Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How To Leave the Seminary

IV Theology Class
Managing a Successful Transition Out of the Seminary and Into Pastoral Ministry
August 24-29, 2015

For the last several years, I have been teaching the transitional deacons (those who will be ordained to the priesthood this coming spring) some of the very practical things they will need to know about the process of leaving the seminary and entering the priesthood.
This was my 2007 transition class.
There are others on the right outside camera range.

This year, originating from several countries, there were 21 deacons in the class: Diocese of Little Rock 4; Archdiocese of Indianapolis 3; Diocese of Evansville 2; Diocese of Owensboro 2; Diocese of Lexington 2; Diocese of Mobile 1; Diocese of Springfield MO. 1; Diocese of Layfayette IND 1; Diocese of Knoxville 1; Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau 1; Glenmary Home Missionaries 1; Diocese of Palayamkottai (India) 1.

This class is really about talking them through this major transition that the bishops have compared to "leaving home, graduating from school, beginning a career, getting married, and starting a family – but all at once.” One mid-west bishop said leaving the seminary is like a patient having all his IV tubes pulled out at once. 
Some of the issues we cover are:
  • The dynamics of change in general: an ending, a neutral zone and a beginning.
  • How to say good-bye and thank you to those who have brought you this far
  • Tracking your own progress: the importance of keeping a journal.
  • Now that you will be a priest, what kind of priest do you will to be?
  • Moving from being a private person to being a public person.
  • The relationship of priests to the bishop, other priests, lay people and permanent deacons.
  • How to enter a parish and how not to.
  • How to establish a personal budget and start saving for retirement.
  • The necessity of ongoing formation and continuing education.
  • What does the Church say about the radical communitarian dimension of ordained ministry.
  • Understanding priests from other generations and avoiding the scandal of presbyteral polarization.
  • The difference between being a seminarian in a seminary and being a priest in a presbyterate.
  • What Canon Law says about parishes and pastors.
  • The promise of of obedience and what it means in relating to the bishop and the presbyterate.
  • Creative strategies for living alone.
  • Maintaining personal and professional boundaries.
  • How to leave a parish well.
  • Expressing gratitude, giving affirmation and empowering others.
  • Minding your call by developing a personal growth plan.
  • Support available to priests in a typical diocese.
  • The role of the priest in the universal call to holiness.
  • What your First Mass plans say about your spiritual leadership style.
  • A spirituality that works for the life of a diocesan priest after seminary.
  • Deciding to grow up and a commitment to serious priesting.

This year's class of 21 is  quite interesting. The one in the front row is a medical doctor. The one behind him in the white beard is a  married former Baptist minister. His wife, Laura, works in the kitchen. They will be moving back to Arkansas after  his ordination to the priesthood. They are both fluent in Spanish because they were Baptist missionaries in South America before becoming Catholic.

Below are some single shots of a few of the 21 participants.

Deacon Kyle Rodden, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Deacon Norman McFall, Diocese of Little Rock (married, former Baptist Minister)
Deacon Taryn Wittington, Diocese of Little Rock

 Deacon Braden Maher, Diocese of Springfield, Illinois   
Deacon James Brockmeyer, Archdiocese of Indianapolis      
Deacon Tyler Tenbarge, Diocese of Evansville

Deacon James Dennis, Diocese of Owensboro (Deacon Dennis is blind)
                                Deacon Meril Sahayam, Diocese of Palayamkottai, INDIA
Deacon Nicolas Ajpacaja TzocArchdiocese of Indianapolis (from Guatemala)

The need arose in the class for a couple of textbooks. When I started, none were available so I took it upon myself to put two together. These books are now being used in several seminaries across the country and around the world. Both are available in English and Spanish. The second will soon be available in Vietnamese. Most readers will not need these books, but if you do, they are available through My Bookstore