Seminary ‘absolutely vital’ for local Church

30 Apr 2009

By The Record

Seminary has ‘absolutely vital’ role in fostering discipleship, new Rector says at instalment Mass.

Archbishop Barry Hickey concelebrates the Mass for Monsignor Kevin Long’s instalment as Rector of St Charles Seminary with Mgr Long, right, Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, far left, and Fr Christopher Power OSB, Prior of New Norcia. Photo: Francis Constantino

By Anthony Barich

ST CHARLES’ Seminary has an “absolutely vital” role in the life of the Archdiocese and beyond in helping priests and seminarians find Christ in their time of weakness so they can bring others to Him, its new Rector said at his April 19 installation Mass.
Monsignor Kevin Long, who started his new position after finishing his eight-year tenure as Rector of Thomas More College on March 8, said that the crucial role of seminaries is highlighted by the centrality of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
“Archbishops, bishops and lay people expect seminaries, seminarians, rectors and formation staff to ponder prayerfully, intelligently and prudently the absolutely vital role a seminary plays in the life of this Archdiocese, and beyond. No seminary, no priests, no Mass, no sacraments. It’s really that simple,” Mgr Long said.
He said that young men unsure of themselves need only turn to the first disciples’ experience after the Resurrection.
“In today’s Gospel (of St John), Our Lord’s disciples are timid and vacillating, unsure of what Christ’s Resurrection might mean, yet longing to believe in its truth,” Mgr Long said.
“They argue bitterly amongst themselves, and doubting Thomas stubbornly holds onto his disbelief. I wonder if any of them would pass scrutiny if they were to present themselves to the Archbishop as candidates for the seminary.”
But these disciples’ uncertainty reflects today’s seminarians and priests at different stages of their faith journey; yet “it is in the midst of such uncertainty that the Risen Christ appears”.
“He bestows his gift of peace, the first and sure sign of Christ’s resurrected presence. To this unpromising group of disciples is further committed the priestly ministry of reconciliation, now guaranteed for all time by Christ’s saving death and mighty resurrection,” he said.
“This seminary exists so that all people – saints and sinners alike – will hear Christ’s invitation to accept the Easter Proclamation that our sins are forgiven, our lost innocence is restored, our broken hope strengthened and the promised eternal life more than just a wishful thing.”
“This seminary will have achieved its goal of forming holy, prayerful and loving priests if it first convicts each of us – students and staff alike – that we can stand before God as we really are, and there find acceptance, healing and the challenge of living a Gospel life.
“The joy of our baptism is renewed and we are rescued from the pit of Hell’s dark loneliness, as our Easter icon so beautifully and powerfully depicts.
“The eternal and glorious light of Jesus Christ, risen and interceding for us, enfolds and embraces us. That is the good news of Easter, not only on this Octave day of Easter but for each and every day.”
St John’s Gospel that depicted the “struggle and squabbling which can mark the experience of Christians living together” would not be unfamiliar to today’s lay, religious and clergy whose experience of Christian community “seems to have been a sad litany of negativity, complaining, laziness, dishonesty, bitterness and jealousy”, he said.
But the snapshot that St Luke’s Acts of the Apostles paints – a “glowing picture” of the first Christian community in Jerusalem – is an accurate description of life at St Charles’ seminary.
“On its best days – and those in my limited experience far out number its bad days – Luke’s snap shot provides a good description of St Charles Seminary. The whole group of believers was united heart and soul,” Mgr Long said.