New priests in a changed Church

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | June 7, 2018 | 0 Comments

On the morning of May 26, I had the great privilege of ordaining four young men to the priesthood: Father Aric Aamodt, Father Colin Jones, Father Toulee Peter Ly and Father Matthew Shireman. The joy in the Cathedral was palpable as we together envisioned all the good things that they would accomplish by God’s grace in this archdiocese in the years to come. I am grateful for their generosity in responding to the Lord’s call.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

I couldn’t help but think, however, how much things have changed in the Church since my own ordination 29 years ago. The truths of our faith stay the same, but the circumstances in which the Church is called upon to give witness to Christ can — and have — changed.

In the years since my first Mass, the Church has had to come to grips with the painful reality that more than a few priests had abused their office in ways that caused unthinkable harm to children and families. While the vast majority of priests are good and faithful, sincerely desiring to pour themselves out in service like Christ the Good Shepherd, the heightened awareness of the scandalous behavior of the minority has brought about what I hope are lasting and meaningful changes in the Church landscape.

The recent announcement of the settlement in the archdiocese’s bankruptcy highlighted some of those changes. While I have been regularly encouraged by the positive feedback that the archdiocese has received from the courts and from Ramsey County Attorney John Choi when we have made our periodic reports in compliance with the 2016 settlement agreement, I was still overwhelmed to read that one of the abuse survivors had told the Star Tribune that “the archdiocese is now the safest in the country,” and I heard attorney Jeff Anderson state that the settlement agreement “actually advances the [cause] of child protection in a way that has never really been done in this country.”

Those changes reflect in part a heightened collaboration and level of responsibility for the lay faithful in our Church. We’re blessed to have true experts in our local Church who bring their experiences as parents and professionals to the work of child protection and the assessment of fitness for ministry, and bring to the work of the Church new standards of transparency and accountability. We would have never arrived at a resolution of the bankruptcy without the generous collaboration of our lay leadership.

Our four new priests are indeed beginning their ministry in a changed Church, and they would have already experienced that in their seminary formation. There would have been heightened scrutiny, for example, from psychological professionals and seminary administrators when they applied for admission to the archdiocesan seminary program, with an eye to evaluating the capacity to live a life of chaste celibacy.

As seminarians, they would have had the benefit, moreover, of programs with a new and more intense focus on the “human formation” aspect of priestly preparation, complementing the program’s already strong intellectual, spiritual and pastoral pillars. It is noteworthy that at both major seminaries where they were trained, a full-time psychologist is an integral member of the formation team, something that would have been unheard of when I was a seminarian.

Judge Tim O’Malley, the director of the archdiocese’s Office for Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, moreover, has been meeting periodically with seminary students and faculty members to prompt the necessary discussions on this topic. We have been assisted in that effort by a survivor who has very personally shared with our seminarians the story of his own experience of abuse and its consequences.

As our four new priests begin their first assignments, they will be assisted by a program introduced last year by the Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation that focuses on transitions in ministry and lays the foundation for healthy relationships of collaboration and support. I am excited by the programming offered this year by the Institute that helps our priests to be better preachers, more effective leaders and more comfortable team players in the parish setting.

As we now begin to focus more intentionally on how we might bring post-bankruptcy healing and renewed zeal to our archdiocese, we are going to have lots of work for our new priests, who are so enthusiastic about making Christ present in this local Church. Pray for them and help them to learn. Witness in your own lives to the joy of responding to God’s call, and I am confident that our four new priests will be inspired to serve as genuine shepherds after the heart of Jesus.

Nuevos sacerdotes en una iglesia cambiada

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Category: Only Jesus