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Posted June 29, 2004

Article: Three Challenges for Seminary and Ongoing Formation
Author: Father Paul Ritt
Origins June 17, 2004, Vol. 34: No.5  

Three challenges confronting priesthood today and their implications for seminary and ongoing formation were discussed in an April 15 address in Boston by Father Paul Ritt to the convocation of the National Catholic Education Association Seminary Department. Ritt teaches systematic theology at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., and is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Chelmsford, Mass. Challenges posed by culture itself, by the culture of additions and by the use and misuse of authority were Ritt’s topics.  

“In large measure our culture today is indifferent at best and hostile at worst t the prospect of its citizens, its men, choosing a vocation to the ministerial priesthood. One result is that seminarians need to learn more in depth about our culture; its values, its principles, its preferences, its trends, especially its heart.  Seminarians need to learn theology with a view to communicating the faith effectively to people who live in the world of the 21st century.  

Speaking of the culture of additions, Ritt said that almost endless forms of additions exist these days: to alcohol and other drugs, sex, the Internet, work, the denial of the truth. “Our seminarians and priests need information and personal assistance in identifying addictive behaviors in themselves and in others, and in responding honestly and steadfastly to those addictions. Seminary formation should promote a rigorous and loving look at the precious but fragile gift of human sexuality.”  

Also, he said, “one particular addiction that seems to be all too common in the priesthood isthe addiction to work.”  

Finally, Ritt said, that there is a challenge “in the area of authority, how to receive it and how to exercise it.” In his estimation, “we presbyters have some distance to travel before we arrive at a fully adult, spiritually mature place of receiving and giving authority in a healthy, holy manner.  

Excerpts from Talk:

“Our seminarians need to develop the professionalism that is appropriate for the priesthood: how to lead people, how to work with groups and deal with conflict, how to promote the mission of the church, how to recruit and form volunteers, how to reach out to those on the margins an those who are alienated, how to use the media to the church’s advantage by proclaiming Christ and explaining his teaching.”  

“We are as prone as anyone else to micromanaging or a leadership style that is too detached or out of touch with reality.”