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Laity to review seminarian applicants

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For years, the Diocese of Arlington has had criteria to screen those hoping to be priests. Applicants submit seven letters of recommendation, an autobiography and personal essays. The men go through a medical physical exam, a psychological assessment and a background check. They show their sacramental records, education and employment history. They meet with the vocations director and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.  

Now, men applying to seminary additionally will be reviewed by the Seminarian Admission Advisory Committee — a group of five to seven Catholics who will evaluate the candidates’ suitability for the priesthood. Members are appointed by Bishop Burbidge, typically will serve for three years and will meet at least twice a year, according to the bylaws which came into effect Oct. 11. Bishop Burbidge relied upon a similar committee while leading the Diocese of Raleigh. 

“Having been the Rector of a seminary as well as guiding men to the priesthood since being ordained a bishop, I know the high standards the Church rightfully requires for applicants to seminary formation. I am also aware of the need to have a wide variety of input and perspective on the men discerning priestly formation,” said Bishop Burbidge.

“As such, the Seminary Admissions Advisory Committee will play a fundamental role in assisting me throughout the application process for all of our candidates. I am grateful to the priests, consecrated religious, and lay men and women who have agreed to serve on the committee, for their willingness to share their expertise, counsel and guidance,” he said. “Their work will ensure that this diocese continues to accept men to priestly formation who are spiritually, intellectually, psychologically and emotionally prepared.”

The inaugural committee members include Msgr. John C. Cregan, retired pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria; Daughter of St. Paul Emily Beata Marsh, who serves as her order’s national director of vocations; Chris and Carol Nyce, parents of Deacon William Nyce and parishioners of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly; Father Anthony J. Pinizzotto, parochial vicar of St. Luke Church in McLean and a former forensic psychologist; Daniel Vander Woude, athletic director of Seton School in Manassas; and Jennifer Bigelow, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.

Father Michael C. Isenberg, director of the Office of Vocations, welcomes the creation of the committee. “I think it’s a great idea. As priests, Bishop and I both have a certain perspective,” he said. “This committee is helpful because it gives a different perspective, just to have that additional assurance that this is a good candidate.”

Carol Nyce is grateful Bishop Burbidge is inviting people in the pews such as herself to be part of the seminary application process. “Ultimately it's his decision, but he recognizes the benefits of having different points of view,” she said. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018