June 6, 2014

Fruit of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary seen in June 7 ordination of four graduates

(Related: Watch of video of the 2014 ordination Mass)

Transitional deacons Daniel Bedel, left, David Marcotte, Tim Wyciskalla and Benjamin Syberg pose on March 27 outside the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. All four deacons, scheduled to be ordained priests on June 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, are graduates of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Transitional deacons Daniel Bedel, left, David Marcotte, Tim Wyciskalla and Benjamin Syberg pose on March 27 outside the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. All four deacons, scheduled to be ordained priests on June 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, are graduates of Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Nearly 10 years ago, Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary was founded when there were just two seminarians from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in formation for the priesthood at Marian University in Indianapolis, where the seminary was first located and where its seminarians still take classes.

A decade later, Bishop Bruté has its own campus, a former Carmelite monastery a mile south of Marian. It also finished the 2013-14 academic year with 46 seminarians from 10 dioceses and archdioceses.

And the fruit of the 10 years of priestly formation that has happened at the archdiocesan-sponsored college seminary will be on full display on June 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis when Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin ordains four graduates of Bishop Bruté to the priesthood—transitional deacons Daniel Bedel, David Marcotte, Benjamin Syberg and Timothy Wyciskalla.

Archbishop Emeritus Daniel M. Buechlein, who established Bishop Bruté 10 years ago, keeps up with its progress from afar in his residence at the infirmary of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad.

“It’s hard for me to be objective about it,” said Archbishop Buechlein in an interview with The Criterion. “I’m delighted. It’s really taken off.”

For his part, Archbishop Tobin is grateful for his predecessor’s decision to found Bishop Bruté at a time when college seminaries were closing at a much higher rate than they were being founded.

“This is part of the fruit of the vision of Archbishop Daniel,” Archbishop Tobin said. “I frequently say that I grow more grateful to Archbishop Daniel every day. And I know that I’ll be particularly grateful in ordaining those four men, simply because his vision made it possible for us to begin a very profound process of formation here in Indianapolis and then continuing at Saint Meinrad.”

‘A loving, fatherly heart’

Father Robert Robeson has been Bishop Bruté’s rector from its beginning, and he continues to see the ongoing influence of Archbishop Buechlein on the seminary.

“At the heart of things, with Archbishop Buechlein, you always knew [as a seminarian] that he loved you,” said Father Robeson, who was ordained a priest by Archbishop Buechlein in 2003. “You always knew that he was there to support you and wanted to see you become a priest.

“That’s really the whole mentality of our formation staff here at Bruté. Even though sometimes we have to challenge the guys out of love, they understand that they’re loved. They trust the formation staff because they know we love them.”

That love-driven formation occurs in four spheres as defined by the U.S. bishops’ “Program for Priestly Formation”—intellectual, human, spiritual and pastoral formation.

The first of those spheres takes place at Marian. The other three are overseen by the formation staff at Bishop Bruté.

Father Robeson may be guided by the principles of Archbishop Buechlein in leading the formation process at Bruté. But the seminarians there over the past decade have primarily experienced it through Father Robeson and give him much credit for the success of the seminary.

“I think, more than anything, we knew that Father Bob had our best interest at heart,” said Deacon Bedel. “He did everything with a loving, fatherly heart.”

“The success of Bruté is really because of Father Bob,” said Deacon Wyciskalla. “I think Father Bob’s leadership from the beginning is really why it is where it is right now.”

Better than the ‘good old days’

Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf, pastor of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, is a former member of the formation staff at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and currently sits on Bishop Bruté’s advisory board.

He chuckles when today’s seminarians ask him about “the good old days” when he was going through priestly formation in the 1960s and early 1970s.

“I keep on saying that seminaries now are doing a better job than when I went,” said Msgr. Svarczkopf with a laugh. “I really like what’s going on at Bruté. The direction that Father Bob Robeson gives to the seminarians … is just really excellent.”

Benedictine Father Denis Robinson agrees. As the president-rector of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, he has seen many dioceses send Bruté graduates on to their final four years of priestly formation at the southern Indiana seminary.

