Ad Gentes 16

The goal, according to the council bishops, is for a mission church to be self-sustaining with clergy.

Joyfully the Church gives thanks for the priceless gift of the priestly calling which God has granted to so many youths among those nations but recently converted to Christ. For the Church drives deeper roots in any given sector of the human family when the various faithful communities all have, from among their members, their own ministers of salvation in the order of bishops, priests, and deacons, serving their own brethren, so that the young churches gradually acquire a diocesan structure with their own clergy.

Take special care, the bishops write, to ensure the conciliar recommendations regarding priestly formation are followed.

What this council has decreed concerning priestly vocations and formation, should be religiously observed where the Church is first planted, and among the young churches. Of great importance are the things which are said about closely joining spiritual formation with the doctrinal and pastoral; about living a life patterned after the Gospel without looking out for one’s own comfort or that of one’s family; about cultivating a deep appreciation of the mystery of the Church. From all this, they will be well taught to dedicate themselves wholly to the service of the Body of Christ and to the work of the Gospel, to cleave to their own bishop as his faithful co-workers, and to cooperate with their colleagues.

The importance of Scripture and liturgy:

To attain this general end, the whole training of the students should be planned in the light of the mystery of salvation as it is revealed in the Scriptures. This mystery of Christ and of (human) salvation they can discover and live in the liturgy.

The training of priests for mission lands shouldn’t be divorced from cultural appreciation, and related awarenesses. The bishops also seem to suggest that a seminary setting is not always ideal, or at least the only option for seminarians:  

These common requirements of priestly training, including the pastoral and practical ones prescribed by the council should be combined with an attempt to make contact with their own particular national way of thinking and acting. Therefore, let the minds of the students be kept open and attuned to an acquaintance and an appreciation of their own nation’s culture. In their philosophical and theological studies, let them consider the points of contact which mediate between the traditions and religion of their homeland on the one hand and the Christian religion on the other. Likewise, priestly training should have an eye to the pastoral needs of that region; and the students should learn the history, aim, and method of the Church’s missionary activity, and the special social, economic, and cultural conditions of their own people. Let them be educated in the ecumenical spirit, and duly prepared for (familial) dialogue with non-Christians. All this demands that studies for the priesthood be undertaken, so far as possible, in association and living together with their own people. Finally, let care be taken that students are trained in ordinary ecclesiastical and financial administration.

Special study abroad, especially in Rome, is promoted: 

Moreover, suitable priests should be chosen, after a little pastoral practice, to pursue higher studies in universities, even abroad and especially in Rome as well as in other institutes of learning. In this way the young churches will have at hand men from among the local clergy equipped with the learning and skill needed for discharging more difficult ecclesiastical duties.

The restoration of the diaconate is promoted, with the understanding that many lay people in mission lands are already carrying out the functions of a deacon. Hmmm. That line of reasoning could apply elsewhere in the Church, don’t you think?

Where episcopal conferences deem it opportune, the order of the diaconate should be restored as a permanent state of life according to the norms of the Constitution “De Ecclesia.” For there are men who actually carry out the functions of the deacon’s office, either preaching the word of God as catechists, or presiding over scattered Christian communities in the name of the pastor and the bishop, or practicing charity in social or relief work. It is only right to strengthen them by the imposition of hands which has come down from the Apostles, and to bind them more closely to the altar, that they may carry out their ministry more effectively because of the sacramental grace of the diaconate.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Ad Gentes 16

  1. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    Where should the formation of missionaries take place? This has been a perennial problem for missionary communities. My own formation was in Ireland (1969-1976), but we always had SVD’s from many countries around the world passing through the house. This helped us to broaden our horizons, and to realize that the Gospel can and should be inculturated. But could they have prepared me for Japan? Let’s say they did their best, and after that the SVD community and the Christians here in Japan were of even greater help.
    Some thirty years on I have experienced pastoral work in large cities and in small towns in the less industrialized north of Japan. Experience has also been gained in formation work in both the UK and here in Japan; currently I reside in our seminary, but while helping out with pastoral formation, my main work is in the educational apostolate. And our own SVD approach to formation has changed quite significantly over the years.
    Now a significant part of our program is CTP/OTP, Cross-Cultural or Overseas Training. Following Philosophy and Novitiate, and some part of their Theology our young confreres cross-over to another culture within their own country or travel overseas, with time given to language learning, cultural immersion and pastoral/missionary experience. It is challenging, and can be quite demanding physically, emotionally and spiritually, but the rewards in personal and vocational maturity are even greater. Some who travel overseas also opt to finish out their Theology studies in the country where they have their OTP experience. So currently here at our seminary in Japan we have seminarians from Indonesia, India, Vietnam, the Philippines and Slovakia; the Vietnamese community in the US and here in Japan, and Vietnam itself are becoming a significant source of vocations. Local, native vocations are still rather thin on the ground, so the path of Asia helping to evangelize Asia seems to be the direction we will go in for the immediate future.
    Our Vice-Provincial, who also serves as our Novice Master, is an Indonesian confrere, who came here originally as a seminarian in 1990, and the Rector of the Seminary is an Indian colleague. I accompanied both of them for some time during their formation. For both of them, and quite a few more who have done OTP and/or Theology in Japan over the past 20 odd years, I would say that the plusses and minusses probably balance out. We are more than aware that there is still room for improvement, and so we are currently engaged in one of our regular reviews of the whole program. I wouldn’t like to predict where we will seek to make adjustments this time round, but no change doesn’t seem to be on the cards.
    Noting that “Ad Gentes” mentions the possibility of graduate work in Rome, while we have some colleagues with us who did further studies there, we also explore many other options. One problem with sending students to Rome is that some colleagues have found that in some of the faculties in Rome, the questions they bring are not only misunderstood, but even the answers given to many questions, pastoral, liturgical and otherwise miss the mark, or don’t seem to be applicable here. As one of our senior colleagues, a Canon Lawyer in his 70′s observed, Roman law has no comprehension of how the Japanese understand marriages/weddings, and so the proper training can only be done on the ground here.
    These are just a few off the cuff reflections, but one thing is certain, a genuine world Church, a church with a greater focus outside of Europe is coming to birth, and whether Rome, and some of those who long for a more “Roman” Catholic Church can provide the answers is something I would question. More listening and dialogue is urgently needed.

  2. Pingback: Ad Gentes 18 « Catholic Sensibility

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