“It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:26)
What was so special about Antioch? Why there? While there are many possible answers to that question, it seems clear that Antioch was a place where the identity of the followers of Jesus was beginning to take root in a particularly tangible way. That identity was forming through the relationship between the missionary disciples, Paul and Barnabas, and the people of the community whom they were serving and evangelizing.
The same dynamic which was in evidence in Antioch 2000 years ago remains vibrant in our Church today. Last week, the seminary was privileged to host our annual “Celebration of Mundelein” evening of tribute, at which we honor a member of the religious life and a layperson (or persons) in recognition of their life of service in the Church. This year we honored the pastor of St. Clement Parish in Chicago and one of St. Clement’s most engaged parishioner couples. Together, they represent a parish that embodies its own “Antiochian” Catholic Christian identity.
But what we also celebrated at last week’s gala was the wonderful relationship that has existed between St. Clement and Mundelein Seminary for almost a century. Nearly all of the St. Clement priests are alumni of Mundelein and the parish has a long history of hosting seminarian interns. St. Clement parishioners have served on the seminary Board of Advisors and have supported our mission in countless other ways through their prayers and generosity.
Priests and parishioners, beyond what they bring during their shared time together in a given parish, also bear the fruit of everything they have received from their prior assignments or their previous parish memberships. In this way, too, a diocesan seminary becomes the conduit by which all the parishes of a diocese are interwoven and connected through their shared legacy of ministry and personal life stories.
This dynamic process is manifested in every one of the 40 dioceses that send their men to Mundelein to be formed in the priesthood. Each one has its own “St. Clement parish” with priests and parishioners who are indebted to each other as they help each other surrender to the guiding power of the Holy Spirit. I remain committed to further establishing Mundelein Seminary at the heart of the dioceses we serve: intimately engaged with the myriad and multi-faceted parishes that they comprise. Last week, we were able to formally celebrate three very important people who have significantly helped to make such engagement possible in the Archdiocese of Chicago. My prayer is that we might celebrate every day the countless women and men who are called to keep that engagement alive and well in the universal Church.
In reflecting upon the integral roles adopted by parish and seminary as they seek to form new “Antiochs” within neighborhoods and across towns and cities, the current pastor of St. Clement, Fr. Ken Simpson, said it well: “The priesthood is about being a lifelong learner. The seminary prepares us and the parish forms us.”
Together with you in Christ, we are Mundelein. We form parish priests.
Read more news from Mundelein Seminary here.