BRIGHTON, Mass. – Seminarians from across the Northeast and around the world who study at St. John's Seminary here are getting a taste of what it takes to be a priest in today's world. A very important part of formation at the seminary includes weekly pastoral assignments, where seminarians are assigned to various institutions in the Boston area.
“The great gift of pastoral formation is that very often it is [in] these encounters with others that the other three areas of formation – human, spiritual and intellectual – come together and reveal areas of growth and challenge,” said Father Edward Riley, director of pastoral formation at St. John’s.
The seminarians work in varied settings, including parishes, hospitals, prisons and colleges, and as a result are able to minister to people of many backgrounds.
“It is in these gift-encounters that priestly formation sees both the genesis and culmination of God working in their lives and in the lives of those around them,” said Father Riley.
Over the course of their years in formation, the seminarians experience several different assignments, which results in a broader understanding of to whom and how they will minister as priests, he added.
At St. Patrick's Manor in Framingham, Mass., seminarians take Communion to residents who are unable to attend Mass at the in-house chapel. They also converse with the residents, pray with them, deliver Scripture reflections and, most especially for those in hospice care, are a prayerful presence to residents and their family.
Boston seminarian Joseph Kim ministers at St. Patrick's Manor. “Pastoral ministry is where and when all four pillars of formation are interwoven and applied,” he said. “What we learn in classes, how our personalities attract others, and being fed and growing spiritually allows us to bring Christ and ourselves to others and those in need. Pastoral ministry gives us the grace to enter into communion with Christ by real life practice and experiences.”
Hartford seminarian Josua Wilbur is among a group that visits the sick and suffering at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., ministering there weekly.
“When walking into a hospital room, I have to put myself in the patient’s shoes and try to understand their suffering. Being compassionate and sincere helps to build trust and will often help a patient to open up about their concerns and their spirituality. In that moment, I represent Christ and the church when people are often at their most vulnerable,” he said.
Another group of seminarians ministers at St. Mary's of the Assumption Parish in Dedham, Mass.
“Fifty to sixty teenagers voluntarily come to Mass and Life Nights in order to build a deeper relationship with the Lord,” said Brian Cullen, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston. “St. Mary's Life Teen program has been in existence for 17 years, has produced several vocations and strengthened others like myself who did their pastoral assignment there.”
Besides Mr. Wilbur, eight men are studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Hartford at St. John’s. They are Berny Chinchilla, Glen Dmytryszyn, Francisco Esparza, John Gancarz, Ramon Garcia, David Madejski, John Monaco and Jerwin Penido.
St. John’s Seminary was founded in 1884 and today prepares seminarians for the archdioceses of Boston and Hartford and the dioceses of Springfield, Fall River and Worcester, Mass.; Portland, Maine; Manchester, N.H.; Burlington, Vt.; Providence, R.I.; and Rochester, N.Y.; as well as international dioceses and religious communities.
Established by Archbishop John J. Williams in 1883 as the Boston Ecclesiastical Seminary, the school was chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to grant degrees in philosophy and divinity, with the first class being admitted in the fall of 1884. More than 3,000 priests have received their formation and education at St. John’s Seminary and have served the church in the Archdiocese of Boston and in more than 50 dioceses around the world, as well as in the Holy See and in the military.
Joshua Wilbur is studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Hartford.