Sacred Heart Major Seminary August 20, 2014

Heroic Witnesses:   Missionary Hearts

III

In the footsteps of the snowshoe priest

Acts of the Apostles

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.  Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (2: 42-43).

In the face of adversity, they continued to preach and serve.

“They laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day, since it was already evening.  But many of those who heard the word came to believe and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (4: 3-4).

In the face of persecution, they continued to preach and invite.

“You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.  For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed:   ‘To an unknown God.’  What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything.  Rather, it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.”

In the face of indifference, they continued to preach and give witness.

Opening remarks

These brief passages set the context for my address this year.  In recent months I have been drawn to the genuine drama of the Acts of the Apostles, from the fear and chaos of the early days, to the power and wonder of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; from the fearless preaching in the face of persecution, to the joy and exuberance over the wonders and signs done by God with hearts transformed through the work of the Spirit.  In the face of adversity, the disciples had faith and continued their mission.  In the face of persecution, they remained confident, humble, and steadfast in their mission.  In the face of indifference, they had zeal and joy to continue their mission.  To say that these actions and wonders are inspiring is an understatement.  As we read and pray with these heroic witnesses, we recognize that the same Spirit moves and pulses through the Church today.  And in a particular way the Spirit moves through each one of us here at the seminary as we seek to live and advance the mission of the seminary.  And for that, like the disciples, we should be in awe and humbly express our gratitude to God for his providential love and care for us.

Adversity, persecution, and indifference are all contemporary realities that can, on the one hand, be obstacles for us as we seek to form our students.  We even may find ourselves discouraged from time to time with the constant pounding of negativity that comes from our secular society.  Weaknesses, personal and organizational failures, lack of progress or success, violence, cynicism at many levels, …all of these contribute to the contemporary anxiety about the eternal truth of God’s personal love and mercy.  We are all well of aware of these obstacles.  Yet, at the same time, the challenges of adversity, persecution, and indifference present unique opportunities of grace for us as we faithfully present, day after day, month after month, and year after year, the beauty of the Gospel.  Far too often and with too much force, our culture seeks to demoralize, deconstruct and destroy hope.  The persistent message is that a desire for holiness is really a frightened, intentional blindness to the stark reality of the world; that goodness is merely a fanciful veneer to cover the darker side of humanity, and that God is a self-creation to bring some order and comfort to the randomness of the universe around us.  Instead, we stand in the face of the adversity, the persecution, and the indifference, with an abiding confidence, hope, humility, and charity that pierces these lies with joy, grace, and faith.  These are our challenges and opportunities as disciples in the New Evangelization.

Bishop Baraga

In my first year as rector, I presented a vision of formation that had a simple focus:  to form heroic witnesses with missionary hearts.  That is, to form in our students the strength of character to withstand joyfully and humbly the rigors of ministry; to have hearts so generous and strong that no act of love, no act of service would be too small or too large.  And at the same time, to possess a missionary heart whose first impulse is to reach outward; to seek out the lost, the indifferent, the confused, and those in despair.  In order to offer compelling examples, it seemed helpful to raise up a number of examples whose lives exemplified what it means to be a heroic witness, to have a missionary heart.  In doing so, we understand that these reflections are not merely pious dreams for ourselves or for our students.  They are repeated, concrete reminders of the Father’s perpetual care for us. 

In the first year we focused on the pastoral charity of the Venerable Solanus Casey.  Would that every student, every faculty member, every staff person had the same zeal and passion for the poor as our beloved Solanus Casey.  And last year, our focus turned to the heroic witness of the Venerable Michael McGivney.  His pastoral leadership revealed a not just a priest who wanted to maintain the life of the parish, but one whose missionary heart enflamed those around him.

This year, in the final year of our reflection on heroic witnesses:  missionary hearts, we turn to another local:  Bishop Frederic Baraga.  The life and ministry of Bishop Baraga represents another manifestation, a link, between the missionary activity of the early church as seen in the Acts of the Apostles, and our contemporary landscape of ministry.  

