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Success of seminary continues at Holy Cross

Amanda Michaels | Wednesday, September 27, 2006

As seniors struggle with the question of what to do when college ends, some may end up finding answers across the lake – with the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Moreau Seminary. Moreau, which is the primary theological seminary for the Holy Cross order, holds on average 60 full-time residents – the majority of which are already-ordained priests and brothers. Currently, there are nine seminarians and six candidates in residence at Moreau (not including those seminarians out on pastoral service), according to seminary rector Father Patrick Neary’s administrative assistant. Candidates are those in their first-year of vocation discernment, and have not yet taken any vows.The following year – called the novitiate – is spent in an intense, retreat-like environment outside of Colorado Springs, Colo. that features manual labor, prolonged periods of silence and personal prayer and introspection.After this experience, the men make their first vows and return as the newly professed to begin theological studies for the Master of Divinity program. Three to four years later, after one year of full-time ministry experience, the seminarians petition to become deacons and take their final vows during an ordination ceremony.Having six new candidates in the system is typical for Moreau, as well as indicative of a thriving seminary program, said Father Ed Obermiller, the director of the seminary’s Office of Vocations.”Trying to compare [Moreau] against other seminaries around the country is not measuring apples for apples,” Obermiller said. “So if we look at Holy Cross as a religious community of about 350, size-wise, we have a healthy seminary.”Of the six men in their candidacy year, three are Notre Dame graduates, two came from other universities (including the University of Portland, also led by the Congregation of the Holy Cross) and one is still a senior in the Old College program. “It’s typical for us that at least half of the guys in the candidate program would somehow be connected with Notre Dame,” Obermiller said. “One of the candidates this year went to Notre Dame Law School, went to a law firm in D.C. and is now back here again.”Only two – discounting the Notre Dame senior – came to the seminary straight from their undergraduate education. One was in the yearlong Holy Cross Associate Program, and the other two worked, Obermiller said. And according to seminary standards, all are under 35 years old.”The profile, as far as the things they’ve been doing, is standard,” he said. “As a whole, there is nothing extraordinarily unusual about the make-up of this new group.”What is different, however, is how this group and those after them are finding their way to Moreau.”Our Web site has one of the highest number of hits for religious communities,” Obermiller said. “People are going online now to check out what options are out there, and they’re looking at us. And if they’re interested, they send us an e-mail and ask to talk to a priest about their vocation.”Along with the Internet, Obermiller said personal contact is the top way to encourage potential seminarians.”There are national studies in the Catholic Church that say the most significant way to be drawn to vocation is to be invited by a priest or sister or brother,” Obermiller said. “So when you ask someone when they’ve entered the seminary what their vocation story is, often they’ll tell you, ‘Someone asked me if I ever thought about becoming a priest or brother or sister.'”Men entering Moreau have the option of working toward becoming a priest or brother – though all of this year’s candidates declared their intentions to become priests. And like their fellow graduates who might find themselves job-hopping, they also can choose to leave the seminary.”Some do leave, on occasion, because the program is about discerning what God is calling you to do,” Obermiller said. “You can come in saying you want to be a priest, and then feel yourself being called to be a brother, or even feel that the seminary isn’t the place for you. It’s like an undergraduate saying they are undeclared, and discovering their niche in Arts and Letters or as a business major – what you want to do can change, but you can still find your place.”