Friday, August 28, 2009

Time in Seminary

Before going any farther, if you haven't done so, check The Call series at Columbus Dispatch. Today concludes a weeklong series, which has been pretty good.

A reader asks:

Father, a number of us were discussing the time in the seminary. As I understand it the time in training is 6-7 years. Is that correct? Is it the same as it was time wise back in the 50's?

It seems like today we get so many who have college degrees and life experience when back in the 50's we had kids coming in from high school (ed's note: if not directly from 8th grade!). Is that not correct? If so, why can't we get this training done a lot faster? Seems like with the shortage, we could use some priests out here and a shorter training time might also encourage someone to become a priest who has interest. I can't imagine going through college and then taking on that many years of training to become a priest. However, I leave it to the church to decide as they certainly know far more than I do.

When asking questions of this type, I think the last line is certainly the most important: The Church does indeed know better than I do, even me as a priest, and we do not just submit to her authority, but seek to understand why she teaches or practices such a thing.

To answer the actual question, one must turn to The Program for Priestly Formation by the USCCB, 5th Edition. This is the document tha tguides seminary formation in this country, and implements the vision that was set out by Pope John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis (I will give you shepherds). It was published in 2006, right as I was beginning in the office. This document sets out the requirements that all seminaries have to follow.

The actual time in 'Major Seminary' is the same today as it was in the 50's: four years. However, there is a new phenomenon that did not exist 'back in the day:' second career vocations to the priesthood. (They always did exist, just not in the numbers we see today.)

What the Church has found is that while these men do bring a treasure of experience from a working career (even some having been married and widowed), there is a great need to form them in the Christian environment. The fact is, we live in a post-Christian world, and whereas in the past, men being formed in seminary had eight to twelve years of formation, through high school and college to focus on Christian classics, a true Liberal Arts education, a strong foundation in philosophy and literature, these dimensions are missing when a man comes through with an engineering degree, or a finance/business degree; even with a teaching degree. Hence, seminaries have set up 'Pre-Theology' programs that address the needs to form these second career men in this Catholic world view before they begin their theological studies.

The PPF stipulates that in order to enter 1st Theology, one must have completed 2 years of formation to get a groundwork and set a basis to prepare that man to study theology, hence for a man that has a degree elsewhere, he must do 2 years 'remedial study' before completing the 4 years of theology. Some dioceses and/or seminaries also require a year of internship/pastoral year (we do), which adds another year to formation, hence the guys that enter Pre-Theology I for us this fall can expect a 7 year formation program. Yes, it is alot, yes it is daunting. But as I explain what is all involved in semianry formation (much more than just academics), the time seems to be not near enough for what a man has to do, personally, professional, spiritually, to take up the mantle of the priesthood.

The heart of your question, while I think well intentioned, also shows something deeper. Please do not take this the worng way, but it seems that you see the priesthood as a mere sacramental machine. (I know many others that, while good hearted, fall into this approach.) 'If the training were shorter, we would have more priests.'

To that I ask: 'Do you want more priests, or do you want holier priests, better priests, excellent priests?' To get the latter, even seven years is not enough, and bluntly, that's what we need. Not more, holier.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

John Paul the Great Legacy Progect

Sent in by a reader, comes word of a new project in the Washington, DC, area: the John Paul the Great Legacy Progect, with a mission "to make known and celebrate the many ways in which his Holiness, Pope John Paul II, impaced the Catholic Church and society as a whole.

Dominican Sisters of Mary, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bring it to Fulfillment

The creative guys at Grassroots Films team up with again, to stunning results:

How NOT to discern a vocation

A good read from Busted Halo on how not to pursue a vocation. In the end, it's not because 'I have nothing better to do,' but rather because 'I want to offer my life to God as a living sacrifice of praise before Him.'

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From the Diocese

The link to the press release from the Diocese upon the death of Bishop Moeddel is here.

It's rather blue around the office today.

Current Seminarian List

Our Current roster of sems, by year:

V Theology (currently deacons, will be ordained priests this May)
Rob Muhlenkamp
Tim Ralston

IV Theology (will be ordained deacons in April)
Dan Hess
Adam Puntel
Scott Wright

III Theology (pastoral year)
Dan Hunt
Matt Robben
Marc Soellner

II Theology
Jim Romanello

I Theology
Jerry Bishop
Andrew Cordonnier
Anthony Eichhorn
Brian Phelps
Jim Riehle

Pre-Theology II
Chris Patterson
Chris Conlon

Pre-Theology I
Brian Archdeacon
Matt Feist
Chris Geiger
Chris Osgood
Eric Roush

IV College
Adrian Hilton
Eric Wood

III College
Tim Fahey

II College
David Doseck
Sean Wilson
Alex Witt

I College
Philip Frederick
Jarred Kohn

Please keep all these men in your prayers.