Frederic Baraga was born in Slovenia, in 1797.  At an early age his parents died and he was sent to relatives to live and begin school.  During a tumultuous period in Europe, soon after the French Revolution, Baraga deepened his life of prayer and also devoted himself to multiple languages, learning Slovenian, French, German, Latin and Greek at a young age.  After a short period of time studying law, Baraga was moved to enter the seminary in 1821.  He was ordained in 1823 (after just two years of study!!).  In his early years as a priest, he encountered Fr. Frederic Rese, then Vicar General of the Diocese of Cincinnati.  Fr. Rese (who would later be the first bishop of Detroit) was visiting Europe to solicit funds for the work of evangelization in the ‘new world.’  So impressed was Baraga at the need for the Word of God to be preached in the ‘new world,’ he responded with urgency and arrived in the United States in January, 1831.  

But why is the life and ministry of Bishop Baraga so compelling?  Among the many positive and inspiring characteristics of Bishop Baraga, there are three that have specific relevance for our mission here, today at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, as we form our students to be ‘bridges to Christ’ in the work of evangelization.  1) his love for families; 2) the conviction that he had to use the language of the people in order to evangelize; and 3) the Gospel witness of simplicity and austerity.  

For Bishop Baraga, who had a strong devotion to the holy name of Jesus, ministry to families was a key component to his outreach.  He would not wait for people to come to him or seek him out.  He lived the mandate of the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep and carries the sheep on his shoulders.  The heart of Bishop Baraga was filled with love and compassion for the challenges and hardships of his people, and he knew those personally.  He was relentless in his work and desire to be with people, often pushing himself to walk, canoe and travel through the night over long distances to be with people and celebrate the sacraments for them.  Even late into his ministry as bishop, in his sixties, he trekked over forty miles through the snow, sleeping outside with no covering, to visit a small village.  And as one biographer noted:  “The challenges of mission life were never more evident than in Baraga’s journey to Cincinnati for a seven-day meeting of the Third Provincial Council; it took thirty days to travel by snowshoe, sled, and ship.”  His documented journeys attest to the fact that nothing, short of sickness and death, would quiet the zeal and passion in his heart for pastoral ministry to families.

“I am about to depart for another Indian Mission, where as yet there is no church.  Tomorrow I shall leave.  I fear that this will be a difficult journey, a journey of three days, always on foot and on snowshoes, while camping every evening under the ‘North Star’ on the snow.  It is the only way to get there in the winter.”

Second, in order to evangelize effectively, Bishop Baraga did not begin simply with teaching and preaching, as other missionaries would do.  Baraga began by patiently learning the language of the Native Americans, and really, learning to cross the cultural bridge and experience the challenges of their lives.   He used the Native American language at every opportunity, and he was convinced that in order for them to truly receive the Word and encounter Christ, he had to use their language, with words and images that had been passed on from generation to generation and held deep meaning.  In his diaries, he makes note that he regularly preached in three languages (English, French, and Native American, even though it was often exhausting) so that everyone could encounter the Lord through specific words and phrases.  This was not easy, but Bishop Baraga recognized that a key component to evangelization was language.  And ultimately, Baraga became the great ‘advocate’ for the rights of Native Americans and repeatedly challenged the government to respect those rights, even when it was a very unpopular position.

Finally, his preaching and love for the people had credibility because of the simplicity and austerity of his own life and living conditions.  As one biographer notes:  “Baraga was rather hard on himself; his eating habits were quite ascetical, and on one occasion he noted that he experienced a ‘great spiritual misfortune’ because he arose at 5 am rather than his usual 3am, “two hours absolutely lost” lamented Baraga.  In his own words he wrote:  

“This morning I was a little indisposed, probably I ate too much yesterday or the day before and my weak stomach cannot bear it.  I should eat just a little to remain healthy.  As soon as I eat according to my appetite, I am not well.”

Like Fr. McGivney, the urgency in his ministry and passion for Christ often pushed him to exhaustion, but he did so generously.  

To Engage the Indifferent

With the zeal, energy, and urgency of Bishop Baraga to inspire us, we look out to the horizon of our ministry today and recognize that one of the great challenges we face today in our mission to form heroic witnesses with missionary hearts is the increasing disposition of indifference that permeates our society.  Like the early disciples in the Acts of the Apostles who faced persecution, and Bishop Baraga who faced adversity in his missionary activity, perhaps today one of the great challenges we face is indifference. 