“What we’ve found with our Bruté men is that they’re very well prepared,” Father Denis said. “They’re academically prepared. But they’re also personally and socially prepared. They stand out. They become real leaders at Saint Meinrad.”

The groundwork for this leadership is accomplished at Bruté through its focus on human formation, helping recent teenage boys develop into maturing young adults.

“The whole idea is not to try to conform them to a particular ideal of the priesthood,” said Father Robeson. “We’re trying to help guys to become holy in their own skin, through their own gifts and personality. It’s the whole idea that grace builds on nature.

“The best way for these guys to become saints is by becoming the fullness of the person that God created them to be.”

Looking back on his four years at Bishop Bruté on the eve of his priestly ordination, Deacon Bedel has a deep appreciation for this challenging mission that Father Robeson has led over the past decade.

“I really can’t even imagine his job,” said Deacon Bedel. “He’s taking these high school boys, really, as they come into college and trying to train them to be men of God. That’s an incredible task. But I feel that he’s done a great job because he is a caring, fatherly figure that we all look up to.”

Lasting, influential friendships

Although Father Robeson has been a constant at Bishop Bruté as it has changed and grown, he says the fostering of a “deep sense of community” among the seminarians has been an unchanged goal from the start.

Archbishop Tobin sees the friendships that form among the seminarians at Bruté as growing in importance as they move forward into priestly ministry.

“In a Church of communion, where cooperation among the vocations and among the ministers themselves is increasingly more important, I think that the friendships that are begun at Simon Bruté are going to continue to enrich the presbyterate for years to come,” Archbishop Tobin said.

The four transitional deacons to be ordained on June 7 have been in priestly formation together for eight years, the first four of which took place at Bishop Bruté.

“When we started, there were only 12 of us at Bishop Bruté,” Deacon Bedel said. “You got to know guys pretty well. You were with them for everything.”

Deacon Bedel said the friendships that began at the college seminary will be a means to overcome the challenges of priestly ministry in the years to come.

“My relationship with Ben, Dave and Tim is really close,” Deacon Bedel said. “We know each other really well. Whatever lies in our future, we know that we’ll be able to face it together like we have in the past. We’ve already faced some challenges and overcome them. We’ll keep doing it.”

‘God bless this house very much’

Bishop Bruté has an effect on the seminarians enrolled there. But it also helps the Church in central and southern Indiana as a whole by encouraging vocational discernment in more young men, according to Father Eric Augenstein, archdiocesan vocations director.

“[The seminarians] are visible in our parishes, schools and archdiocesan events,” Father Augenstein said. “We’re able to see the seminarians more regularly in the archdiocese.

“That has had an increased role in promoting vocations because the more young people see seminarians and young men who are open to the call of the priesthood around them, often they’re more likely to consider that vocation for themselves.”

This outreach in the broader archdiocese from Bishop Bruté is likely to be strong into the foreseeable future, said Father Robeson.

“We have a good, strong formation program,” he said. “We’re in a good place in regard to the facilities and the resources that we have to help the seminary grow. We’re financially stable in a way that we weren’t a few years ago.”

Archbishop Tobin gives credit for the seminary’s solid financial footing—and its very existence—to a host of Catholics across central and southern Indiana, from religious sisters like the Carmelites and the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg to lay Catholics who support the seminary in various ways, including through their participation in “United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope.”

“This high-quality institution would not be possible without the generous cooperation of a lot of folks,” Archbishop Tobin said. “In celebrating that, we celebrate not just the priests that are coming out, but a generous love among the disciples of Jesus in all sorts of vocations that make it possible.”

When a new dormitory and dining room at Bishop Bruté were dedicated last fall, Archbishop Buechlein was on hand for the occasion, partly because the dining hall was being named after him.

At the time, he had a message for the seminarians, one that could well apply to the seminarians who walk through Bishop Bruté’s doors for years to come.

“Fellows, you have good support. Don’t disappoint. We need you,” Archbishop Buechlein said. “God bless this house very much. He loves you, and I love you, and so do a lot of people. So be grateful tonight.”

(For more information about Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, log on to www.archindy.org/bsb.)

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