Jesus, the New Passover

My recent Telegraph article runs today at Catholic Exchange.

Sad News

Word comes this morning that Bishop Carl K. Moeddel, retired Auxilary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has gone to his eternal reward early this morning.

As I knew him, he was a giant personality. He obviously had a great love for life, as well as the Church. He served in his capacity as Auxilary Bishop in a good way, recognizing the leadership of Archbishop Pilarczyk, but also serving as a good partner, too. They complimented each other's strengths very well.

On a personal note, I owe him a great deal. It was he who confirmed me as a junior in high school. I can't remember for sure, but I think he admitted me to both minor orders, as well as ordain me to the Diaconate.

His joy was radiant, and will be sorely missed.

Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord.
- And let Perpetual Light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace.
- Amen.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
- Amen.



Vigil Service: Friday, August 28, 2009, 6:30 PM
St. Peter in Chains Cathedral

Funeral Mass: Saturday, August 29, 2009, 11:00 AM
St. Peter in Chains Cathedral

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meet our New Seminarians

With the 'End of Summer Bash' having been completed, it is time to officially introduce our new men:

Sean Wilson hails from Emmanuel in Dayton and, after a year at the University of Dayton, begins 2 College at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary in Indianapolis.

Alex Witt attends St. John the Baptist in Harrison and also has a year of college completed (at Ball State) and joins Sean in 2 College at Bishop Brute.

Jarred Kohn grew up in the Coldwater, Ohio, area and begins in 1 College at Simon Brute.

Philip Frederick has St. Francis de Sales in Lebanon, Ohio, as his home and joins Jarred in 1 College at Bishop Brute.

On to our new Theology students:
Eric Roush has been working at Xavier University, claiming St. Monica/St. George as his home parish and enters Pre-Theology I.

Matt Feist has been working as youth minister at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Cincinnati's Anderson Township before entering Pre-Theology I as well.

Chris Geiger has completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cincinnati and hails from St. Susanna's in Mason as he also enters Pre-Theology I.

Chris Osgood is a native of the Moraine area in Dayton and has also just graduated from undergraduate, at Liberty in North Carolina and joins the rest in Pre-Theology I.

Brian Archdeacon has been working for a number of years in finance and insurance. Hailing from St. Peter in Chains in Hamilton, he completes the Pre-Theology I class.

Anthony Eichhorn is our last 'new man,' re-entering Mount St. Mary's, into I Theology. Anthony hails from St. Teresa's in Price Hill.

Please pray for these men, and all of our 29 seminarians.

End of Summer Bash

First the first time, we had an 'End of Summer' bash to welcome back our current seminarians as well as welcome our new men and give our college and theology students a chance to mix and mingle.

What did we do? Roast a pig, of course!

Mount St. Mary's Seminary of the West hosted our first (hopefully annual!) Pig Roast for Sems yesterday on her beautiful grounds. All of our guys showed, four making the trek down from Indy, the three at the Josephinum, one at Franciscan, and the 21 at Mount St. Mary's; plus three of the men ordained this past spring, two Archbishops, a vocation director, a rector of the seminary, and five or six of the priest faculty, as well. All in all a great day.

The weather here in the Queen City has been rather cool, yesterday topping off in the mid 70's, with low overcast skies (rain held off, thankfully!) We started with games in the courtyard: cornhole (not easy to explain, but think horseshoes with bean bags), actual horseshoe game, bocce, 'ladderball', and a myriad of frisbees; all around a pig sleeping heartily in a smoker that filled the courtyard with quite a pleasant aroma!

Evening Prayer and dinner followed, with a few small door prizes thrown in for fun.

Many thanks to Nick F. for supplying and roasting the feast, Andrew for helping to babysit the pig while he was sleeping, and the rest who helped make it a success.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A few things

First, the Columbus Dispatch will run a series next week following a seminarian around for the last year at the Josephinum. It begins Sunday and will be located here: Be sure to check it out.

Also, work comes that 'Beloved' will be shown at the Mariemont Theatre on October 1 at 7:30 PM. It is a film about the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville. Sr. Mary Peter writes "a documentary on religious life made by Salt+Light about our congregation in Nashville. The documentary was very well done and tells the vocation story of several of our sisters."

More info as it comes available.

Life with Trappists

I have been remiss in not giving some details of my last week.

To start, over the weekend of August 7-9, I was proctoring a retreat for Catholic Boy Scouts on the Sacraments of Healing. Hmm... How to discuss Sacraments of Healing over 2 hours to 5th to 8th graders..... I did do one demonstration to show the impact of sin in our lives before discussing the actual sacraments: I took a cornhole board (a beanbag game for those outside Cincinnati) and had the boys attempt to make it. To start with, it was close by. I moved the boys further back, then further back, then he had to throw with his non-dominant hand, then blindfolded, then blindfolded and spun around a few times. The boys seemed to get the point that by an increase of sin in our lives, it gets harder and harder to find God in our lives. I think it worked. Archbishop Schnurr celebrated the anticipatory Mass on Saturday evening and stayed for dinner. We had a little sunrise service in the morning, and dismissal. I jumped in the car and headed to Iowa.

