.- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told a gathering of seminary teachers and staff that they must study the American culture in order to form priests who can better serve the Church.
“We need to understand our culture — in order to convert it,” the archbishop said June 10 at a conference for seminary formators that was jointly sponsored by Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and Saint John Vianney Center.
Archbishop Gomez said in his address that seminary staff, faculty, and formation personnel should ensure that the formation they provide is not only multicultural, but counter-cultural, so that the future priests will be able to “counteract our American culture.”
He pointed the seminary leaders toward the examples given by some of the first missionaries in America, who were “serious students of the indigenous cultures.”
Archbishop Gomez noted that those early missionaries “studied these cultures in order to transform them,” and he urged the seminary teachers to form men who can “sanctify our culture with the values and vision of the Gospel.”
The Church's mission, he recalled, has always been “to make disciples of all nations.”
“That means transforming every culture so that those cultures serve the human person in his search for the living God and for salvation,” he said.
The Los Angeles archbishop also dedicated part of his talk to commenting on priestly formation in a multicultural context, questions of cultural integration and the use of psychology in seminaries.
He said that while it is essential to challenge the culture, especially one that is “highly sexualized and materialistic,” those who form American seminarians must teach them to “be sensitive to cultural differences.”
Many traditional “assumptions about spirituality and prayer” have been formed from a European context, but, Archbishop Gomez noted, the “seeds of the Gospel have been sown in every culture.”
“The challenge for us is to learn together from all of our Catholics traditions” in order to form more well-rounded priests who can, in turn, serve a more diverse population, he said.
In order to reach a broader group, those who prepare future priests should be open to taking “advantage of this rich variety” among Catholics in the United States.
The best way for a priest to transform the culture, the archbishop said, is to live in a way that attests “to the reality of Jesus Christ and to the power of his Gospel to change lives and save souls.”
“The world will be converted — not by words and programs — but by witnesses.”