As I mentioned in an address last year, the fastest growing group in the United States are those who claim ‘no religion’ whatsoever.  It is a self-designation of indifference not only toward organized religion, but also toward the regular and genuine practice of religion itself.  The indifference may come from multiple sources: from apathy; apparent irrelevance; lack of motivation or a bad experience; and the list goes on.  This indifference has many profiles for us today:

1.  The young person who is never challenged; never asked deeper questions about God; who is never asked to sacrifice personal desires for something greater.

2.  Individuals who are not moved to action even by the most dramatic human suffering such as genocide, racial violence and injustice, simply because it may inconvenience them.  They are comfortable.

3.  Or individuals who have become so discouraged, tired, or lacking in hope that there is no desire, no motivation in their heart to speak to God. 

4.  And finally, families who are so overwhelmed and overextended that faith, prayer together, sacramental life are essentially a secondary concern.

In light of these contemporary challenges, our efforts here at forming our students, and our ministry itself, must be interwoven and infused with authentic, compelling witness.  To engage those who are indifferent, or caught in the deafening and constant cacophony that surrounds us, or disengaged because of a variety of reasons, will be one of the important questions discussed during the October Synod. 

In the working document addressing the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of the new evangelization, the secretariat notes that some of the “pervasive and invasive new technologies; the influence of the mass media; the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalization of morals; the fragility of interpersonal relationships; a culture that rejects making permanent choices because it is conditioned by uncertainty and transiency, a veritable ‘liquid society’ and one with a ‘throw away’ mentality and one seeking ‘immediate gratification;’ and finally, values reinforced by the so-called ‘cultural waste’ and ‘a culture of the moment’ as frequently noted by Pope Francis” (15) are all factors that destroy the foundation for family life, and also erode the genuine relational link between individuals and God. 

And yet, even with these challenges, there is reason to hope.  The family remains critical part of the life of the church and society as a whole, and therefore a focal point in the New Evangelization.  As Pope Paul VI reflected with such eloquence:  “May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be.  May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society:  a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings.”   And the working document for the Synod also adds:  “the family is a ‘school of love,’ a ‘school of communion’ and a ‘gymnasium for relationship,’ that is, the privileged place to learn to build meaningful relationships that help a person to develop a capacity for giving oneself” (38).  

It is providential, then, that we seek the intercession of the Venerable Baraga, whose unwavering desire to minister to families, to bring the Gospel and the sacramental life of grace to the marginalized, to endure harsh conditions and live a life of authentic simplicity, should move us as well.   

Strategic Initiatives:  Looking Back

Having considered the context for this year and the inspiring example of the Venerable Bishop Baraga, I turn my attention now to strategic initiatives for the coming year.  But before I look forward, I think it will be important to look back briefly as well.  So many good things happened last year, so many graces and blessings, that it is important to recognize those, express gratitude, and see how they fit into the larger goals and initiatives that we have and how God continues to work through each one of us.

Back in the spring we welcomed two separate groups from HLC and ATS.  I don’t think I need to remind you of those visits, or the work that went into them!  I want to thank Astrid Caicedo, the office of the Dean of Studies, and the whole seminary community for all the hard work.  I am happy to report that in July we received official letters from both HLC and ATS reaffirming our status as accredited.  We have no reports or focus visits for HLC, and for ATS we will have one staff report to complete by 2016.  The full reports brought to light our many strengths, including our “commitment to continuous improvement, the quality and devotion of our faculty, the way in which the seminary and the archdiocese embrace and live out the school’s mission statement, as seen in the archdiocesan commitments for commuter students and the ongoing commitment of the seminary’s distinctive location in the inner-city Detroit community; and the overarching spirit of the community that embodies the seminary’s values, especially Christ as center.”   It was exciting to see our own peers give objective feedback that was so positive.  And we will seek ways to communicate the good news of the accreditation to our constituents.  Again, our first reaction to this good news should be humble gratitude to God, whose fatherly care over Sacred Heart never ceases.

Last year, through the leadership of Fr. Battersby and Fr. Burr, we engaged in a new pilot program for seminary formation provided by the Catholic Leadership Institute, the same institute that has developed the Good Leaders Good Shepherds program.  Through our assessment and evaluation of the formation program, we recognized that we needed to make improvements in the way we form the seminarians for pastoral leadership.  The data and survey responses were quite clear about that.  As a result, Sacred Heart was one of only two seminaries in the country to pilot the new program for our men in theology I and II.  I think we can all be encouraged that through this new program, along with other modifications, the important pillar of pastoral formation was strengthened.  It is our hope that the men receive formation in this area that permits them not simply to develop some ‘trade skills’ but more importantly seek to develop and deepen the identity of the shepherd who leads, administers, and works tirelessly for the sheep.  To embrace this as a good part of priestly life and ministry and not a negative.  This has been and continues to be exciting for us.