On arrival in Iowa, my brother was helping with the parish 'Corn Boil' at my arrival time, so I stopped there before heading to their house. His four year old ran across the room to give me a big hug, which was very cool.

Monday morning, I headed for the silence of New Mellarey Abbey in Peosta, Iowa, outside of Dubuque. The phone stayed in the car the whole week, no computer, just me, the Bible and 30 monks (plus a few other retreatants.) To say the monastery is beautiful is, I am afraid, a bit of an overstatement. I would say 'austere' instead: bare walls (at least they were painted in the retreatant areas, back in the cloister = bare cinder block walls!) The chapel was set in traditional monastic style: the altar was 'way back there,' with choir seating for the monks, then a gate and cathedral seating for us poor outsiders.

The monks chanted the hours using Gregorian Chant, which was simple, easy to join if you know even a bit about it, and lifted the heart to heaven. I have to admit, I did not join them for vigils at 3:30 AM, no way. I was on retreat, not joining the monastery!

Between hours, long periods of silence ensued, with some great prayer times. Priests are welcome to con-celebrate Mass with the monks, hence my one admission into the cloister per day, or one can celebrate Mass on his own in the smaller retreat chapel down below. They do have the necessary equipment to say the Extraordinary Form as well. I did not take advantage of that, this time. (I am studying, tho, hope to be able to celebrate this form soon.)

Why austere? I think it goes with the whole Trappist mindset of stripping away everything before God. It is jarring for those who are not used to it, I am not! It is cold in some ways, and one does feel vulnerable in such a setting, the soul laid bare before the majesty of God. Interestingly, two of the men on retreat were on their pre-diaconate retreat, proctored by one of the monks. He gave the a small tour of the cloister, showing them the chapter room where the abbot addresses his sons: chairs only. Not even a crucifix. The thought being that the Abbot represents Christ to them, when he is present, He is present. That's some serious stuff, there.

After three and a half days, I was about ready to scream. (Hey, I'm a dio priest, not a monk!) To get a little break, I did drive over to the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville. Walking in, 'Ahhhhh..... color, saints, images.... my friends!' It was a sharp contrast to the austerity of the monastery. Since I was so close and the corn was up, I did make a jaunt over to 'Field of Dreams' movie site. I can say I went, I guess.

All in all, I am glad I went. Although, next time, I might join up as a 'worker brother' aka 'brown shirt' where men can partake a bit in the life of the monastery, even lay men can sign up for a time. It allows you to join the monks in the choir for hours, plus you are given a work assignment for the time you are there, too. It would break up the quiet. Maybe I shouldn't?

Of the 30 monks, most are older, that's true, but they have a good age range. I did meet their vocation director (as he came into my retreat room to fix the smoke alarm) who mentioned that they had 4 postulants, 4 or 5 novices, and a few men who were on visitation in am inquiry stage, so the place is growing, it seems. They had stalls for 44 monks, so there is room to grow. Please pray for these men. ( I have to say, one of the men in full Trappist habit looked like he had just started shaving, so I am sure he's rather new.)

After four days of quiet, rest and prayer, I rejoined my brother and his family for a weekend at Road America (culture shock after the monastery!) for the ALMS race. It was a good time, if the race was too short at 2 hours and 45 minutes. There was a major anouncement at the race regarding the future of the series, which bodes well for car counts and such, a constant problem in Sports Car racing. Alas, not the scope of this blog, but priests do have disparate tastes.

I look forward to my next visit to New Mellarey, in the meantime, support in support of the monastery. (You can pre-order your casket, just in case, you know.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1983 Year of Redemption

Join host Brian Patrick and I as we discuss Pope John Paul's 1983 Letter to Priests tomorrow morning at 8:40 AM on 740 AM, Sacred Heart Radio.

1983 was a Jubilee Year for Redemption, as it was the 1950th anniversary of Christ's redeeming death on the Cross. We'll focus on how the priest's zeal affects the laity's zeal, among the call for increased use of the Sacrament of Confession.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jesus, the New Passover

Whilst I was away, the Telegraph ran my next article:

In my last column, the element of sacrifice in Jewish worship was discussed. As Catholics, we see the Old Testament illuminating and clarifying the New, but with the passage of time, we have lost some important details that give us a richer and deeper awareness of the mystery of Jesus coming to offer us the gift of salvation.

