For four years, Father McBrearity has welcomed new seminarians to TC at the opening Liturgy in August. Above, he greets first theologian John Kist from Philadelphia.
A LETTER FROM THE RECTOR
Opening a New Chapter
After much prayerful consideration and with the support of the American Province of the Sulpicians, I will be retiring from the ministry of rector of Theological College and will be opening a new chapter of my life as a priest and Sulpician. As I approach this moment of transition, I am reminded of what one spiritual writer wrote: “A blessing is a visible, perceptible, and effective presence of God. A blessing demands to be passed on — it communicates itself to other people. To be blessed is to be oneself a blessing.”
During my many years of service at Theological College, whether in the role of a formation advisor, spiritual director, vice-rector, or rector, I have been blessed. I have been blessed with talented and deeply committed faculty colleagues, with a devoted and dedicated staff, and, above all, with generations of intellectually gifted, articulate, creative, funny, deeply caring, prayerful, and honest priesthood candidates who, year after year, have been a blessing calling forth from me a heightened awareness of God’s gracious and abiding presence in my life.
Albert Schweitzer wrote,“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner flame.” Almost every day my inner flame has been rekindled by the seminarians under my care and for this I am profoundly grateful.
In her poem “When Did It Happen?” the poet, Mary Oliver, wrote:
When did it happen?
It was a long time ago.
Where did it happen?
It was far away.
No tell. Where did it happen?
In my heart.
What is your heart doing now?Remembering. Remembering!
As I write this reflection, I am remembering multiple honest and blunt conversations with seminarians who were totally transparent as they discerned their vocation. I am remembering those seminarians who, in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis, renewed their commitment to be priests who would evidence the emotional and psychosexual maturity needed to make an informed commitment to a life of celibate chastity. I am remembering the courage of so many seminarians who acknowledged that they would be ordained priests in dioceses undergoing profound institutional changes and challenges. I am remembering those seminarians who grew not only in self-awareness but in multicultural sensitivity. I am remembering those seminarians who have led the seminary community in serving the poor whether in remote Honduras or Guatemala; in Appalachia or in the District of Columbia. I am remembering generations of seminarians who showed the maturity and capacity for dialogue needed to engage classmates from across the country and from very different vocation narratives, enabling Theological College to be a diverse but united seminary community. As a seminarian at Theological College, a priest in residence at Theological College during doctoral studies, and during my 17 years as a formator, vice-rector, and rector, generations of seminarians have supported and energized my vocation as a Sulpician and have been, time and time again, an inspiration and source of joy.
Years ago, I was sent this quotation from the writings of St. Edith Stein, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: “I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to its smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of divine providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God’s all-seeing eyes.” As I remember so many people and events at this time of transition, my trust in the providence of God has deepened, a God who saw to it that so much of my life as a priest and Sulpician took place in this beloved seminary.
In the spring of 2018, a seminarian completed a year at Theological College as a pre-theologian and was then assigned to another seminary for theological studies. During that summer of transition, he sent me the following poem:
No Other Way
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
From our first hello to our most recent,
I would not change a thing.
And the challenges, all the laughs,
All the joys and sorrows, the worries
And the doubts, all were gifts from His
Since love is that which endures,
I am most confident in and happy for the
Sacred friendships that He has ordained—
Ordained from all eternity just for you and for me.
A time for prayer, sharing a laugh,
Sacred silence, and Holy Mass?
An image of our lives and a foretaste of everlasting life
In communion with God and neighbor?
I would have this last encounter no other way.
This seminarian captures in his poem my heartfelt belief that “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Reverend Gerald McBrearity, P.S.S. (’73)