If you were here during July and the early part of August, you probably met some of the priests who were here for five weeks in our new delivery of the STL.  After several years of dialogue with the Angelicum and the Congregation for Catholic Education, we finally received permission to offer the STL in a special format:  summer residency with some on-line course work during the year.  From the early responses, it seems clear that the program was a great success.  I want to thank Fr. Laboe for his leadership in the program; Tamra Fromm and the admissions office for all the important work of processing the new students; Chad Hughes for his help with technology: Ann Marie Connolly and the Business Office for facilitating the financial aspects; John Duncan, Deacon Lazarus and the building team for preparing the rooms; Mike, Rebecca and the Ovations staff, and the professors who inspired and shaped witnesses for the New Evangelization, …and good embassadors for the city of Detroit.  It will be a joy to see how this program continues to make an impact on the church in the United State and throughout the world.

Last year, there were two particular initiatives that respond to the ever-changing needs in theological education.  The first project was an exploratory committee for the DMin.  Under the leadership of Dr. Diaz, the committee was asked to address:  Does a DMin fit our mission?  Do we have the resources and students?  What are the enrollment trends with other schools?  What areas of specialization are already covered.  I want to thank Dr. Diaz for a very good report, and I’ll have more to say about that in just a few minutes.  The second working group was lead by Fr. Laboe with the task of working with representatives from the AOD, examining survey data, and then presenting recommendations for the continuing education of priests.  The working group worked carefully to listen to survey responses, look at other programs throughout the country, and then make recommendations. The report will be shared with the archdiocese and we will work collaboratively so that continuing education can be an important piece in the life and ministry of priests.  

Just two months ago we hosted the Archbishop’s Gala dinner at Cobo Center.  The event was an incredible success for us, and we had the chance to honor Sr. Mary for her many years of service.  It was an ‘artful evening’ and a grace filled evening.  And on top of that, through the leadership of Dave Kelley, Emily Berschback as event coordinator, and the whole Development Department, we set new records for attendance and net income.  Over 850 people, and $933,000 were raised. 

And finally, I’m sure the various construction projects have not gone unnoticed as you came to the seminary over the summer months.  The recreational track and new rosary path will enhance the quality of life here at the seminary.  It’s exciting to envision people out on the track running or walking, enjoying the fresh air outside and increasing fitness.  At the same time, to see individuals or small groups walking the rosary path in prayer will also be a powerful image and wonderful opportunity for each of us.  And then there is the entry-way and porch.  I want to thank Mr. Duncan for his oversight and diligence with these projects.  For all of us, and for the whole neighborhood, it’s great to see progress, improvements, …life!  Sacred Heart Major Seminary is very much alive and well, and for that we are grateful.

Strategic Initiatives:  Looking Forward

And now, looking forward.  Each year we present a set of initiatives that emerge from a variety of sources:  assessment data, surveys, consultations, envisioning exercises, and ultimately our Strategic Plan.  When strategic initiatives are identified, it means they rise to a level of importance that we focus our time, energy and resources to achieve them, with the understanding that these initiatives contribute directly to the mission of the seminary.

Accreditation Reports

Among the resources that help us identify initiatives for this year, we cannot overlook the recommendations presented through the work of the Self-Study and also the reports from HLC and ATS.  All of the work that we did as a whole institution will not simply be put on a shelf, the relic of a compliance activity for our accreditors.  Instead, I intend for the recommendations from the Self-Study and visiting team reports to form the foundation for our initiatives.  These reports reflect back to us our areas of strength and also the areas that need continued attention.

From the two reports and also from our own self-reflection, three general areas for attention were identified as needing improvement:  communication; process; and data.  There are several specifics for each of these areas.

