November 13, 2020

Archdiocesan seminarians become candidates for holy orders

Archdiocesan seminarians pose in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad after becoming candidates for holy orders. They are, from left in the front row, Jack Wright, Jose Neri, Samuel Rosko, Matthew Perronie and Liam Hosty; in the back row, from left, Bobby Vogel, Nicholas Rivelli, Anthony Armbruster, Michael Clawson and Tyler Huber. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Archdiocesan seminarians pose in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad after becoming candidates for holy orders. They are, from left in the front row, Jack Wright, Jose Neri, Samuel Rosko, Matthew Perronie and Liam Hosty; in the back row, from left, Bobby Vogel, Nicholas Rivelli, Anthony Armbruster, Michael Clawson and Tyler Huber. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By Sean Gallagher

The voices of 48 seminarians from across the country, including 10 from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and from South Korea, Tanzania and Vietnam rang out strongly in committing to their continued priestly formation on Nov. 5 at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

All wearing clerical attire, they took part in the Rite for Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders in the seminary’s St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel.

They were responding to two questions put to them in the rite by Benedictine Father Denis Robinson, Saint Meinrad’s president-rector.

“In response to the Lord’s call, do you resolve to complete your preparation so that, in due time, through holy orders, you will be prepared to assume ministry within the Church?”

“I do,” the seminarians said.

“Do you resolve to prepare yourselves in mind and in spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord and his body, the Church?”

“I do,” they responded.

“The Church accepts your resolve with joy. May God, who has begun this good work in you, bring it to fulfilment.”

“Amen.”

In the past, only a handful of seminarians at Saint Meinrad who were just months away from being ordained transitional deacons would participate in the rite.

Beginning this academic year, the seminary had all seminarians in the first three years of theological formation take part.

It was a powerful experience for seminarian Nicholas Rivelli, who is in his first year of theological formation at Saint Meinrad after graduating from Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis, in the spring.

“I felt believed-in at that moment,” said Rivelli, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. “It was a powerful feeling. It struck me that it didn’t matter so much how confident I felt in myself at that moment, because the true purpose of the ceremony was to allow the Church to officially voice her confidence in us.”

Joining 47 other seminarians in declaring his resolve to be formed for priestly ministry was impressive to seminarian Matthew Perronie, in his third year of theological formation and who is scheduled to be ordained a transitional deacon next spring.

“Hearing everyone’s response in unison helped me to recognize in a deeper way that I am not alone in taking this next step,” said Perronie, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg.

The change in practice at Saint Meinrad matches what most seminaries have been doing for several years. It was also motivated by the principles for priestly formation set forth in “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” a document issued in 2016 by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.

Starting next year, seminarians in the first year of theological formation will take part in the rite.

Father Denis said that the change in practice “intensifies the need to solidify a priestly identity, to look at it and kind of focus on it as one moves through theology.”

Father Eric Augenstein, archdiocesan director of seminarians, sees value in having men in priestly formation become candidates for holy orders earlier in their time in seminary.

“A lot of it is recognizing in various ways the different stages of formation,” he said. “The way we do formation for someone who is in the first couple of years is going to be different than the final years of formation. We’ve always done it, but this formalizes it a little more.”

This intensified focus on priestly identity in seminarians at Saint Meinrad is now evident in their wearing clerical attire—a black Roman-collared shirt, black pants and black shoes—in all public events at the seminary.

In the archdiocese, seminarians who are candidates for holy orders will have the option of wearing clerical attire when assisting in liturgies and taking part in pastoral ministry in parishes.

Father Augenstein said that this change in practice gives an “outward indication” of seminarians “taking on more of the roles that they can take on without ordination in preparing for the priesthood.”

He noted that seminarians wearing clerical attire might at first surprise some Catholics in central and southern Indiana, leading them to think that the man wearing them is a priest.

“Because of that, it requires our seminarians to be prepared pastorally to answer questions when someone says, ‘Can you hear my confession?’ ” Father Augenstein said. “It will put a little bit more onto the seminarians to be prepared for those conversations that may not have otherwise happened. That’s part of their ongoing formation.”

While Perronie said he was excited to begin wearing clerics, he recognized that “the clothing doesn’t make the seminarian.”

“We put these things on,” said Perronie, “but it shouldn’t just be an external reality. So, for me, the excitement of buying the clerics overshadowed the aspect of internalizing it.”

At the beginning of the rite, the names of each seminarian taking part were called out. The seminarian then stood up and said, “Present.”

For Perronie, who was wearing a Roman collar for the first time, hearing the list of seminarians’ names called out brought to his mind the list of the names of people in central and southern Indiana he’ll serve if he is ordained a priest.

“I’m not declaring candidacy for myself, and I’m not wearing this collar for myself,” Perronie said. “I am doing these things for the people of God that I will be called to minister to. The image I kept coming back to was how the names of the people that I will minister to were figuratively written on the collar that I was wearing.”
 

(For more information on a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.HearGodsCall.com.)

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