Some years ago, Fr. George Aschenbrenner, S.J., coined that phrase to refer to the expectation that, as a man progresses through his seminary formation program, he should increasingly grow in his level of commitment to the priestly vocation. At some point before ordination, he ought to have prayerfully reached a decision where he basically presumes that he will permanently commit to the priestly vocation, and that he will persevere through doubts or struggles as if he were certain that such a permanent priestly identity would be reached. It is impossible to define a sharp milestone for when such a presumption should take root (e.g., one year before ordination), but unless that threshold is crossed, a man can never fully turn himself over to being formed by Christ, as opposed to constantly remaining in a state of weighing one decision or another. The purpose of healthy prayer, sound spiritual direction, and an overall effective formation program is to help a man know when he can make such a presumption in good faith.
At Mundelein, the second semester of the academic year is often a time when the “presumption for permanence” is either reached or else significantly approached. Third-year theologians will be heading off for a 10-week pilgrimage in the Holy Land, returning to Mundelein shortly before their diaconate ordinations. Second-year men will depart to spend the remainder of the year on their parish internships. Fourth-year deacons are counting the months until their priesthood ordinations in the spring or summer. As for the pre-theologians and first theology students, they are moving more deeply into the heart of the intellectual and spiritual pursuits of the Catholic priestly vocation — they are letting go of preconceived notions of priesthood and are beginning to allow the truth of Christ’s Spirit to transform their human spirit.
Through all of these threshold experiences, each man in his own way is challenged to grow in self-knowledge and in his desire for holiness. Such knowledge and desire can only truly grow through the gift of God’s grace, but that grace is often received and cooperated with through a seminarian’s interaction with the people, experiences, and ideas he encounters. Our men will deepen their presumption for permanence in myriad places and ways: at the border between Israel and Palestine; at the parish Reconciliation service during Lent; in the quiet of their study carrels with Aquinas and Ambrose; amidst the joys and struggles of their seminary field education sites; and through the prayers and conversations they are privileged to exchange with you.
Together with you in Christ, we are Mundelein. We form parish priests.