Communication:  From our own work on the Self-Study and also from reports, we were affirmed for the strength and focus of our mission.  Unlike many inter-denominational seminaries whose mission can become diluted because of the multiple faith traditions present, we have a unique and inspiring mission.  At the same time, we will need to devote ourselves to a better communication of the richness of our mission.  The challenge comes to us in the form of internal communication and external communication.  In the context of internal communication, we will need to devote ourselves, particularly at the administrative level, to more effective communication.  By this I mean consistent, internal communication that reflects accurately our mission and, on the practical level, communication that is timely and effective.  I will raise this challenge up with the Administrative Council this year as and see how we can make steps forward for better internal communication.  As for external communication, we know that in recent years the seminary has been involved in thorough review of its marketing and communications plan.  Through the work of the Development department we are very close to rolling out the new, comprehensive communications plan.  There has been a tremendous amount of work and consultation in the project, and I think you’ll share my excitement at what is to come, and ultimately, how we will be communicating the mission of Sacred Heart.

Process:  for many, the word ‘process’ borders on profanity.  It may seem at times that we have endless processes or that process can bog us down and actually impede effective progress.  At the same time, the visiting teams noted that we do many things informally, and that in some cases the informality or lack of clearly identifiable process can put is in a vulnerable, weaker position.  This recommendation is not limited to one individual or one department. Consequently, I will be asking the Administrative Council to review the current processes we have (for all departments) and identify pathways to improve them. 

Data:  Both accrediting teams noted that we certainly gather data, and we also evaluate the data in most cases.  But what they noticed is that we could be more focused and consistent in the kinds of data that we collect, how we collect it, how the evaluation of that data impacts our decision making, and how we share the data so that common and consistent information can be communicated.  I recall from ten years ago when the accrediting teams recognized the many ways in which we tried to do assessment, noting that we have many outcomes and tools, but they were not necessarily as streamlined and effective as they could be.  I think something very similar came up this time in terms of data collection.  The challenge in this area is that the data collection occurs between multiple offices and departments.  Again, to address this, I will work with the Administrative Council to review the way in which data is collected and shared.

Adoption of Technology

In terms of technology, the seminary has made great strides in the last decade.  We have been deliberate and reflective about the role of technology in teaching philosophy and theology.  We have not been impulsive, by any means.  And that is consistent with other schools of theology.  While larger universities have adopted the use of technology for instruction more quickly and comprehensively, schools of theology have pondered the adoption in light of the goals for our programs. And yet now, more and more schools of philosophy and theology are integrating technology into effective pedagogy for education.  It is exciting to see the way in which the thoughtful adoption has made a significant, positive impact on student learning.  I think we are at a point where technology is a welcomed partner in effective pedagogy. 

In recent years, Mr. Hughes has been working closely with the administration to update the technology available for instruction.  The classrooms are now outfitted with the types of technology that can greatly enhance student learning, and also engage students at an effective level.  The visiting teams both noted that while we have made positive strides forward in the technology that is available for teaching, an area for growth is the adoption of that technology.  In light of this, as well as our own position in philosophical and theological education, I offer my support to Fr. Laboe and Mr. Hughes as they will seek to help faculty and students integrate the use of technology effectively in the classroom. 

Catholic Certificate in Theology

Connected to the initiative mentioned above, there is clear and compelling data that indicates we need to devote our time and resources to offering the Catholic Certificate in Theology in an on-line format.  The certificate is uniquely positioned to be of benefit to many students.  By offering the CCT in an on-line format we may also have a positive impact beyond the archdiocese.  I will ask Fr. Laboe and Dean’s office, as well as Dr. Diaz and the IFM, to coordinate this year so that we can begin offering the CCT in an on-line format by the fall, 2015.  By offering the CCT on-line, we present a new pathway for students to be formed theologically and ultimately take the first of many steps in their own theological formation.  This is a concrete and exciting way in which Sacred Heart can take the lead in the New Evangelization.

DMin

Last year, I assembled an exploratory committee to assess the possibility of establishing a Doctor of Ministry program here at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.  As I noted then, any consideration of a new degree program has to begin with our mission, our resources, and our strategic plan.  The potential for such a program is very exciting.  The exploratory committee, which included Dr. Diaz, Fr. Laboe, Dr. Cooney, and Dr. McCallion, took the year to consider carefully the possibility and key components. 

The report of the committee was submitted at the end of June which included the following recommendation:  to appoint an ad hoc committee to take the next step in the process and react to the findings of the report.  “Resources, such as access to marketing expertise, access to administrative offices such as enrollment management and financial aid, and input from members of other faculty committees should be made available to the ad hoc committee.  Working on a timeline, the ad hoc committee should be responsible for presenting a definitive proposal to the faculty as to whether SHMS should offer a Doctor Ministry degree.”  

I am pleased to support this next step, and have asked Dr. Diaz to lead the committee.  I ask that Fr. Laboe, Dr. Williamson, Dr. Cooney, and Dr. Latkovic also participate in the work of the committee.  It should be encouraging for all of us that we are looking at this possibility so seriously, and I look forward to the recommendations of the committee at the end of the year.  

New Faculty 

Fr. Mathias Thelen

This year, we are pleased to welcome a new faculty member to Sacred Heart.  Fr. Thelen is a familiar face to all of us and has been serving in parochial assignments in the Diocese of Lansing since his ordination.  I remain deeply grateful to Bishop Boyea for his sustained generosity to Sacred Heart in releasing Fr. Thelen for this special assignment.  The scope of work for Fr. Thelen will be very similar to that of Fr. Canoy and Fr. Fox.  It is expected that he will complete his STL here at the seminary and also provide assistance to the formation team as a spiritual director.  Fr. Thelen is a wonderful addition to the faculty and we look forward to his unique contributions in the years to come.   

Conclusion

As I bring to a close my address, I am aware that very often the fruit of our labors go unseen.  We teach, sow the seed, seek to form, and at times some of the deepest transformations are only beginning.   In the context of program assessment, institutional effectiveness and quality improvement, we analyze and measure many things.  We have to do that.  The data that we collect and analyze and the assessment that we do, as well as the quality of our Strategic Plan hold us accountable and keep us focused.  Yet, we need to balance that in light of the Acts of the Apostles, the life and ministry of Bishop Baraga and the fundamental missionary impulse to preach and give witness.

Our ultimate success will never be measured only by a number on a spread sheet, but by the holiness and conviction of those whose hearts have been formed here to be heroic.  If in the context of our work some discouragement sets in, we need only think of St. Paul at the Areopagus, after passionately preaching received a tepid, even not dismissive, response.  He, along with the others faced the adversity, the persecution and the indifference with confident faith.  To preach the Gospel in season and out of season is not a tag line our sound bite for us, it is the call to form our students so that they are deeply steeped in the joy, mercy, and freedom that the Gospel gives.

As I mentioned above, sometimes we never see the full impact of our labors, and that’s ok.  But at other times, the Lord gives us an encouraging glimpse.  We had one of those moments this summer in the new on-line newsletter of the Mosaic.  In the edition from June, Deacon Mario Amore offered some comments about his time at the seminary and said this:

“As I begin ordained ministry as a transition deacon, I reflect on what a great blessing Sacred Heart has been to me.  There is something about surrounding myself day in and out with other men with hearts set ablaze to bring Christ to the world that brings joy to my heart and challenges me in my own exercise of Christian living.  

Sacred Heart is about more than training men to be priests and deacons and other men and women to work in parish and school ministries.  Sacred Heart prepares the entire person, heart and mind, for intentional discipleship.  The goal is not simply to produce educated people to fill vacant positions, but rather to form laborers for the vineyard of Jesus Christ.

How has Sacred Heart changed me?  Simply put, the formation program has brought me to a new level of relationship with Christ.  Whether or not a man goes through the entire formation process and becomes a priest, it is considered a ‘win’ even if spending only one year in the program he comes out knowing Christ and his love.  I can attest that this is the case and for this, I am truly grateful.”

That response should be received as a great encouragement.  If our students are being moved and shaped by Christ in such a way during their time here, then we too can offer prayers of gratitude to God, and say, please let it be so in every heart.

To conclude in prayer, I cannot help but ask that we join our voices together in a devotion held dear by the Venerable Bishop Baraga, that of the Holy Name of Jesus.  We ask that our year be blessed and fruitful, as we seek to form heroic witnesses-missionary hearts.

God, you appointed your only-begotten Son to be the Savior of humanity, and you commanded his Name to be Jesus.  I beg that a most ardent love of your Divine Son imprint that Name upon my heart; that it always be on my mind, and frequently on my lips; that it be my defense in temptation, my refuge in danger, and my consolation and strength in the hour of my death.