First year seminarians for 2017 at Good Shepherd Seminary in Homebush. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
It shouldn’t be happening. With the reputation of Catholic priests and the Church at an all-time low, both of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s seminaries are booming.
Rather than turning away from the possibility of the priesthood, young men are choosing to enter seminary formation because they believe Christ may be calling them to a life as priests. The interesting question is why?
The Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, which produces priests for service in archdiocesan parishes, is experiencing a renaissance of interest with 51 seminarians from ten dioceses in formation—the largest number the seminary has had in over a decade.
“I believe there was a similar number about ten years ago,” Fr Danny Meagher, Rector of the seminary, told The Catholic Weekly.
This year eight new seminarians entered the Homebush Seminary. There will also be two ordinations to the priesthood and seven to the diaconate in 2018.
The seminarians range in age from 21 to 41, and while most were born and bred in Australia, many are from diverse ethnic backgrounds including Vietnamese, Filipino, Iraqi, Ugandan, Nigerian and Italian.
There are also three Sydney seminarians currently undertaking studies in Rome.
“We try to help them come to know themselves better,” Fr Meagher said. “To come to know God better, understand the Church, so they can freely choose to give themselves to God and the Church. And to grow in maturity, goodness and holiness in order to become good compassionate priests.”
Through the formation process he said the seminarians “learn to relate better to others” and to have “a clearer more mature understanding of themselves and others.” They also “develop a deeper awareness of who God is and a deeper love of God. Greater freedom and peace.”
Vatican City, Mar 3, 2018 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision that the Church celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as “Mother of the Church” every year on the Monday after Pentecost, as a way to foster Marian piety and the maternal sense of the Church.
The decree establishing the memorial was published March 3 in a letter from Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
As Sarah explained, Pope Francis added the memorial to the Roman Calendar after carefully considering how the promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under this particular title might encourage growth in “the maternal sense of the Church” and in “genuine Marian piety.”
“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed,” Sarah wrote.
The cardinal noted that the “joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman, the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.”
The memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, has been added to the General Roman Calendar, the Roman Missal, and the Liturgy of the Hours. The Latin text has been published, and the translations will be prepared by the bishops’ conferences and approved by the congregation.
A celebration of a memorial generally means that prayers and readings specific to the day’s memorial are used in the Mass.
The Marian title of “Mother of the Church,” was given to the Blessed Mother by Bl. Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council. It was also added to the Roman Missal after the Holy Year of Reconciliation in 1975.
Subsequently, some countries, dioceses and religious families were granted permission by the Holy See to add this celebration to their particular calendars. With its addition to the General Roman Calendar, it will now be celebrated by the whole Roman Catholic Church.
In 2018, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, will be celebrated on May 21.
Catholic Institute of Sydney appoints first woman president in Sr Isabell Naumann
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has appointed Schoenstatt Sister Isabell Naumann ISSM as the President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, a key role in the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Church in Australia.
Sister Naumann’s appointment is also significant as she becomes the first woman to hold the position of President of the Institute, established in 1954; she is its ninth president. She will take up her appointment on 26 February, the commencement of the academic year.
The appointment is a key role in the Church in Australia because the CIS is the only ecclesiastical educational faculty in the country. As such, it is officially established under the auspices of the Holy See and the only educational institution which can offer ecclesiastical (sometimes called ‘Roman’) degrees.
The President’s appointment (made by the Chancellor, Archbishop Fisher) must also be approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome. Although laity do – and have – studied at CIS, it is primarily responsible for the theological and philosophical education of seminarians, the future priests of the Archdiocese. However seminarians from religious orders or seminaries such as the Neocatechumenal Way Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chester Hill also undertake their theological and philosophical studies at the Institute.
A total of 163 students were enrolled at the Institute in 2017. Sister Isabell, a specialist in Mariology, has taught at CIS since 2005, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Systematic Theology, particularly in the area of ecclesiology. She was also the Dean of Studies at the archdiocesan Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush. However Sister Naumann is not only a highly-regarded academic on the Australian Catholic scene; she is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture in Rome, having been first appointed to the Council by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and reappointed by Pope Francis in 2014.
She takes over the President’s role from Dr Gerard Kelly, a priest of the Archdiocese, who served as CIS’s President from 2004 and who teaches Systematic Theology at the Institute. The degrees offered by the Institute include the STB (a Baccalaureate of Theology), the STL (a Licentiate in Sacred Theology, equivalent to a Master’s degree at a secular university) and the STD (a Doctorate in Sacred Theology).
Archbishop Fisher also announced the appointment of Dr Rohan Curnow as Deputy President. Dr Curnow, who has lectured at CIS since 2010, will also maintain his current role as Academic Dean.
The Catholic Church’s greatest problem is not a lack of vocations to priesthood and religious life but the human formation and mental health of its young people, a Catholic clinical psychologist has warned.
