Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 9, 2004
The search for a few good men
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The vision of the priesthood can lure many a searching soul. But the reality of measuring up to a priest's calling can be quite something else.
Discovering if this life path is the right one for a man requires learned guidance and wise counsel.
Such is the task of Father Paul Moret, the archdiocese's vocations director, and Sulpician Fathers Louis-Paul Gauvreau and Shayne Craig, the rector and vice-rector of St. Joseph Seminary.
"Generally, people come to us when others might have seen qualities in them which they think are good," Moret said. "Ultimately, when the step comes to go into the seminary, usually they are the ones who initiate it. We can encourage them, but it is up to them."
As the vocations director, Moret is the first contact. Through an initial interview, Moret talks with the prospect to get an idea of why he might want to enter seminary life and become a priest.
"Sometimes, you might see from the start that the person is lacking something. Maybe they have a serious mental health issue. One thing you can see fairly quickly is how they would handle the studies. That can tell you immediately there is no call to the priesthood."
His assessment is not usually based on an in-depth knowledge of the person. Moret only takes what they give him.
Seminary formation team
Following the initial in-take, another committee conducts more interviews. Their assessment is more in depth.
"If there still might be a call at this point, then the person is recommended to the seminary," Moret said. "The person is facing eight years if an under-graduate degree is required or five years of formation in theology."
Moret said the seminary formation team can better assess the men because they see them every day for several years. Through spiritual direction, they can clarify the call a person might have.
"Someone can say they want to be a priest, but there is also the call from the Church as well," Moret said.
What Moret looks for in a candidate immediately is whether he is active in the Church. If a person wants to be a priest but only goes to Mass at Christmas and Easter, then there is something that has to be worked on. He must be an active and practising Catholic.
He must also have a desire to help people - to reach out and relate to other people. Diocesan priests, because they work with the people in parish ministry, must be able to get along with others.
"He must also possess a certain academic ability. If he can't pass Grade 12 matriculation, he probably won't be able to handle higher studies," Moret said.
Gauvreau agreed. Academics is one of four crucial elements of a person's character essential for formation into the priesthood.
"When he comes here, the candidate receives formation," Gauvreau said. "There are four points of formation - spiritual, human, academic and pastoral. He receives his academic formation at Newman Theological College but the other three are received at the seminary."
The Sulpician tradition includes an emphasis on spiritual formation, especially spiritual direction.
"There's always a mutual discernment that goes on in seminary formation," Craig said. "There's the candidate's own discernment of their call as well as the seminary's discernment in conjunction with the bishop. It's ultimately the bishop's call. We serve this in helping the candidate to determine if this is in fact something for them in terms of service to the Church in the future."
Detrimental to a true calling can be unresolved issues in a person's past. The candidate may have been in a number of relationships and there may be a question if they can live happily as a celibate. The dynamics surrounding alcoholism or issues of depression may still exist and impede the person from serving.
"Sometimes they can work through the issues and sometimes it's more serious which would jeopardize their future ministry," Craig said.
He points out that unresolved anger issues and a person's inter-relationship with people in his pastoral year may reveal his true ability to serve.
"The important thing," Craig says, "is that they reach a point in their lives with whatever their past is, that at the present they are at peace with themselves, with the world around them and with God.
"If they have achieved that point, it doesn't really matter what the past is because it has been integrated by grace," he said.
Men of service
"A priest, above all, is a man of service," Gauvreau said. "He must also be a man of God, a man of prayer and a witness of his faith to others. He must be able to express his enthusiasm and have the intellectual capacity to know and express the Church and its doctrine."
Common sense and a sense of humour are also traits which help propel a candidate through his formation.
"In the face of the tragedies of life, if you don't have a sense of humour, you're not going to survive. They can overwhelm you," Craig said.