St. Benedict, Ore. – This past week, Mount Angel Seminary began its 127th academic year, continuing its mission of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of men for the Roman Catholic priesthood. The year opened with the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit and Inaugural Address on Monday, August 24, 2015, with classes beginning the following day.
Mount Angel Seminary welcomed back faculty, students, and friends with the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated to institute the new academic year and to seek an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the work that will be completed over the coming months. The Most Reverend Liam Cary, Bishop of the Diocese of Baker, served as the main celebrant and also delivered the homily. Monsignor Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of the seminary, delivered opening remarks, and various priests from the abbey and seminary communities concelebrated. Phillip Shifflet, a seminarian for the Diocese of Orange in California, and Ethan Alano, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, served as cantors.
|Bishop Cary during Mass with priests from the abbey and seminary|
In his homily, Bishop Cary encouraged the students to remember that the time they spend in seminary is one of preparation. Each person needs to “prepare for a life in the Spirit” and to cultivate and maintain a “Eucharistic heart.” He exhorted the seminarians to enter into “the silence of the Holy Spirit,” seeking to prepare their “hands, heart, and mind to give to the Spirit of the Lord.” Bishop Cary reminded those gathered to remember the “hope and promise of the Father,” as each person pursues his studies and journeys toward the priesthood.
Following the Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Right Reverend Peter Eberle, O.S.B., Vice-Rector for the Graduate School, Director of Human Formation, and Professor of Moral Theology, delivered the annual Inaugural Address, entitled, “Pastores Dederunt Nobis: Three Novelists, Three Priests, and an Icon.” Recalling the memory of Fr. Paschal Cheline, O.S.B., who would exhort men to read novels, Abbot Peter expressed the importance of novels in the task of human formation, citing that a seminarian or priest who reads novels better “understands the human journey,” a key aspect of pastoral work. Using Edwin O’Connor’s The Edge of Sadness, Jon Hassler’s North of Hope, and J.F. Powers’ Wheat That Springeth Green, Abbot Peter painted a picture of three priests and the difficulties and pitfalls that they encounter in ministry.
|Abbot Peter giving the Inaugural Address|
Detailing the three shepherds and comparing them to the portrait of an ideal priest illustrated through the teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, Abbot Peter demonstrated that the main characters in these works were “hardly heroes … living quite ordinary lives,” but who, nonetheless, could teach us about priestly formation. Through these novels, a seminarian could learn about the importance of “his own need of ongoing formation.” Detailing the redemption of the novels’ priests, Abbot Peter demonstrated “that redemption has to touch [all seminarians’ and priests’] own ordinary lives as well.” He stated, “Ongoing formation can facilitate in the priest’s own life the redemption that the three priests the novelists have given us experienced in theirs.” Abbot Peter closed by reminding everyone of the need for this formation and that in the end, “all is grace.”
Following the Mass of the Holy Spirit and Inaugural Address, the day continued with a presentation to the gathered seminarians by Monsignor Betschart and a barbecue with the monastic community, administration, faculty, and seminarians of Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary.
Mount Angel Seminary offers undergraduate degrees in Philosophy, with possible double majors in Literature or Religious Studies, with the goal of preparing men for graduate formation for the priesthood. At the graduate level, the seminary offers a Master of Divinity degree and Master of Arts degrees in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Theology, and Philosophy, as well as a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology degree offered in concert with the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy. Mount Angel Seminary is the oldest and largest seminary in the West and serves seminarians, religious and lay students from around the United States, Canada, the Pacific Islands, and as far away as Hungary.