In the recent readings at Daily Mass, we have been hearing of the ‘Exodus Event,’ the journey of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. The events which God leads the people through during this journey are perhaps the most vivid images that most Christians have of the Old Testament, and of all these events, none is more striking than the event which began the whole journey: the Passover. This is what founded the People of Israel as God’s Chosen People, and through Moses, the Passover was founded as a perpetual sacrifice to serve as a constant reminder of the special relationship God has with Israel.

While it is true that Seder meals, as an offshoot of Passover liturgy, continue to this very day, the elements of how the Passover was celebrated in the Jerusalem Temple have been lost to the annuls of history. But as we look back to how the Passover was celebrated in Jesus’ time, it gives us a much deeper appreciation of what He came to do, specifically His identity as the new Lamb of God, the spotless victim offered as a sacrifice for the people.

At the first Passover, each family sacrificed a spotless lamb and smeared the blood on the lintel so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ their home and first born son. As Israel became established as a nation, this sacrifice was moved from the home to the Temple, for in the Temple, the Sacrifice became more liturgical, with associated prayers and rituals. In fact, one such ritual is vitally important for our study of Jesus as the New Passover: after the lamb for each family was killed, two wooden rods were inserted to assist in the roasting: one along the spine, the other through the ribs, from shoulder to shoulder. Each of these lambs, by the thousands, would be carried out of the Temple and to the homes of the people in and around Jerusalem. ‘Crucified lambs’ were being offered for the people.

As we turn the Gospel of John, all this symbolism comes crashing home, for John expressly mentions that while this was happening in the Temple, Jesus was being led with a Cross to Calvary. The One who had been identified as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist was fulfilling the mission He had been sent: here is the new Lamb of God, no longer offering something else, but offering himself as the new Sacrifice. This is no longer a sacrifice that must be continually re-presented in the Temple, for Jesus’ is the One Eternal Sacrifice, fulfilling what had been indicated in the Old, and restoring the gulf that had existed since the time of the Fall: only by submitting to death could God overcome death!

During this ‘Year for Priests,’ we are able to see in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of praise before the Father that he is not just the sacrifice, but He is also the priest, the one who offers, as well as the altar upon which the Sacrifice is made. His Blood, which speaks more perfectly than the blood of a lamb, seals in us the cause of our salvation. Through the priests of today, we are able to not just see as witness this one perfect sacrifice, but we are able to re-enter this hymn of praise. As we assist at Mass in our prayers and offerings, we stand, as it were, at the very foot of the Cross with John and Mary. Let us praise God for this great gift of our salvation always and everywhere!

Getting the dust out

I'm back from my whirlwind tour of the mid-west.

The desk here at the office is full of dust, not to mention an email inbox past stuffing.

I'll fill in some details later, but suffice to say that the retreat went very well, thanks for the prayers.

the weekend with the brother, his wife and two daughters at Road America was also quite enjoyable, even if the race shoulda been longer than 2:45.

The drive through Chicago was uneventful last night, thankfully.

Friday, August 7, 2009


This weekend, I have a retreat with the Boy Scouts and then head off for a week with the Trappists in Iowa for my retreat and will hang with my bro on the 15 and 16th.

It'll be even quieter than normal around these parts!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Holy Land: Galilee

In lieu of silence round bout these parts, check out Dan's report of the 4th year seminarians' visit to the Holy Land.

I still remember my trip in vivid detail.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Priest as Man of Prayer

Join us tomorrow at 8:40 AM on 740 AM Sacred Heart Radio for our discussion of Pope John Paul's 1982 Letter to Priests, which isn't actually a letter but is more along the lines of a prayer:

This year I am not writing you a letter. Instead I am sending you the text of a prayer dictated by faith and coming from my heart, so as to share with you in offering it to Christ on the birthday of my priesthood and yours, and to suggest a shared meditation in the light and with the support of this prayer.
May each one of you rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6), and may you experience with renewed fervour the joy of having given yourselves totally to Christ.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekend Warriors

Well, the move to Our Lady of Lourdes is complete, in that all my stuff is there. (besides the piles that got left behind or are on their way to St. Vincent de Paul.)

One of the comments about priesthood: 'aren't you lonely?' was proved to be very wrong over the weekend. I couldn't have made the move without friends to help, and help they did. Noon Sunday was a descent upon the old residence: desk broken apart, cradenza likewise. File cabinet tossed out the window (it bounced) and all manner of things brought down, stuffed into a caravan of cars and vans and hauled out to the new digs. I am deeply indepted to those who helped, and will offer Mass for each of them.

In moving, I also tried to make it a bit of a spiritual journey as well. I left behind lots, including well over 1/2 of my clothes! Fasting isn't just from eating, I see this as a fasting from things and trying to be 'un-encumbered' by stuff. It certainly feels 'lighter' too.

One last thing, after wrestling that desk down one residence and back up another, I think it has found a permanent home! (Don't tell the pastor we had to take the doorjamb off to get it in the office!)