Thursday, October 11, 2012
Holy Trinity Seminary Gala
Holy Trinity Seminary Gala
October 6, 2012
I would like to thank Msgr. Olson for this chance to speak this evening. I also want to mention my thanks to Bishop Kevin Farrell, who has been a wonderful friend and collaborator in ministry. I have enjoyed every one of these Seminary Gala evenings since I was appointed here to Fort Worth. Little did he and I know that when he asked me to speak I would be in the process of leaving for my new appointment as the fourth Bishop of Orange, California. As I said at my news Conference at the Marywood Pastoral Center in Orange on September 21, much when a priest is transferred to another parish, so, too I am finding it is much the same, only bigger in the life of a Bishop, you have to say goodbye to one family and embrace another. As I said to the priests of Fort Worth earlier this week, and it can be said here as well, I have so much to be grateful for during my seven years here in North Texas. I am not the same person who left Springfield. “Here I have lived” as Abraham Lincoln said. For these years here in Fort Worth, above all, with the Lord's help and all of you, I have grown into the Shepherd the Lord has called me to be. And, as we all are "La familia de Dios," we all travel this life into eternity together, and I know that we will stay connected in faith and prayer. I do want to thank as well the people of Orange for their welcome and promise of prayers. I have been dubbed by one of our priests now as “The Bishop of Disneyland" which is just down the highway from where I will be living - but I also am privileged to be the Bishop of a Diocese that bears many similarities to here in its growth, ethnic composition, and number of vocations. Now Archbishop Lucas once said to me when he installed me as pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Springfield that, in God's Providence, one part of one's life prepares one for the next. That was certainly true when I was sent here, and it is absolutely the case from my time and experience here, looking ahead to the next part of my life.
In speaking of God's providence, I would like to reflect this evening briefly on two themes which I believe are relevant to why we are here: The theme of God's Providence and the idea of gratitude. Where these came into importance in my life is because of one of my seminary professors, whom I recently wrote about on my web log, Fr. Art Trapp. I say this not because Fr. Ramson and Fr. Clark are here, and they knew him well. But because in his own way, and in our conversations, I learned these themes from him at a time in the late 1970's when seminary formation was still very much up in the air, and in some ways "chaotic." Fr. Trapp, like Fr. Ramson and Fr. Clark, belong to a religious community known popularly as the "Vincentians," but formally known as the Congregation of the Mission (CM). They were founded by St. Vincent de Paul, whose feast day we just celebrated. St. Vincent founded the Congregation of the Mission to do just that - preach missions throughout France to renew parishes, by a renewal and reform of the diocesan clergy. He is also well known, and believed very much in a mission to the poor. With St. Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity, and together they are known as the "Double family." We would do well here this evening to remember that in particular the Vincentians had much to do with the early evangelization in the whole territory of Texas, as Bishop Jean Marie Odin, Vincentian, was the first Vicar Apostolic, later bishop of this whole vast region.
At any rate, I got to know Fr. Trapp when he was assigned to Kenrick as the Rector in the Fall of 1978, succeeding Fr. Hugh O'Donnell. As I noted, and as many of us would remember there were many questions about seminary formation, and any stable voice was appreciated. Fr. Trapp would speak about God's providence, a theme found often in the writings of St. Vincent de Paul. This was always an occasion to learn how to appreciate the hand of God as it were, and his abiding presence, in the events of daily life, and to be open to where we were, where the Lord was asking us to go, and then following it - neither ahead or behind. In later years, when I would go to him for advice, Fr. Trapp would remind me "not to be two steps ahead of where the Lord wanted me to be." I would also hear Fr. Trapp speak about gratitude - just being grateful to God for our lives each day, and to respond in turn in our lives.
That's a long way to get around to what I would like to reflect on this evening. I think that we have a lot to be grateful to the Lord for where we are now in seminary formation in this country, and mindful of where God's providence has brought us to.
The four pillars of formation - Spiritual, Pastoral, Intellectual, and Human [parallel to the four pillars of the Catechism] are clearly spelled out in all of the seminaries we have and the ones that I have visited. These clear norms are the foundation of formation for the priesthood today, coming from the Holy See and the Bishops of the United States. The sometimes unstable and unsure approach of the late 1960's, 1970's and 1980's is a thing of the past, and that good news needs to be spread and frankly over communicated: Not only by seminary officials, bishops, priests, but by all here. Too often what I call the "Catholic memory," which can be a blessing, is often a source where rumors and past challenges, and deficiencies of the past, are repeated again, and again, as if they were the case, when in fact it is not the case at all anymore. Not only is seminary formation for our candidates superior to the late 1970's, but it is also, I believe, far superior to the so called "golden age" of the 1940's and 1950's in many ways, especially in the human and pastoral formation.
We can also reflect on gratitude and God's providence not only in the increased number of seminarians (there is a waiting list now), but in the quality of our men here. And not only here, but when I visit the NAC, or TC, or the seminarians in Orange, I find the same things: Men who truly desire to serve the Lord, who are desirous to be priests that bring the Gospel and the Faith to wherever they are sent, and in a very real sense "to rebuild my Church" as the Lord said to St. Francis. Again, what I call the "Caricatures" of the 60's, 70's and 80's are gone, and those sometimes repeated assertions of those times by some supposedly in the know today must be abandoned. In many ways it takes a lot more to be a priest today than even when I grew up and went into the seminary. Truly, we were blessed with a Catholic Culture that fostered the call to serve the Lord. We have to rebuild that today, and some of the men today have to face indifference or even outright opposition from families and friends, and yet they still say yes.
In a time in which our ability to freely live our Faith in all its aspects (more than just a Sunday for a few hours) is being seriously threatened and undermined, yet they still say “yes.” They, as Archbishop Gomez has said on several occasions, are called to be "heroes and saints" and "men of brave heart" in a very secular age. Yet, they still seek to hear the voice of Him who says "Come Follow Me", and follow indeed, often with great deliberation and much hesitation. In many ways in the past, it was easy to say that one wanted to go the seminary. Not so any more. Yet still in the face of all of this, the number and quality of our seminarians, and their commitment to formation is indeed edifying.
In gratitude and God's Providence we are here together once again to support Holy Trinity Seminary in its vital apostolic work for the Church here in North Texas, to be sure, as well for the now many dioceses which it serves. I personally want to thank my good friend Msgr. Olson for not only his leadership, but his friendship and support. God's providence has put us all together - everyone here - to support not only the seminary - but in every one's way who is here tonight - to rebuild a vital Catholic identity where the call to priestly ministry and religious life can be heard. As we set out on a Year of Faith, let us take up this call with joy and gratitude, and confidence in the Lord who leads us. And, let us never forget to thank all of the priests and religious who minister to us, and are part of the daily fabric of our lives. As Pope John Paul II said at the end of his book Rise and Let us Be On Our Way, "Let us go forth full of trust in Christ. He will accompany us as we journey toward the goal that He alone knows.”
Posted by Bishop Kevin W. Vann, JCD., DD at 4:37 PM