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Four Years at the Mount

Junior Year

The Seton Shrine

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(11/2013) Part of the appeal of going to Mount St. Maryís is the businesses and areas shared by our university and the town of Emmitsburg. There are so many institutions that bear great memories for both students and townspeople. Whether going to get a quick bit at the Ott House or stopping by Holy Grounds for a cup of coffee, it is no secret that the Mount and Emmitsburg have a lot of things for which to be thankful. However, itís not just businesses and restaurants that our two worlds share, but also a rich history, specifically involving Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Iíll never forget coming to the Mount and hearing stories about Father John Duboisí journey from France to Maryland in search of a safe haven from religious persecution, and the stories about the many famous people who have walked the same ground and traveled the same wooded trails I had. One of these figures in particular, Mother Seton, a patron of students and education, caught my attention. It was mind blowing to me that a canonized saint has been in the same place I am, and that she harbored the same feelings of love and admiration that I have for my new home. I became aware that there was a beautiful shrine dedicated to Mother Seton in Emmitsburg, The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. The building was dedicated not only to telling her life story through artifacts from her lifetime and informational seminars, but also to continuing her work through community service and outreach. It sounded like an amazing place, and I made it my mission to go.

However, freshman year passed and I hadnít had the chance to visit the shrine that I had heard so much about. Like most new college students, I had gotten wrapped up in the myriad of activities that college had to offer me and had put a visit to the shrine on the backburner. I had almost forgotten about that wonderful example of our shared history with Emmitsburg when sophomore year rolled around and I was asked to take part in Campus Ministryís Back from the Dead Cemetery Walk. Every year the Mountís Campus Ministry office runs a free shuttle to the graveyard outside of the Seton Shrine for a Catholic take on the traditional Halloween walk. Rather than be beset by popular monsters and ghouls, participants encounter the spirits of the saints as they travel through the holy graveyard. That year, the Mountís Father Brian Nolan approached me with the offer of a part as the ominous grave-keeper that helped to kick off the walk. I joined, excited at the prospect of being able to not only help a great cause, but also visit the landmark that I had wanted to visit for so long.

As fate would have it, I was going to be closer to the shrine than I thought. The first of the two walks went well enough, despite a slight drizzle and an unusual cold. The students and residents who went through came in a little scared but left with smiles on their faces. By the end of our first run, the rest of the cast, as well as yours truly, were more than excited to begin our second performance. Then the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy hit and the weather in Maryland took a turn for the worse as driving wind and rain meant that the walk would be staged in the protective confines of the shrine itself. The night came and we turned off the lights, set up a few strategically placed candles, and took our positions inside the shrine.

There was something about the place that seemed to lend a strong purpose to what we were doing, attempting to bring God closer to people in a contemporary way. The way the flickering light seemed to fill the cavernous expanse of the marble chapel, the pictures of the smiling saints hung here and there, the rain pattering on the roof, and the looks of wonder on participantsí faces all made for an extraordinary evening in an even more amazing place.

Moments like that make me so happy that we get to share our existence and our little miracles with the town of Emmitsburg. Thereís a danger inherent in treating the Mount or our town as a single world unto themselves, completely independent of one another. Itís hard sometimes to see our own little worlds as parts of a greater integrated whole, rather than as separate entities. However, sitting there in the shrine, with the shadows dancing on the walls and people from around the area having the time of their lives, it made me realize just how important it is to recognize that weíre just part of a greater, shared tradition. So, allow me to end this article a little differently than I end most. Instead of asking that you sit and read with me, I ask that you go out and find some place, whether itís a store, a restaurant, or the spot where you finally did something youíve always wanted to do. Go and rediscover what that place means for you and for others. It doesnít have to be something that necessarily connects the Mount to Emmitsburg, just something that takes you out of your own experience and brings you closer to another deeper life. Take your friends or go alone, but whatever you do, open yourself up to the chance that you might discover something new. Until next time, good luck, and happy hunting.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott