Skip to comments.A look inside the Denver seminaries
Posted on 12/21/2005 12:16:36 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
A look inside the Denver seminaries
The archdioceses two seminaries are flourishing with young men in love with the Church and eager to serve her people
By Roxanne King
Time and again, Pope John Paul II exhorted Catholics to a new evangelization in which the good news of the Gospel is announced with new zeal to people confronting the challenges of the Third Millennium. And when Pope Benedict XVI was presented to the world as John Paul IIs successor, before a cheering throng he declared, The Church is alive.
It indeed is in the Denver Archdiocese as exhibited by its thriving seminaries St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary both of which are dedicated to forming priests for the new evangelization.
More than 90 men are in formation at the seminaries, which were established in the mid and late 1990s. Sixty-two of those men are being formed to serve the Denver Archdiocese; the others are being formed to serve other dioceses.
This year, seven men from St. John Vianney and Redemptoris Mater were ordained priests. Next spring the seminaries will witness their largest priesthood ordination when 11 men are ordained priests.
So many men are in formation at the two schools that housing them all at the seminaries would be a tight squeeze. That and the seminary plan for the men of St. John Vianney to each have the experience of living in parish-based housing has led to some two-dozen men doing just that.
The formation of the eager, faith-filled men at the seminaries falls under the leadership of the rectors, Father Michael Glenn, S.T.L, of St. John Vianney, and Father Florian Martin-Calama, S.T.L., of Redemptoris Mater.
Formation at the Denver seminaries incorporates new teachings such as John Paul IIs theology of the body, and is more holistic and comprehensive than that of previous eras.
Formation of the priesthood today is much more integrated and involves a very complex process of examination of the seminarians in the course of their years of study, to look for concrete signs that they have adequate spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human formation, said Father Glenn.
According to the rectors, the recent Vatican instruction forbidding the priestly ordination of men who are active homosexuals or who have deep seated homosexual tendencies or support gay culture will not change any policies at the archdiocesan seminaries.
The entire process of screening and formation to priesthood that we have in our seminary follows faithfully the spirit and the laws of the Church in that matter, said Father Martin-Calama.
Father Glenn agreed, stressing that, The instruction will help clarify this issue on a universal level so that bishops, vocation directors and seminaries will have the same understanding of what the Church is asking of candidates entering the seminary.
The entrance process at both seminaries is rigorous and includes psychological testing, interviews and criminal background checks.
Seminarians at the two formation houses, both of which are located on the beautiful John Paul II Center campus in Denvers Bonnie Brae neighborhood, take academic classes together but they follow different spiritual formation programs.
Both seminaries train men as diocesan priests to serve the Denver Archdiocese.
St. John Vianney also serves as a regional seminary, forming men for surrounding dioceses that dont have their own seminary. The men at St. John Vianney come from Colorado, surrounding states and even other countries, including Mexico and Nigeria.
Redemptoris Mater, an international seminary, is linked to the Neocatechumenal Way, recognized by the Church as a post-baptismal catechumenate. All the men in Redemptoris Mater seminaries (there are more than 60 around the world) come from parish-based Neocatechumenal Way communities. Of the 30 men in formation at Denvers Redemptoris Mater, a handful come from the United States. The rest hail from 13 other countries.
At St. John Vianney, the formation for a man who has already earned a bachelors degree is usually seven years. Formation at both seminaries includes studies in theology, philosophy, Scripture, sexuality, and human character and development. The men also get field experience working in parishes and other apostolic settings.
The seminarians of Redemptoris Mater also participate in a two-to-three year itinerancy a mission experience outside the state. They go completely dependent on Gods providence, said Father Martin-Calama, explaining that they are sent as part of a catechetical team that includes lay people and a priest. The team catechizes at parishes.
We know the Lord will provide day by day, the rector said. If they need a car, they will be given a car. If they have other needs, those things will be provided but sometimes not. They may have sufferings.
Degrees from the two seminaries are granted through the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
Theres a very strong faculty here, which is really a microcosm of the Church in that its made up of a number of professors who are lay persons, religious sisters and men, as well as diocesan priests, said Father Glenn. Almost all of the professors have doctoral degrees from a variety of well-respected universities.
At both seminaries, spiritual formation includes Morning and Evening Prayer, and a daily Mass and Holy Hour. A day for a seminarian is full with prayer, study, athletics and pastoral work.
