New Summer Internship Program for Diocesan Seminarians

The pastoral training of future diocesan priests extends beyond the classroom. A new summer internship program for diocesan seminarians was initiated June 28 to help provide future priests with the knowledge and basic pastoral experience they will need when ministering to Catholics after ordination. Nineteen parishes are participating this year. Previously, diocesan seminarians were given parish assignments following their acolyte and diaconate years. The new program will begin parish assignments for all men after their first year of pre-theology. "These young men will have real experiential knowledge of what it means to be a priest in this diocese," said Father Curtis Clark, diocesan vocations director. The seminarians need structure that has an apostolic component, he said. The internship program joins "practical wisdom to classroom experience." The summer internship program — which was outlined at a June 28 workshop for seminarians and pastors at St. Luke Church in McLean — includes a Spanish language component for four seminarians (see accompanying story). Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Father Clark, and representatives from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pa., gave brief presentations. "Pastors are experts in their field," Father Clark said. "Our greatest hope is that our young men coming up can learn from you." "I’m glad that more dioceses are doing this at the local level," said Father Salvatore R. Lamendola, director of pastoral field education at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. "It is critical that pastors make a faith-filled evaluation of the men," he said. The goal of field education programs is to provide a supervised experience for six to eight weeks in the summer, Father Lamendola said. "Trust is the first component. The seminarian must trust the pastor." He encouraged pastors to schedule regular meetings with their seminarians. "Every week would be ideal, but at least every two weeks," he said. "Time together without interruption is very important." Father Lamendola suggested that the best method of supervision for pastors is that of coach. A coach is someone who knows how the game is played and looks out for the best interest of his players and the good of the team, he said. Father Joseph P. Gentili, director of pastoral and apostolic formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, said summer programs help seminarians grow comfortable with their priestly identity. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will expand its program next year to include men after first theology, he said. The internship program for seminarians in pre-theology and theology mirrors a national trend in priestly formation based on Pope John Paul II’s 1992 apostolic exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" ("I Will Give You Shepherds"). Father Gentili called the papal document "the Magna Carta of priestly formation." "The summer internship is integral and important," said Bishop Loverde. "It provides the opportunity to evaluate the four areas of a seminarian’s formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral." The bishop said pastors can prepare themselves for this program by asking themselves some questions. How does the seminarian relate to other priests? How does he relate to the staff, to the people in the parish? Although recognizing that only Jesus Christ is perfect, the bishop said he’s looking for candidates with a balanced, mature priestly life. "It is key that pastors are open and honest at the outset," he said. "It is better to be honest at the beginning. "Diocesan priests have to be ready to deal with parish life and ministry. That’s the nuts and bolts of diocesan priests," the bishop said. He said the points he stressed at his installation — evangelization, reconciliation, unity and service — are still the four foundational elements of priestly ministry. The bishop emphasized the need for "balance and integration" among all priests. "We need to welcome the participation of the laity in our parishes," he added. "Clericalism can rear its head again. "It’s a privilege to be a priest, but we should not seek out privilege because of it. What marks us as priests is the humble, self-giving service to God’s people. "My hope for this internship program is honest collaboration and ongoing positive growth," Bishop Loverde said.

Copyright ?2001 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001