.- The number of seminarians in Australia has sharply increased in recent years and Church officials are attributing it to effective leadership, challenging spiritual and academic formation and a focus on shaping “good and holy priests,” says an article by Michael Gilchrist in the June issue of AD2000.
The Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney, for example, has 44 seminarians, more than double the number of five years ago. Thirty of these men are in formation for the Archdiocese of Sydney. There are also 18 students at the recently established Redemptoris Mater Seminary run by the Neocatechumenate, a movement in the Church founded in 1968.
The St Charles Seminary in Perth has 20 students this year. Eight new priests were ordained for the archdiocese in December. Numbers have also increased in Melbourne, where there are now 35 seminarians at Corpus Christi. Even the small Diocese of Wagga Wagga has 12 men studying for the priesthood.
Gilchrist attributes the increase in Sydney and Melbourne, in part, to Cardinal George Pell, who had served in Melbourne and continues to serve Sydney. A similar increase occurred in Melbourne a few years ago after the cardinal implemented reforms at the seminary.
Gilchrist also attributes the increase to a successful vocations program, which has two seminarians visiting a parish each weekend and giving testimony at the end of mass. A Vocations Retreat Weekend is held for those who are considering the priesthood.
Community prayer life is an important component of the seminary. In Sydney, the seminary has a daily Rule of Life. The men pray the Divine Office together in the chapel for morning, evening and night prayers, along with daily mass. A half hour of meditation is scheduled after morning prayer.
Three-quarters of an hour of Eucharistic Adoration takes place every night and an hour of Eucharistic Adoration each Sunday afternoon. Silence is required after 10:30 p.m. until after morning Mass the next day and all conversations, phone calls, and TV watching have to stop by 10:30pm.
An annual retreat is held for the whole seminary community and days of reflection are set aside during. Seminarians are expected to make a regular confession.
Academic formation is designed to nurture and inspire the personal faith of the seminarian and to presents “unambiguously the truth of the Catholic Church captured in the Scriptures and the Tradition.”
It focuses on the formation of a Catholic mind, a heightened moral conscience and a deep knowledge of the Word of God as “living word.”
But the overall goal is “to produce good and holy priests.”