Today was the first official day of the Institute of Continuuing Theological Education. It was rainy day in Rome and it was a good day to start our orientation day. It looks like I'll be up at 6:30 every day. Maybe 7. Breakfast is 7:15 to 8:45 with Mass starting at 9:00am. The celebrant today was Msgr. Checcio, the rector of the seminary. Mass was followed by a conference that he gave. A short coffee break then another conference. After, we had an official tour of the seminary given by seminarians. I was in a group led by Juan, a first year student, native of Haiti and a seminarian for the Diocese of Brooklyn. It is an impressive facility. Of course we visited all the classrooms, refectory, beautiful chapels, the central courtyard with an orange grove which supplies the citrus for the seminary. On the roof there is a student kitchen with a patio that can seat 150 people easily. This kitchen is available only to students to prepare meals for themselves or their guests with a beuatiful view of St. Peters. We also were given information and visited the infirmary, the financial office where we can exchange currency. We saw the laundry room which will be important, the well-equipped gymnasium and workout room,even a woodworking shop available to the students and a blowling alley.
Following our tour, we were led into the "red" room where the rector and faculty greet dignitaries, bishops, cardinals, politicians, etc. We were treated to a reception there before lunch. After lunch, we were taken to the student lounge where we could open accounts. The lounge serves beer and other refreshments. The student store, known as "K-nac" is a small store with personal items, toiletries and the like, snacks, school supplies and various other items for sale. No money is exchanged. We have to deposit money into an account and when we make a purchase, the account is debited. For most small purchases, it is good service. This was followed by a break.
We met the vice-rector for another meeting who talked a bit about the history of the seminary and reminded us of house policies, security issues, and other details of life at the seminary. This was followed by a meeting of our liturgy groups. We are all broken into 4 groups of 7 or 8. It is the responsibility of each of these groups to plan and carry out liturgical duties for a week. My group has the coming week - Monday through Friday.
Dinner followed and after we gathered in our lounge for the first of a series of sharing groups. We each had a few minutes to do self-introductions and share a bit of why we chose to participate in ITCE.
This was a very moving time as my fellow priests offered some reflections about their priesthood and what they hope to obtain from three months at ITCE. All I can do now is summarize and list some of the experiences I can recall.
The average age is my age, 57 years old.
The average of years ordained in 27, I'm 28
We are mostly diocesan Priests, with religious orders including, a Franciscan, Jesuit, Priest of the Sacred Heart, and 2 Marists.
There are 3 retired military chaplains.
A few canon lawyers, and a civil lawyer,
Priests who have served in the missions,
school principals and teachers,
doctorate in mental health
parish priests all their lives,
prison ministry on death row,
one was a wheat farmer in North Dakota before going to the seminary.
Three with degrees in music, including a PhD. in organ performance,
one drives a Harley Davidson
a VietNamese priest who was imprisoned for a few years
and managed to escape, and now working in NY.
a priest who served 13 months as administrator of his diocese
while waiting for the assignment of a new bishop.
Most are in merged parishes, have merged or closed parishes,
of are pastors of several churches and parishes.
two from New Zealand, two from Canada, rest from USA
Priests are here because they need renewal in their lives, felt burned out,
are in between assignments, or are contemplating a different ministry.
Some were offered the time by their bishop.
Some asked for the time away.
Some have never been out of the USA,
Some who have ministered on 4 continents
And I have not exhausted the list.
All, including me, expressed the need to spend time with priests who are also searching for grace and greater holiness. It was a very moving time to listen and hear the stories, and to realize just how diverse are the priests called by God to do one task -give witness to the love of Jesus Christ.
I have already begun to know some the men who are here. I am looking forward to getting to know them even more, and to grow in what I expect will include some lifelong friendships.
Tomorrow, we will share a morning of spiritual reflection. The remainder of the day will be free. I'm hoping to get into the city tomorrow to do some serious wandering.
Buona notte a tutti.