Every day I ask myself, “what kind of priest will be needed in twenty-five years?” It is extraordinary to even imagine. First and foremost, he should have a steady prayer life and a deepening relationship with God. He should be humble, flexible, smart, generous, passionate and faithful.
It is a humbling responsibility for me as rector of this seminary to ensure that the priests that are ordained from Mundelein have everything that they need to lead parishes and work hand-in-hand with the parishioners for its success. In talking with so many parishioners, it is also clear that a priest should be a strong leader. Past generations of priests were often able to serve for many years before becoming pastors. They had time to observe how budgets are developed, how to raise money to make repairs to church buildings, or how to collaborate effectively with a parish staff and volunteers.
Now, a newly-ordained priest might serve less than two years before becoming a pastor! How can our seminarians learn to lead a parish with such a quick rise of responsibility after they leave Mundelein?
To help answer that question, this year we developed “The School of the Good Shepherd,” a five-week intensive parish leadership program from late January through early March that equips these men with some of the skills necessary to understand budgets, facilities, human resources and partnership with the laity – all critical to their future work as pastors. Their primary formation at Mundelein develops within them a spiritual life that deepens their relationship to Christ. This new program will give them practical tools for future management of God’s assets in our parishes.
Following the first “School of the Good Shepherd,” dozens of seminarians began a ten-week internship in individual parishes in their home dioceses. This gives them an opportunity to test some of the lessons they learned in class out in the “real world.”
The seminarians at Mundelein are integral to our Church’s future. As the largest Catholic seminary in America, it is important that I do my best to make sure that they succeed. We will all need them for spiritual guidance, for the Sacraments, for leading us to a deeper relationship with Christ. But they also must be good stewards of the resources of each local church, just like the disciples who went out after Christ had risen, to spread his message to the ends of the earth.