Above, Rev. Gerald McBrearity, P.S.S., left, with Very Rev. John Kemper, P.S.S., and His Excellency, The Most Reverend Charles Kasonde, P.S.S.,  Bishop of Solwezi, Africa. The bishop presided over the Institution of Ministries at Theological College on February 4, for 10 lectors and 17 acolytes. 



Why Theological College?


The American poet, Mary Oliver, in her poem, “The Journey,” wrote: “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice.”  At Theological College, new seminarians arrive knowing what they have to do, and they begin, even though the world around them keeps shouting its “bad advice.”  The current generation of priesthood candidates who are discerning their vocations at Theological College are courageous, deeply spiritual, intellectually gifted, and passionate in their desire to incarnate in their lives what is highlighted in the famous statement made by the Jewish writer, Abraham Heschel: “God is hiding in the world:  Our task is to let the divine emerge from our deeds.”  These candidates are committed to letting the divine emerge from their deeds every day and all the time.  I believe that Theological College — in cooperation with the Schools of Theology and Religious Studies, Canon Law, and Philosophy at The Catholic University of America — offers them a unique context in which to become the kind of priests and pastors who are so desperately needed at this time in our Church’s history.

However, as was evident in a recent survey by the Busch School of Business at Catholic University, Theological College is not well known across the United States as the national seminary of Catholic University, a seminary whose mission is to serve the needs of dioceses from across the country.  One might ask, “Why should a diocese consider sending priesthood candidates to TC for their formation for priestly life and ministry?”

First: faithful accompaniment.  As a Sulpician seminary, the mission of TC is to assist each seminarian to fully engage the human and spiritual dimensions of preparation for diocesan priesthood.  This means that seminarians meet with their spiritual directors and formation advisors twice each month.  These relationships and their frequency assist the seminarian to grow in affective and psychosexual maturity, to name his strengths and limitations, to internalize a prayer practice, and to evidence devotion to the Word of God, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the witness of Mary, the first disciple.  Days of recollection and retreats encourage seminarians to integrate adequate periods of silence and solitude into their busy weekly schedules. TC does not accept more than 80 seminarians to ensure the sending dioceses that the seminary’s formation faculty knows each seminarian personally, in order to make informed recommendations for continuation in the seminary and for ordination.

Second: intellectual rigor.  As a university seminary, Theological College collaborates with Catholic University’s Schools of Theology and Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Canon Law. These schools offer each seminarian degree programs that are rigorous and demanding, introducing seminarians to the history of ideas as they cultivate the intellectual gifts and skills needed for effective and inspiring leadership in a parish setting.  There are multiple degrees available:  for Basselin Scholars, the PH. L.; for theologians, the M. Div., the S.T.B. and, more recently, the S.T.L. and J.C.L for those returning after ordination for a fifth year to complete these degrees.  For priests returning for this fifth-year option, TC now offers accommodations in a separate, newly renovated residence.

Third: pastoral immersion.  Theological College has established, over the past 47 years, one of this country’s foremost pastoral formation programs.  Every seminarian, regardless of his formation year, takes on a ministry placement that will impact his discernment to the diocesan priesthood, while developing a range of parish ministry skills.  Pastoral formation includes direct service to the poor, religious education, campus ministry, hospital ministry, parish placements, preaching, and liturgical leadership.  Through these placements, the seminarian becomes realistic and informed about the life and challenges of parish priesthood so that he is not shocked or surprised at what is expected of him after ordination.

Fourth: multicultural awareness.  Theological College is committed to preparing seminarians to cultivate a multicultural sensitivity so needed in dioceses across the country, particularly for Latino populations, which comprise 35% of the Church in America today.  This effort is promoted by our dynamic Hispanic Affairs Committee, twice-monthly celebration of the Eucharist in Spanish, twice-monthly Evening Prayer in Spanish, weekly Night Prayer in Spanish, and peer tutoring in Spanish.  In addition to Spanish, other languages spoken by TC seminarians include French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Vietnamese, and Chinese. The close fraternity of the house allows for the sharing of these cultures and mutual enrichment. For those who are not native English speakers, TC’s diction and language consultant, who has been with TC for 13 years, BettyAnn Leeseberg-Lange, is available for accent adjustment sessions.  The seminary is very aware of its responsibility to prepare future priests who possess skills needed for ministry in parishes with a variety of cultural and language backgrounds.

Fifth: healthy and wholesome community life.  Theological College welcomes seminarians from a wide range of dioceses, with varied challenges and needs, and celebrates a diversity of backgrounds, priorities, family narratives, and previous careers.  TC encourages and guides a community of conversation and dialogue, respect for diverse opinions, fraternity, and mutual understanding.  The house is known for its hospitality, its sense of humor, its civility, and its preparation of future leaders who will be men of communion in a culture that is marked by division and intolerance.

Our promise. Centuries ago, Father Jean Jacques Olier, the founder of the Sulpicians, spoke of the importance of inspiring, in future priests, an “apostolic spirit,” an interior restlessness to serve God’s people, to be sacraments of God’s mercy, compassion, and loving availability.  Put differently, in the words of Pope Francis, “A pastoral presence means walking with the People of God, walking in front of them, showing them the way, showing them the path; walking in their midst, to strengthen them in unity; walking behind them, to make sure no one gets left behind, but especially never to lose the scent of the People of God in order to find new roads.”  At the heart of the mission of Theological College is the cultivation within each seminarian of an “apostolic spirit” so that he will be able to sustain, throughout his priestly ministry, energy, discipline, theological precision, and spiritual wisdom and holiness. This abiding disposition will be experienced as a “pastoral presence,” a sacrament of God’s mercy, compassion, and loving availability.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Reverend Gerald McBrearity, P.S.S. (’73)