I’ve recently completed a visit with our seminarians at St. John Vianney Seminary (pre-theology) and St. Paul Seminary (theology) located in St. Paul, Minn. The visit was in conjunction with a meeting of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. There was important conversation concerning rural life, the Farm Bill, and the impact of the recent election on future farm life. I will spend more time on those topics in the future; they deserve some special space of their own.
Your seminarians are doing well in Minnesota – we did stop to visit with the men at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (pre-theology) in Winona, on the way back to La Crosse.
A future visit is planned for our men at Mundelein, Ill (pre-theology and theology). Father Robert Barron (of Catholicism fame) is the new rector there and he is bringing about some changes and some good ideas that should enhance the spiritual and theological training of our men there. As with our other seminaries, we also have a long and happy tradition at Mundelein.
Of course, our long-time affiliation with the Pontifical North American College has produced many good and faithful priests for our diocese as well. My visit with the men there took place at the same time as the ordination of Deacon Alan Guanella last month.
All told we are blessed to have 32 men currently studying for the priesthood who are at various stages of formation and in various seminary programs. After meeting with seminary rectors and receiving such glowing reports concerning our men, I am hoping they will maintain their humility for the days ahead when they assume the serious and challenging work of the priesthood. Your prayers for them are greatly appreciated – and certainly appear to be heard!
Right now, I am sitting in O’Hare airport in Chicago, preparing to fly to Baltimore for the start of the November meeting of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB). Some of the major points that we will consider touch on the preparation and the development of the priest. A new document on preaching will be reviewed and ratified for publication, along with a document specifically directed at bishops and our work of communicating in a new and technological world. The economy, of course, will be a source of conversation. Given some of the results involving marriage that came about during the recent election, there will, no doubt, be some dialogue about that.
The Church continues to exist in an ever-changing world. The truth that the Church teaches and proclaims, however, remains constant and steadfast. I’m sure that gives you some indication of the complexity of studying for the priesthood and, ultimately, trying to communicate the faith once one gets there. Please keep us bishops in your prayers this week, too.
Sure hope to see you at Sunday Mass!