Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 7, 2002
Formation of priests demands exquisite care
By WCR Staff
"Don't be alone. Nobody would be able to live the priestly life chastely and obediently, alone."
Archbishop Joseph Pittau told seminarians and priests this at a gathering at St. Joseph Seminary for its 75th anniversary, Sept 25.
He told them, "Choose a spiritual father and go regularly (for spiritual direction)."
Speaking before an audience of close to 170 people, Pittau emphasized the importance of the four aspects of seminary formation: human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral.
These aspects are not separated, but must be integrated, not compartmentalized -- they must grow together, Pittau said.
Priestly formation shouldn't be done hastily, said Pittau.
"Formation needs to help seminarians become mature individuals, because a seminarian cannot remain eternally adolescent."
The Italian archbishop believes the crisis in North America concerning priests involved in sexual scandals is due to a lack of human formation.
He also called for a "personalized seminary formation" where the rector and formation team at the seminaries know their seminarians personally. Bishops should also visit them more frequently to get to know them better.
St. Joseph Seminary has two major groups of seminarians - students of philosophy and students of theology. Those in the first group are still taking their bachelor of arts in philosophy, while men in the second already have their bachelor's degrees.
They take four years of theology and, in the middle, one year of pastoral internship takes place.
Preparing seminarians for ordination is a long journey, "an exodus in search of unity and integration" and it does not end with ordination, Pittau stressed.
"Our Lord wants us to continue on this journey because a person can always move forward to be something more, to be something better."
Pittau did not hide his disappointment with some bishops who ordain seminarians who have not finished their studies. "How can they effectively minister if they have not been fully prepared?" he asked.
"A good seminarian is not a good mini-priest. The seminarian has to journey first through the four aspects of formation."
In terms of academic formation, Pittau insisted seminarians pay undivided attention to the core courses at the seminary.
"They are so important and you need time to reflect so they become part of your life and not reduced to something that you simply know."
Pittau also said it is crucial priests be able to distinguish what is truly Catholic and what is not.
"Here in Canada where you have multi-cultures and multi-faith, you have to be attuned in picking up what is Catholic and what is not."
Pittau also urged seminarians to "study deeply the Canadian culture that is largely based on European culture."
A great opportunity for inculturation is right in the midst of Canada and priests and future priests should respond to this call of Vatican II, he said.
Prince Albert's Travis Myrheim, 20, was moved with the practical advice Pittau gave.
"I think it really makes sense seminarians should have a program of life from rising in the morning to retiring in the evening."