By Deacon Michael Kelly (Diocese of Yakima)
This year of 2020 has brought changes to many organizational teams, and Mundelein Seminary is one of them. The selection of Father Brian Welter to be the new executive director of the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF) in Omaha, Nebraska, precipitated new faces in the formation and administrative leadership at the seminary. Welter, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, had been serving as vice rector and dean of formation at Mundelein. His tireless work brought many positive changes to the seminary, from launching the Tolton Teaching Parish Program to overseeing the creation of a new brick barbecue patio for campus.
In the wake of Welter’s new position, rector Father John Kartje has appointed Father Edward Pelrine as vice rector and Father Maina Waithaka as dean of formation. Both men are priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Pelrine has been at Mundelein for 5 years, serving both as a spiritual director and the director of spiritual life.
“The vice rector helps the rector with a number of top-level administrative decisions,” he said. “In addition, he helps maintain and build relationships with dioceses and vocation directors. In a way, the vice rector is the face of the seminary alongside the rector.”
Having been pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, for seven years before coming to the seminary, Pelrine is good with people and with administration. He teaches the seminary’s “parish administration” class.
“I plan to travel to visit bishops and vocation directors,” Pelrine said. “Due to time constraints, it is not always easy for Father Kartje to travel. Nurturing those relationships is really important to us.”
Originally from Kenya, Father Waithaka began his work at the seminary last year as director of the Tolton Teaching Parish Program, and now he assumes the role of dean of formation.
“The dean of formation oversees the entire formation program and deals with all facets of student affairs. In addition, I meet with bishops and vocation directors about their seminarians and we discuss both the life of the seminary and the readiness of their candidates for priesthood. That is the bulk of my work,” Waithaka said.
Though that may be the bulk of his work, the bulk of his play is crushing seminarians at soccer. Any spectator can tell that he is quite a force to be reckoned with.
“I hope to work with the seminarians, focusing with them on why they are here, who they are, and God’s will for their lives,” he said. “Before God can call us, we have to know who we are.”
Joining Maina this year as assistant dean of formation is Deacon Pat Quagliana. Coming to Mundelein in 2017 from the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, Quagliana has served as both a formation advisor and cam director. In his new role, he will be able to help facilitate a deeper spirit of accompaniment of the formation leadership among the seminarians.
“By my assuming some of the administrative duties from Father Maina’s office, we all can have more fruitful interactions with the seminarians,” Quagliana said. “No one person has to be locked up with all of the meetings and office work.”
With his classic New Jersey accent, no-nonsense attitude and mischievous grin that lets the seminarians know when he’s working on something good, Quagliana brings experience and perspective to the formation team.
“This community fosters priestly formation. The outcome of living, studying and praying together produces holy, happy, integrated priests.”
“I hope to foster our life together here in community as brothers,” he said. “This community fosters priestly formation. The outcome of living, studying and praying together produces holy, happy, integrated priests.”
Reflecting on the multiple hats that Welter wore around the seminary, Pelrine characterized Welter as “a very hardworking and serious priest.”
“He had a sense of striving to be excellent, arete in Greek, and he sought to bring out that excellence from the seminarians,” Pelrine said. “But it was a lot for one person to do. Father Welter did a really good job with all of it, but there was a lot on his plate.”
Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the collaboration of Fathers Pelrine, Waithaka, and Deacon Quagliana will help guide Mundelein in the formation of coming generations of holy and joyful parish priests.
This article originally ran in the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 issue of the seminarian-produced BRIDGE magazine. The full magazine can be viewed here.