Alaskan seminarian reflects on final stage before priesthood

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Forty-six year old seminarian Arthur Roraff is on the cusp of a pivotal moment in his journey to become the newest Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

On June 6, Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz will ordain Roraff to the transitional diaconate. After five years of seminary studies and formation, this is the last major step before the former Anchorage businessman and co-founder of the current Anchorage Theology & Brew is ordained to the priesthood. That is set to take place in the summer of 2015.

Roraff is the furthest along of five men in various steps of formation to become new priests for the Anchorage Archdiocese.

In an interview with the Catholic Anchor, Roraff noted that the transitional diaconate “is the first step in holy orders for a man.” The next level is the priesthood. Among ordained priests, a few are later asked to serve the church as bishops.

But Roraff’s upcoming ordination to the diaconate is the entry point into a life of service to the church. The finality of the moment has not been lost.

“Most men think about the priesthood as ‘the big ordination,’ which in many ways it is,” he reflected. “But, in many ways the diaconate is, because that’s the point where you’re not going back; you made the promises.”

One recent experience which helped to prepare Roraff for this pivotal step in his vocation was a 23-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He traveled along with 18 fellow seminarian classmates from Saint Paul Seminary, in St. Paul, Minn.

On the pilgrimage, Roraff said he came to a deeper appreciation of the Incarnation of Christ.

“To see where Christ lived, and to see where Christ spoke to people, to breathe the same air as Christ, in a sense,” these experiences inspired Roraff with a deeper love for Christ, whose priesthood he will ultimately share in.

Following his ordination in diaconate ordination in June, Roraff still has much to do before becoming a priest.

Following his brief time in Anchorage for his diaconate ordination, he will travel with his classmates to Guadalajara, Mexico, where he will continue to learn Spanish. There, he will carry out the functions of a deacon. After his coursework in Spanish is concludes, Roraff will return to Saint Paul Seminary to finish academic and spiritual formation in final preparation for priestly ordination.

During the remainder of the next school year, he will serve at the altar and preach both at the seminary chapel and at his teaching parish. The teaching parish program at the Saint Paul Seminary assigns men in priestly formation to a parish within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. Throughout four years at this parish, Roraff explained that he “learns how to be a deacon, and ultimately a priest at an actual parish.”

Roraff said he is looking forward to his upcoming diaconate ordination.

“There is an excitement about actually starting to do something for real,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. I have no idea what it will be like, since I’m not a deacon yet, but I’m looking forward to it.”

During his year as a deacon, Roraff hopes to exercise his ministry as much as possible in the form of preaching, celebrating baptisms, and assisting at weddings and funerals.

On a recent visit home to Anchorage for the convocation for Alaskan priests, led by Cardinal Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, Roraff experienced a real affirmation of his vocation, and a sense of deep joy and peace that comes along with it.

“I really like being here right now. There’s such an affirmation, and it’s a breath of fresh air,” he said. “God is telling me that this is where I’m supposed to be, and that’s how it’s been every trip back here — both in the natural beauty, but even more importantly in visiting with the people. This is the greatest place in the world, and I can’t wait to be back here to serve in the priesthood.”


'Alaskan seminarian reflects on final stage before priesthood'
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