Above, rector Rev. Gerald McBrearity presiding at the Wednesday Eucharistic Adoration Hour in the Caldwell Hall Chapel, hosted weekly by the Basselin Scholars of Theological College.
A LETTER FROM THE RECTOR
Forming Priests for Today’s Church
In 2005, the author Geraldine Brooks wrote a novel titled March, which eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. This fiction story was about the father character of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, who had enlisted to serve as a chaplain during the Civil War. In the novel, he wrote in a correspondence to his wife, “How often is it that an idea that seems bright bossed and gleaming in its clarity when examined in a church becomes clouded and murk-stained when dragged out in the field of endeavor.” Chaplain March had an idealized vision of serving as a chaplain but, as the first bodies were brought in, a new reality emerged. If he knew when he enlisted what he knew after the first day of battle, would he have enlisted? This is one of the many questions this work raises.
The mission of Theological College is to do everything possible to enable a priesthood candidate to be as informed and realistic as possible about the expectations of ordination to the diocesan priesthood. Furthermore, Theological College seeks to assist each seminarian to remain faithful to his vocation even in the most difficult of circumstances. This is especially important at this moment in the life of our beloved Church. The human, spiritual, pastoral, and intellectual dimensions of formation provide opportunities for seminarians to evidence that they are caring, competent, and contemplative priesthood candidates who are fully prepared to be parish priests in a quickly changing cultural and ecclesial culture.
Saint John Paul II clarified this holy challenge: “The great task before us is to make the Church a home base and school for communion. We need a spirituality of communion. Among other things, that means recognizing others as my own concern by sharing their joy and their sorrow, sensing their wants, embracing their needs, and finally offering a deep and genuine friendship.” This is the central task that each priest must embrace and live out on a daily basis wherever he is assigned to serve, whether it be in urban, suburban, or rural parishes, whether with the wealthy or the poor as well as with people of every race and ethnic background. Pope Francis has written, “Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories, and to build peace and harmony.” Especially at this moment in our nation’s and our Church’s history, how and what a priest communicates can have profound consequences — words can console and invite inclusion or words can offend and invite exclusion. To make the Church a home base and school for communion and to communicate to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and to enrich society are some of the greatest challenges facing a parish priest, requiring courage even amidst conflict and disappointment.
Chaplain March realized, “How often is it that an idea that seems bright bossed and gleaming in its clarity in a church becomes clouded and murk-stained when dragged out in the field of actual endeavor.” For every priest, however, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, remains the source of inspiration and strength. If this is not the case, in the field of actual endeavor he will be unable to remain faithful to his ordination commitment to be, for everyone he meets, the kind of missionary disciple that Jesus was. In the words of Langston Hughes, the mission of Theological College is to prepare a new generation of priests who will each and every day “gather up in the arms of [their] love those who expect no love from above.”
In the arms of your pity
The sick, the depraved,
The desperate, the tired
All the scum
Of our weary city
In the arms
Of your pity,
In the arms of your love—
Those who expect
No love from above.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Reverend Gerald McBrearity, P.S.S. (’73)