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2016 Rector's Address: "Follow the Poor One"

by MOSAIC Editorial Team

Annual Rector's Address sets a spiritual and practical "collective direction" for the upcoming school year.

The longstanding custom of the rector addressing the seminary community during faculty orientation week continued on Wednesday, August 24. Keeping with the theme of "Divine Friendship in Christ" he first introduced in last year's address, Msgr. Todd Lajiness delivered an inspiring presentation in three distinct parts. His Rector's Address opened with a spiritual reflection, transitioned into a review of the just-released Institutional Strategic Plan, and ended with an update of current projects that pertain to the immediate "growth and vibrancy of the seminary."

The spiritual thread that wove the parts together was the exhortation to "following the poor one" inspired by Luke 9:3-4.

"The power of our witness," began the rector, "emerges from the humble awareness of how little we have, and how much we need." He emphasized to the faculty and staff how Christ, the "poor one," emptied himself of all aspiration to a glory that indeed was his duewilling, even, to take on the "form of a slave" (Phil 2:6-7). As such, Monsignor suggested that this modeling of humility and humble service become the overriding inspiration for the entire community for the coming academic year.

The four pillars of seminarian formationhuman, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoralbecame the organizing principles of the remainder of the reflection. Monsignor offered this outstanding quotation from the Catholic educator and author Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis to illustrate the ideal of humility as an essential means of growing in the human virtues: "Once the disciples run out of every possible resource of strength and understanding . . . then and only then does the Lord work the marvel, , , , I have to allow him to be the Lord of the tormented sea of my soul . . . [of] my pride, my drive to accomplish and shine and be admired."

Spiritual formationfor seminarians and really for us allresides in "a deep and abiding relationship with Christ," offered the rector, "that is not merely intellectual but is alive and leads to proclamation." But the power to proclaim does not originate primarily from native ability. Our witness, he related, has the "most profound efficacy when it originates from poverty and humility"when we understand that, in truth, we do not possess even the work of our own hands.

The soon-to-be-canonized Blessed Teresa of Calcutta expressed this concept of "genuine poverty" splendidly, Monsignor Lajiness suggested, when she wrote: "However beautiful the work is, be detached from it, even ready to give it up. The work is not yours. . . . Be great and use everything in you for the good of the Master."

Monsignor Lajiness continued his talk by explaining that a seminarian's development in the classroom "moves from an exercise of the mind to a genuine conversion of heart" only through "repeated encounters with the Lord," who repeatedly delights in revealing his wisdom to "infants," meaning to the unassuming of heart (Mt 11:25). As for pastoral formation, a seminarian must not be surprised if the future includes tasting "the same cup of poverty and suffering" as did the disciples. "Exercising pastoral ministry within the context of divine friendship keeps us aware that it is primarily through God's grace that we accomplish anything."

The second part of the Rector's Address briefed the community on the "Six Key Priorities" of the Institutional Strategic Plan that will guide the seminary for the next five years. These priorities are

1) continuing efforts to be a leading center of the New Evangelization;

2) increasing public awareness of the spiritual and academic assets of the seminary;

3) expanding the seminary's outreach through distance learning programs and strategic partnerships;

4) recruiting faculty and staff of high credentials and commitment;

5) developing a comprehensive plan to recruit a diverse community of students; and

6) ensuring the advancement of the seminary's mission by bolstering the financial endowment.

"We are excited about the way in which the plan reflects our excitement about how the Lord, by means of his grace, is guiding us and calling forth from our own poverty a confident faith in the mission entrusted to us." The whole purpose of the strategic plan, the rector explained, is to keep Sacred Heart focused on its mission through the setting of a "collective direction" leading to the year 2022 and then beyond.

Monsignor Lajiness ended his presentation by updating the community about current issues. The Institute for Ministry has been renamed the Institute for Lay Ministry. "It is a small change but one that reflects the core work of the institute, to form effective lay ecclesial ministers." The 2016 Archbishop's Gala held in June drew more attendees and raised more money than ever before, which is a happy sign that more and more people are identifying with and supporting with enthusiasm the seminary's critical mission. The summer STL session had it largest enrollment with thirty-nine priests, with the possibility that fifty may attend next year.

"Poverty is freedom," concluded Monsignor Lajiness, again citing the wisdom of Blessed Teresa. He left the attendees of the 2016 Rector's Address with this thought: "Follow [Teresa's] singular focus: to serve as Jesus served. To share divine friendship with the poor one.' To be confident that our work here is making a difference."

Read the complete address or to watch a live recording, please visit 2016 Rector's Address.

MOSAIC Editorial Team

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.