A Closer Look: An Appeal for the Men of the Mount
Your students give me great hope for the future of the Church within our archdiocese,” a friend recently texted me, referring to the seminarians I teach at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. She said this in the context of a recent public liturgy that had no official affiliation with the seminary, but which was dutifully attended and reverently served by a large number of my past and present students.
My friend is right to be hopeful. The men in formation at Mount St. Mary’s are prayerful, intelligent and faithful to the Gospel. They are a credit both to the seminary and to those of you in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who support them through the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal. They and the seminary are worthy of, and grateful for, your generosity. And, on their behalf, I encourage you to give generously so that this most vital ministry can continue and thrive.
This is a difficult time to be a seminarian. These men are pursuing their vocations in the footsteps of predecessors who have betrayed their own vows and have brought scandal upon the Church and the priesthood. While it is certainly not fair to these men, they are faced with the task of trying to repair the harm that has been done. They are preparing for a life that will be difficult even on the good days, a career in which they will encounter skepticism within the Church and hostility without.
But my experience with “The Men of the Mount” gives me confidence that they are prepared for the challenge and up to the task. While committed to a deep understanding of Church doctrine, they also understand that sound doctrine must always be accompanied by pastoral sensitivity and an empathetic spirit. And their daily lives are bathed in scripture, liturgy and prayer, giving them the grace and strength to face the task ahead.
A Worthy Institution
And Mount St. Mary’s Seminary is the right place for them. A recent study by Anne Hendershott, a professor of sociology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, has reached some important conclusions about seminary formation in the U.S. She found that the most vibrant seminaries and most fruitful dioceses are those whose respective faculties and bishops are most strongly identified with fidelity to the teachings of the Church.
Hendershott identified four factors that account for high numbers of ordinations in a diocese; a “transformational” bishop; a culture of promoting vocations in the diocese, a seminary where orthodoxy is assumed; and a strong seminary rector who recruits and supports faculty who are faithful to the Church’s teaching and mission. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary provide a prototypical example of these four factors. Each Sunday during Mass, we conclude the petitions with a prayer for vocations, written by Archbishop Schnurr, who has made vocations central to his tenure. And when these prayers are answered, the men who heed the call come to an institution firmly committed to prayer and sound teaching.
A Worthy Ministry
The numbers tell the story. In May 2019, Archbishop Schnurr ordained nine men to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the largest class of new priests in 40 years. And five more men were ordained in other dioceses whose bishops recognize the quality of the education and formation at Mount St. Mary’s. Currently, approximately 60 men from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are in formation at the seminary and approximately 30 more from other dioceses or religious orders are also in formation. And the numbers and forecasts continue to trend upwards, leading the seminary to open a new building last fall to house seminarians, and host various functions in service of the archdiocese.
Of course, more archdiocesan seminarians means more need for financial support of both the men and the seminary. And a significant amount of that support comes through the Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA). “Seminary and Vocations” is one of the six main areas for which the CMA provides funding, and accounts for 27 percent of the funds raised. This money is used principally to support the seminary by paying tuition, room, board and books for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati seminarians. But CMA funds also support tuition and student loan assistance for college seminarians as they prepare for theological study. And a portion of the funds support the vocations and diaconate offices, which are vital in recruiting and community outreach.
Each Sunday, we pray together that God will “stir among our men a desire and the strength to be good and holy priests.” God is answering that prayer. So, my hope is that we will take it seriously enough to “put our money where our prayer is” and support these men studying to be good and holy priests, through a generous donation to the 2020 Catholic Ministries Appeal.