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Location: near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

Monday, January 02, 2006

Taking their show on the road.

The other day I was told by a friend that each year, at the start of the second academic semester, all of the seminarians at Milwaukee's own St. Francis de Sales Seminary go on retreat. Fearing that the worst of Milwaukee's modern neo-Catholicism might be wrought upon these men (fears of Buddhist sprituality, visiting ashrams or covens, and poor retreat directors are not too far out of the realm on this score), I tried to do some research.

What one finds is not necessarily a lot of disturbing information, but rather a surprising dearth of any information. Compare two very different approaches to explaining the spiritual dimension of seminary formation:

At our Archbishop's former realm of responsibility (the Pontifical North American College), an endowment fund has been established in his name to support the anual retreats for the seminarians. I will leave for another day why exactly the annual retreat needs to seek outside funding. Should it not be a central to the budget priorities as the food bills and the extensive travel expenses of the rector? That being said, the description given by the Pontifical North American College for the purpose and value of a retreat, and a solid program in spirituality, for it seminarians is quite nice. A notable manner by which to evaluate the North American College in comparison to our local St. Francis Seminary is to make note that the fact that these men are being prepared to be PRIESTS is refered to five times in one internet page.

Now, let's try to compare this to the way that our own St. Franics Seminary (School of Lay Ministry --Institute of Pastoral Ministry -- Center of Politically Correct Theology) describes its program of spiritual rigor for the seminarians.

Not only is the St. Francis Seminary internet descriptive page about spiritual formation sterile and lacking in any real information, but it seems to set up spiritual formation as somehow subordinate to the academic coursework, and what is called "Pastoral Formation" which, when I was in school is more precisely 'hands-on experiences' or internships. It would seem the all three should be at least viewed as equal elements of overall preparation to be priests.

Make particular note of two things at the St. Francis de Sales webpage: 1) there is only one reference to these young men actually preparing to be priests; and 2) there is little clarity about the fact that the spirituality we need and expect from our priests is vastly different from the spirituality we need from lay employees at our parishes.

I concede that websites are not the be-all and end-all of what either school does in this area. But priorities are reflected in this prism of communicating information. Sadly, for Archbishop Dolan, his legacy at the Pontifical North American College is that his name needs to be slapped on the fundraising materials for something that should be one the first requirements in the budget. Even more sadly, the seminary that he now controls doesn't even have the astureness to try and emulate the those limited expectations that the Archbishop set up in Rome. But then again, it would seem obvious that the seminary leadership will only do what the Archbishop places upon them as an expectation.

Given the lack of substantive action in the last three years, it seems that the best which we too might expect will be some sort of an Archbishop Dolan spirituality fundraiser. Just don't expect any real product to follow from the money asked for.

Regardless, I will pray for our seminarians while they are on retreat. I hope that you will too...I fear that they will need all the spiritual help they can get.

Mike

2 Comments:

Blogger Dad29 said...

There IS the possibility that St Francis Major will close.

Until that is resolved (maybe 12 months--maybe less) there's not much point in establishing new funds, is there?

What WOULD be worth a $5.00 ticket would be watching the reaction of our Seminary staffers if it is announced: 1) that the Sem will close; and 2) that from here on, all Milwaukee vocations will study in LINCOLN, NE!!!!

heh.

Monday, January 02, 2006 7:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mike, the Faithful Catholic said...

I thought that the decision had been made to keep the Seminary open, but to try and salvage it? Has there been a change in this?

I do not know whether that decision of a few months ago reflects conviction on the part of the Archbishop, or further naive lack of conviction to take brute steps.

Mike

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 1:39:00 PM  

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