Quincy’s Father Harman reflects on his role leading more than 200 seminarians in Rome
For Quincy native Father Peter Harman, there are plenty of perks of living full-time in Rome: the food, culture, history, and architecture for starters. Then, there is living within a five-minute walk of St. Peter’s Basilica, not to mention living among the saints, in the heart of the church universal. That said, there is still no place like home.
“I have to go to the Tower of Pizza, Kelly’s, and The Abbey when I’m in Quincy,” Father Harman said. “Barbequing in the backyard. I have to go to a Cardinals game. Not a Cubs game. Those are the things I have to do, that I miss. The great thing when I get to see people from the Cathedral in Springfield is that you get to sort of step right back into their lives, which is a great blessing that a priest has because he gets to know people on a very deep and personal level.”
Father Harman was rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield from 2007-2013 then moved to the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome in 2013 as the college’s director of Pastoral Formation. Little did he know, just a couple years later, he would become the leader there, serving as rector of the college which boasts more than 200 seminarians from across the United States.
“I’ve tried to bring back the experiences I’ve had serving as a priest and as a pastor to help prepare men for what awaits them,” said Father Harman, who celebrates his 20th anniversary as a priest this month. “There are tremendous joys serving as a priest, but also, some of the struggles and challenges that go with that, particularly in this time in the life of our church and the culture which surrounds us.”
For Father Harman, being back in Rome has come full circle as he too studied at the NAC before becoming a priest. The rector at that time was now-New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
“I’ve often said that the seminarians today are better than when I was a seminarian at the NAC,” Father Harman said. “They bring a lot of talent and dedication. They are men of prayer. A difference I see in our seminarians today when I compare them to myself when I was in seminary school is how good these men are, how comfortable these men are speaking about their own encounter with Christ Jesus, and allowing that to be the bridge which allows them to have a conversation with people.
“Our men are willing to put themselves out there, be vulnerable in that way. With many our culture not having a background in Catholicism or any faith or they are suspicious of it, to see these men with so much going in their lives, putting themselves out there, and being comfortable with just about everybody, I think there is a lot of ground that can be made in that interaction.”
Father Harman says when he has the chance, he’ll get away from the congested streets and lack of green spaces in Rome, to explore the countryside or hike. He also enjoys wine, easily accessible in Rome. The sights from Father Harman’s patio aren’t bad either, with a grand view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Spiritual blessings include teaching and guiding our future priests and forming relationships that span the world and opportunities such as distributing Communion at the Papal Mass on Palm Sunday.
While it has been and continues to be a joy serving the Catholic Church in Rome, Father Harman looks forward to coming home one day.
“A priest is meant to be in a parish,” Father Harman said. “Administering the sacraments, getting to know the people of God, and trying to be present to them. I miss preaching to a ‘regular’ congregation and the things you do as a pastor and of course, your family and friends you don’t get to see as much. So, it’s a nice temporary home here, and I am very blessed to have it, but I look forward to coming back and serving in our diocese.”