Dr Greg Bottaro is the New York-based founder of the CatholicPsych Institute and works with his local diocese to screen seminary candidates. He is also at the forefront of steps by Catholic institutions in the US to better screen candidates for priesthood and religious life in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal. He visited Sydney this month as the keynote speaker for a two-day conference for national leaders in Catholic education and marriage formation.
“The crisis in the Church is a manifestation of the crisis in our culture, and the crisis is one of formation,” Dr Bottaro told The Catholic Weekly. “There is a lot of talk about the vocations crisis but I don’t think we have a vocations crisis. I think we have a formation crisis. It starts with the breakdown of the family, with moving away from family values and as part of that children are not being formed into healthy human beings.”This leads to seminary candidates, for example, “having come into the priesthood who are lacking basic human skills”.“They’re not relatable, they’re not comfortable with themselves, they don’t know who they are, they don’t have self-awareness. They’re trying to fit into a role that requires not only normal human skills but super-natural skills because it is a super-natural vocation, particularly the vocation to celibacy.”
Dr Bottaro says parents have a “grave” responsibility to foster basic life skills and virtues in their children, particularly by limiting or eradicating their access to social technology before the age of seven or eight. “Smartphones in particular are nurturing addiction in kids’ brains and removing from them the ability to relate as a human being to other human beings,” he said.
The Renaissance of Marriage Conference held at the University of Notre Dame Australia brought together 200 educators, leaders, and advocates to discuss the education of young people and support of engaged and married couples.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher celebrated the opening Mass and presenters included Sr Moira DeBono of the University of Notre Dame, Jonathan Doyle of Choicez Media, Bishop Michael Kennedy of Armidale, US speaker Christina King, Robert Falzon of MenAlive, and conference convenors Fran and Byron Pirola of the Marriage Resource Centre.
While in Sydney Dr Bottaro also addressed Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Randazzo and vocational leaders at a roundtable discussion in Sydney, and ran a workshop on Catholic mindfulness.
Pope Francis has been a consistent and vocal personality in condemning the arms trade and urging world leaders to do the same, and he raised his voice on the issue again in his latest prayer video.
Published June 2, the video begins showing two world leaders sitting at a table to sign a join-accord, exchanging copies of the agreement to sign while Pope Francis says that “it’s an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote or permit the arms trade.”
“Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems, or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade, and so that the merchants of death get rich?” he asks, as images of explosions and gunfire interchange with frames of the leaders shaking hands dripping with blood.
“Let us put an end to this situation,” he said. “Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimizes so many innocent people.”
The topic is one Pope Francis has spoken out about since the beginning of his pontificate, and which he continues to bring up in any relevant occasion.
In fact, the first line of the video is taken almost verbatim from the Pope’s May 2014 speech to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See who presented him with their credentials.
In the speech, Francis spoke about peace, saying “everyone talks about peace (and) everyone claims to want it, (but) the proliferation of weapons of every type leads in the opposite direction.”
He said the arms trade both complicates and distances us from finding solutions to conflicts, especially because “it takes place to a great extent outside the boundaries of the law,” and urged the new ambassadors to work toward eradicating the proliferation of weapons.
The Pope was also outspoken about the topic during his September 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, in which he emphasized that Christians must ask “why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”
“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” he said.
Last July, in a video message promoting peace in Syria, he lamented that “while the people suffer, incredible quantities of money are being spent to supply weapons to fighters.”
Some of the arms suppliers “are also among those that talk of peace,” he said. “How can you believe in someone who caresses you with the right hand and strikes you with the left hand?”
In his Jan. 22 , 2017, speech to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, he said part of the peace-building process means eradicating the causes of violence and injustice, one of which is the “deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry,” particularly nuclear weapons.
Coincidentally, the Pope’s prayer video was published just days before six countries decided to cut diplomatic ties with the Middle-Eastern country of Qatar over it’s alleged support or terrorism.
On Monday it was announced that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Libya have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over the terrorism problem, giving Qatari ambassadors just a few days to leave their countries.
The move was made over allegations that Qatar is backing Islamist groups such as ISIS and AL-Qaeda, providing financial support despite recently joining the U.S.-led coalition against IS. Part of the decision also arose from concern that Qatar is getting too cozy with Iran, the growing regional rival of Saudi Arabia and which presents a significant nuclear threat.
What progress will actually come from the decision to cut ties is unknown, especially since Saudi Arabia itself has also been accused by many neighboring countries of financially supporting ISIS. So while the long-term effects of the decision remain to be seen, the move seems to make Francis’ prayer intention all the more timely.
His prayer videos first launched during the Jubilee of Mercy and are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer. They are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.
The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.
Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.
Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.
The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted, youth, women and a swath of other relevant topics in the world today.