A Letter from Michael Palmisano – Photo taken by Janae Rose Photography at Michael and Theresa’s recent wedding at St. Thomas’ Church.
Michael Palmisano will be preaching at St. Thomas’ January 7th at 8am, 9:15am (Family Table) and 10am.
Dear St. Thomas’ family,
I write to you today three days before the celebration of the birth of our Lord. What an immensely joyous occasion. It seems to be a celebration that challenges and excites me in new ways each year. I just returned home yesterday to the Philadelphia area (Ft. Washington) where I will celebrate with my family and my parish family at St. Thomas’. It is so wonderful to be home for even a brief moment.
This first semester of my Middler (second) year of seminary has been one full of countless new learnings. Of course this comes as no surprise as it is also mine and Theresa’s first few months of marriage. Each day seems to come with new learning and it is a gift to be journeying with one another. Theresa and I have settled into our little dorm on campus at VTS and have made a home for ourselves. We are finally finding a rhythm of life that is starting to work for both of us. Even in all of the busyness and challenges of each day, having each other to stay accountable to our spiritual practices has been of great mutual value to us both.
Within just one month of Theresa moving down to Alexandria she secured a full-time position as Director of Religious Education at a Catholic parish in Arlington only ten minutes from our home. We are both so thankful for this. So quickly she has stepped into many new communities where she is minister, student, and friend. Her new position also allows her the flexibility to worship at my field education parish, St. Patrick’s in D.C. on Sunday mornings. We have so much to be thankful for.
Classwork at VTS continues to go well! This semester I began with systematic theology. This is a course that has put me in a position where I could name my beliefs and test old ones. It also exposed to me the breadth of beliefs our church can hold within it. This is both the gift and the challenge of this church we call Episcopal. Sometimes we stand in tension with those next to us but we stand together and drink from the same cup nonetheless. The experiences I share in at my field education site, St. Patrick’s have reinforced this great diversity in practice and beliefs in the Church. We are called to minister to so many a people and knowing who we are and what we believe is vital in doing so.
In the classroom this semester I spent a good deal of time working through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I took two concurrent seminar courses, one in English and one in Greek where we worked through each line of Paul’s letter with great attention. The study of this letter has been one of the highlights of my seminary experience thus far. Not only does this type of study uncover the Scriptures for us but it reveals for us so deeply and intimately the apostle Paul and the lives of our faithful brothers and sisters who have come before us. Even with varied interpretations, we are united in faith through the Scriptures. Upon continued reflection I’m finding myself drawn to Biblical studies time and time again.
Just a couple of days ago I took a silent retreat at St. Anselm’s Monastery in Northeast D.C. with the Benedictine Brothers. They graciously welcomed me into their community on a whim (only two days before I was able to reach out to them!). Although I had only a 24 hour period with them, this time was a true gift to me and my call.
Each day the Brothers worship and pray communally five times. The first meeting is at 5:20am and the final is at 7:30pm. I visited during a time where their parish school was on break so the Brothers were able to “sleep in” and meet for first morning prayer at 6:20am. It’s wonderful to think that there exist men and women who are up praying for the world long before we step out of bed in the morning.
The time I had to quiet prayer and study amongst them was a gift. I had time to read Scripture in silence and simply meditate and pray. It also gave me time where I actively reflected upon my call narrative which I had recorded before coming to seminary. At this halfway juncture it was thrilling to observe how I’ve grown and how I am making sense of God’s work in me. It was equally exciting to meditate upon how I had formerly expressed that call just two years ago. The faith God has given me and this call to serve Him in the Church is something I give thanks for each day.
Serving at my field education parish has continued to be a positive experience. I have had a couple of chances to preach and I have had numerous roles in liturgy. This spring I am hoping to begin an Adult education course and/or Bible Study. I really am enjoying journeying with others as they learn and grow in their faith/formation. For the January term (the whole month of January) I will serve full-time as a chaplain at Episcopal High School where I work as a cross country and track coach. I am looking forward to stepping into this role in their community and the lives of the kids I work with each day. I am especially eager to teach and to preach in this setting. I am continuing to seek a breadth of experiences leading in the church while at seminary.
Truly I am most thankful in all things that during this time of busyness and being newly married I am developing better practices for spiritual health and grounding. Drawing nearer to Christ each day is at the heart of my call. Living on a seminary campus has definitely given us both a wealth of resources for growing and being formed in our faith. I continue to see a Spiritual Director each month who helps me see and cooperate with God’s grace in the world around me and in my life. Theresa also hopes to find a spiritual director for herself very soon. The two of us also plan to take an evening course at the seminary concerning the “Spirituality of Children.”
Thank you for your constant and continued prayers and support of me and my wife Theresa. It means much more to us than you may know. We look forward to being with you and worshipping with you so soon!