point was probably no more than 10 minutes away and he could feel his chest tighten. There was very little saliva in his mouth and he was tapping his fingers on the side of the door. Fortunately neither his mother or father had any realization of how nervous he was, but when they entered the gates of the road which led directly to the seminary it was the most difficult moment of this entire past year. When they arrived at the circle in front of one of the main buildings they were greeted by a group of seminarians who gave them instructions of where to park and unload the luggage .The older seminarians evidenced a great deal of overt friendliness and eventually after they had parked the car led them inside to the building where most of the newcomers and the families had gathered. There were informal introductions on the part of seminarians dressed in cassocks despite the summer heat and once his name was checked on the list one of the seminarians told him that he would take Sal to his room . Upon entering a small room he was gently instructed to change his clothes and to put on a cassock and to come downstairs sometime within the next 30 minutes. This was a whole new ballgame for him and as he put on his cassock and Roman collar and looked in the mirror. He was shocked at what he perceived to be a major transformation .Going downstairs he was instructed as he exited the stairs to go to the right and follow the corridor to what was the major cafeteria where many of his new classmates and seminarians as well as families had gathered for refreshments. After a brief period a priest who obviously was a monsignor came into the cafeteria strode to the microphone and introduced himself”good afternoon my name is Msgr. Charles Brady I am the rector of the seminary and I welcome all of you to what I know will be a wonderful experience for our new seminarians as well as their families. In the next hour or so we would welcome you to tour the grounds as well as the Chapel and when the church bells ring after that period of time will be an indication that the formal life of your sons and has begun .It will be at that moment that we would ask you graciously leave the property as there will be a church assembly for the new seminarians .
The next hour sped by and once the church bell rang Sal’s mother and father embraced him ,kissed him and said we love you and we know that this will be a wonderful time for you. Sal returned their kisses and embraced them and wished that what they said was true for him.His need for flight at that moment was overwhelming .All he could think of was that he wanted to get in the car with them and say”let’s get out of here about as fast as we can but he knew that that was not something that he could do. As he watched them drive off he followed the rest of the seminarians to the Chapel where he was to begin the first day of his new life.