What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: January 17, 2008
As every parent knows, a visit to a youngster’s school holds the possibility of making three separate constituencies nervous. First, the staff and faculty may be anxious because having been entrusted with the education and formation of a child, they want to make certain that their best efforts are appreciated and affirmed.
Second, the students are undoubtedly worried because they know that they themselves are the focus of this exchange and their behavior and progress will be noted!
Finally, the parents themselves may also be a bit tense because they never know what to expect or what their youngsters may have revealed about them or life at home.
I always feel very much like a parent when I visit the seminaries where our students are enrolled. I was particularly aware of being the father of our seminarians when I visited the North American College last weekend in Rome, Italy, where we have four seminarians in training for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. As an alumnus of this fine institution, I have visited there many times over the years and I always enjoy my time at the college. I was there to deliver the Father Carl J. Peter lecture honoring the late Omaha priest and professor from Catholic University of America, and I celebrated the Ministry of Reader for about 50 seminarians, including our own Josh Allen. But even more importantly, I was there as “the father” of those four young men, and one never knows what he might hear on such a visit.
What I heard was encouraging not only for me, but for all of us. Our seminarians are doing a fine job and seem to be very happy and well adjusted at the North American College. The topic of my lecture was “Catholic Preaching in the Multicultural Context of the United States of America.” The Archdiocese of Atlanta provides a fertile testing field for that theme. We are a microcosm of all the challenges that priests, deacons and bishops currently face in announcing God’s Word as preachers to a wonderfully diverse community.
The seminary at the North American College, like seminaries everywhere in America, is filled with students who themselves reflect the cosmopolitan nature of our nation. I trust that my thoughts provided them with encouragement and challenge as they prepare to come back to these United States as deacons and priests who welcome the invitation of being inspiring preachers to God’s People, who represent many different cultures, races and backgrounds.
During the course of the Eucharist in which I instituted those nearly 50 men as lectors, I prayed that each one of them—especially Josh—would be filled with a zeal for the Word of God and realize how the people of God long for His Word and who seek to understand and love the Scriptures more profoundly in their lives.
If anything, the demands upon the clergy today are greater than ever before as people everywhere have taken a greater interest in the Bible and in knowing it more completely as a source of holiness and faith.
As far as our own students are concerned, they enjoy the respect of the faculty and the affection of their peers. They are very proud of their Atlanta heritage and look forward to returning to the Archdiocese to be our servant ministers. As far as I could tell, they have not revealed any family secrets or left any reason for their Archbishop to feel anything but proud—as he clearly did.