One of the four pillars of priestly formation is Pastoral Formation. In keeping with Sulpician ideals, especially “a commitment to ministerial priesthood and the cultivation of an apostolic spirit,” seminarians at every level of formation are assigned to pastoral ministry at one of 26 parishes, 3 university campus ministry programs, 19 local apostolates caring for the poor and those on the margins, and 5 hospital chaplaincy programs. The annual Pastoral Supervisors’ Appreciation Dinner event celebrates those people who mentor our seminarians in their various ministries—in every ambit from “children’s Liturgy” and teen club to soup kitchens and homeless shelters.These supervisors are, in the words of the rector, Fr. Phillip J. Brown, S.S., “the very best supervisors in the very best placements,” well-researched by the formation faculty before seminarians are placed in their care.
As they are assisting in deepening the pastoral formation of our men, it is fitting that the evening in the supervisors’ honor began with Vespers and the well-chosen hymn, “Lord You Give the Great Commission.” Deacon Edward McCormack, Assistant Director of the Pastoral Placement Formation Programand a seasoned and generous mentor, delivered a homily—at once lighthearted and deeply enlightening—that clarified their own unique call. As St. Paul described it, “We are about the work of God.”
The Deacon likened this work to that of gardeners in a greenhouse: “We need to help them survive and bear fruit outside the hothouse. The end game for our men is fulltime ministry in a parish of their own.” With this goal in mind, he went on to emphasize that it does not matter what your title is—supervisor, pastor, or formator. What matters is Christ: He is the real Formator and “our job is to stay out of His way!” (This met with much affirming laughter…) During the gourmet dinner that followed Vespers and this edifying homily, Fr. Brown echoed this point of “God shining through” these ministers, and he praised the guidance the seminarians receive in their placements as being the key element in “making the link between seeing and learning for themselves.” Fr. Martin J. Burnham, S.S., Director of Pastoral Formation, concluded the congenial and lively dinner with words of gratitude for those who assist him in TC’s pastoral formation program, Kathi Kramer and Deacon McCormack, as they help to realize Pope Francis’ words in America magazine: “Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’” one that is practiced. Fr. Burnham said to the supervisors in his final salute, ”You provide us with the rubber hitting the road.”