Its a very complex program, said Father Glenn. But it truly is a school for apostles so its a great joy to work with these young men and help them to become dynamic parish priests.
Fifty years ago, most men entered the seminary right out of high school. While some still do, many enter after college and often have a few years of work experience.
Most of them are very excited about their Catholic faith, emphasized Father Glenn, with a deep desire to know what the Church teaches and with excitement about the beauty of the Catholic faith.
Michael Rapp, 22, entered the pre-seminary Spirituality Year at St. John Vianney in 2001 after graduating from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora. Because he entered right out of high school, he then spent two years at a college seminary in Minnesota before returning this fall to St. John Vianney.
My experience of the seminary has been wonderful, said Rapp. It is a great blessing to be able to live in a prayerful atmosphere with so many holy men who are generously giving their lives to serve the Church.
The best thing about seminary formation, he added, is its focus on the spiritual life of the seminarians. Every day we pray and attend Mass together and spend an hour adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Each man also has a spiritual director who provides a fatherly perspective to aid us in discerning Gods work in our lives.
The greatest challenge?
Learning to live in a Christian community, he said. With a very busy life of studies, community involvement and prayer I have had to learn to make time to be with fellow seminarians. Fostering genuine friendships, holding each other accountable in the moral life and humbly receiving correction are all skills that Ive learned, and continue to learn daily, by living with 90 brothers.
William Clemence, 21, a native of Brazil, entered Redemptoris Mater after completing his first year studying geography at a university. He was accepted at the seminary in 2003.
The formation staff stresses the importance of praying without ceasing during the day, Clemence said. That is what I like most regarding our formation: to learn how to pray the prayer of the heart. This habit of praying to God during the day gives us hope and confidence that if God called us to this vocation he will accomplish it despite any difficulty or fear.
The biggest challenge for Clemence is staying focused on Christ and his call in the midst of a secular society that places its trust in money and worldly power and prestige.
I pray every day not to lose this light (of Christ), said Clemence.
Neither seminarian found fault with their formation.
The priestly formation at St. John Vianney is very well rounded, said Rapp. Every semester really every day we prayerfully consider our progress in intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral areas of our lives. Orthodox theology and sound philosophy provide an intellectual perspective for us to understand and address the needs of the world of today. Prayer and reception of the sacraments ground our faith and love of God. Social skills are continually taught and practiced and personal interests encouraged. Finally, apostolic assignments allow us to experience various aspects and possibilities of ministry: I am currently teaching catechesis in Spanish near Brighton.
At a time when the past sins of a small number of priests responsible for the clergy sex abuse scandal have made people painfully aware of the fallen humanity of even clergy, the two young seminarians emphasized that their own formation in human sexuality, chastity and celibacy is clear and comprehensive.
I am being educated very well on topics of human sexuality, both in regards to the priestly life and with an eye toward teaching and guiding the lay faithful, asserted Rapp. In addition to classes on human sexuality like John Paul IIs theology of the body and several others, an open environment is encouraged to promote honest discussion of our own experiences of chastity. We also spend time discussing contemporary cultural issues in the realm of sexuality and family life.
In addition, noted Clemence, Redemptoris Mater seminarians are expected to study, live and go out in pairs to hold each other accountable in all things.
Both men expressed deep gratitude for the blessings theyve experienced in seminary life.
St. John Vianney is a wonderful place to prepare for the priesthood, Rapp said. It is a Christ-centered environment where I have grown in so many ways. I love the Church deeply and that love is supported and developed more every day.
Some men are afraid to say yes to the priestly vocation, fearing that such a life is boring, limited or difficult, said Clemence, adding that others fear being persecuted by friends or family. But, he noted, God (enabled) me to leave my family, friends and my country with the certainty that to follow him is what gives meaning to my life and true happiness and that has been my experience so far.
I do not know anyone, he said, who trusted in God and was forsaken or disappointed.
90 seminarians is great news, but 90 solid, well-taught, orthodox seminarians is outstanding news.
Thank you for this post.
Glorious! Seeing them comment on learning the Theology of the Body is incredible! We start a new and set out into the deep as JPII said.
"Ask and you shall receive" should be on the mind of any bishop who claims that the priest shortage is itself a blessing from God to rationalize his failure to encourage upstanding men to enter the seminary.
I fear that some bishops welcome a shortage of priests.
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Pray for more vocations!