Seminary formation includes travel

| January 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

This photo, posted on the second year seminarians blog, shows, from left, Brian Park, Joe Zabinski and Andrew Brinkman trying out one of the small city gates in Canterbury, England, during J-term. Photo from The St. Paul Seminary

Men experience Newman in England

This year, for the first time, second-year men at the St. Paul Seminary traveled out of the country to spend their January term in England, learning about the recently beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman.

“In formation, we like to use these opportunities to make it something living and alive,” said Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, seminary rector.

“It’s a religious experience as well. Just to go to the holy places where the martyrs died, it’s more than seeing it on a video,” he said.

Father Robert Pish, seminary vice rector for student affairs, said second-year seminarians focus on teaching and catechesis. So, learning about the cardinal, where he taught and preached in London, Oxford and Birmingham, was a natural fit, especially so soon after Pope Benedict XVI had visited the country for the beatification in September.

Msgr. Callaghan said the decision to extend an overseas teaching experience to the second-year men was based on the success of the immersion programs for third-year and fourth-year seminarians, who travel to the Holy Land and Rome, respectively.

A vision of church

Whether the men have previously traveled abroad or not, the study experience gives them a better understanding of the universal church and a vision of where Christ, the martyrs and other holy men once preached and taught, he said.

Each group of seminarians is accompanied by a professor from the seminary, who provides on-site and classroom instruction. Course outlines depict a busy schedule of lectures, discussions, papers and practical activities that include preaching and teaching.

The second-year men were led by Father Thomas Margevicius and Don Briel, University of St. Thomas’ Center for Catholic Studies director.

First-year seminarians have not been overlooked in the J-term travel experience, although they stay in the country, traveling to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Although the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision is Saturday, Jan. 22, the march is set for Monday, Jan. 24, this year, to allow marchers to also visit their representatives in Congress.

Because the first year in seminary is focused on spirituality, Msgr. Callaghan said he thought it would be good for them to be at the march.

Beyond books

Many of the seminarians haven’t traveled to these places, he said, and that experience can give them “a sense of proclaiming the Gospel.” That experience is also something you don’t get by reading a book, he added.

“The church is not an institution. It is the body of Christ,” Msgr. Callaghan said. “You talk about shepherding or being a pastor. It’s more than being just a manager. You’re not a CEO. You’re a shepherd of souls.”

A blog entry written by the second-year men after their visit to Canterbury gives a sense of their enlightenment about Christianity in the early years:

“Our guide, whose name was Hugh, prided himself in being able to talk about Canterbury and the Cathedral for four hours each without repeating himself! . . . We learned about the Roman roots of the city, as well as its religious significance. It was there that St. Augustine began his efforts of bringing Christianity to England. The city only became a major pilgrimage site after the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury in the late 1100s” (

Local immersion

Despite the success of the universal immersion programs, Father Pish said that immersion in the local church is important, as well.

“One of the unique aspects of formation is the parish teaching program,” he said. “Our men do a significant amount of their pastoral formation in a parish during their four years.”

The parish is where seminarians learn about various programs and aspects of parish life while working with people. In the seminary classroom, speakers from all aspects of ministry, such as Catholic Charities, the archdiocese and parishes help the men understand the practical aspects of what they will be doing in the future.

“You have to be a jack of all trades” as a priest, Msgr. Callaghan said. “You are expected to have the ready answer. You can’t get that just from reading a book.”

The rector also noted that the seminary has a “great emphasis on immersion in multicultural ministry. The summer after the men complete their second year, they go to Mexico for a six-week Spanish language immersion program, following by about 10 days at the archdiocesan mission in Venezuela.”

Father Pish said that the emphasis on Spanish immersion started with Archbishop Harry Flynn.

“He really emphasized in preparing ourselves for serving the growing Hispanic community here,” Father Pish said. “That started out by taking Spanish language classes here and learning to celebrate the sacraments in Spanish. Monsignor added the opportunity to go to Mexico and Venezuela.”

With all that the seminarians already do to prepare for priesthood, Msgr. Callaghan has a couple of additional aspects that he wants to include in the future: bringing a pastoral presence to caring for the sick and dying and doing something tangible with evangelization.

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Category: Vocations