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New Evangelization

by MOSAIC Editorial Team

Record Thirty-six Priests Enjoy Fraternity and Challenge of STL Summer Session.

Sacred Heart's innovative Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) is a pastorally-focused degree for priests concentrating on what has come to be known as the New Evangelization. Students learn to analyze contemporary social issues from a Catholic perspective and acquire real-world skills for reaching a culture that is becoming increasingly indifferent, if not hostile, to religious faith.

The STL is the first of its kind offered in a blended format. It allows priests from across the world to earn this pontifical post-graduate degree by taking most of the courses online. Priests satisfy the remaining coursework through a five-week summer residency term for four summers.

Thirty-six STL students arrived at the seminary and began studies for the 2016 summer session on July 11, with the session ending on August 12. That total included priests (cohort one) who began their STL studies three years agothe inaugural year of the blended formatalong with those who began last year (cohort two), and those who have enrolled just this year and are attending their first summer session (cohort three).

The thirty-six men came to the seminary from twenty-one U.S. dioceses, six international dioceses, and seven religious communities. They comprised the largest collection of STL students of any Catholic university outside of Rome.

With such a great representation from so many different places, says Fr. Timothy Laboe, Sacred Heart's dean of studies, the intellectual dialogue in and out of the classrooms this summer has been particularly stimulating and enriching.

One-of-a-Kind Experience

The STL summer term is academically intensethe men take four courses in two mini-sessions of two-and-one-half weeks each, for a total of five weeks of study. They were challengedyet intellectually invigoratedduring the 2016 summer term by plunging into the coursework of Models of Evangelization: Historical and Contemporary; Theological Anthropology; Virtue Ethics and the New Evangelization; the Letters of St. Paul and the New Evangelization; and Theology of the Cross.

Sacred Heart's rector, Msgr. Todd Lajiness, calls the STL educational experience one-of-a-kind, as it combines deep theological and spiritual exploration together with practical application. The experience of students has already shown, he says, that the program nourishes the men intellectually and spiritually and so enhances the witness and leadership they provide when they return to their parishes.

The unique strength of our program, says the rector, is that priests encounter some of the best scholarship in the world regarding the New Evangelization and also interact personally with practitioners who have been and are currently in the field.' The faculty members who taught this summer were Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Dr. Mark Latkovic, Dr. Ralph Martin, Dr. Michael McCallion, Fr. John McDermott, SJ, and Dr. Peter Williamson.

At the same time, the summer session is an occasion of rewarding collegiality among fellow priest-students. They share meals together, celebrate Mass together, support each other in their studies, and even enjoy a barbecue as a group with Archbishop Allen Vigneron at his residence. Many of the men find time to jump in a car to catch a Tigers baseball game or explore the cultural attractions of Detroit and the surrounding area.

Breathing in the Faith

Three priest-students who attended their first residency session this summer shared some thoughts about their experience.

Fr. Frederico Dundas, an Argentinian stationed at a parish in Uruguay, is a priest of the St. John Society, a religious community whose main focus is the New Evangelization.

Father says that without Sacred Heart's unique blended format program, It would not have been possible for me to complete the years of study, since he, like most priests, cannot afford extended time away from parish work. He appreciates the shared vision between his fellow STL students and the Sacred Heart professors about what is the fundamental mission of the Church: Sharing the message of Jesus Christ and bringing people into a living faith in him.

We talk about studying theology on our knees,' says Father, referring to his religious formation with the St. John Society. Here [at Sacred Heart] you breathe in the faith-filled atmosphere that I found very helpful in continuing this approach.

Fr. Andy Turner agrees with Father Dundas that finding a program flexible enough to be able to do full-time work while continuing studies is really just an ideal situation and made the STL program most attractive. The priest of the Diocese of Cleveland and vice rector of the diocese's Borromeo and St. Mary's Seminary says a highlight of the summer session was being around like-minded priests who have a great love for the Church.

He also values the variety of cultures and ages represented among the priest-students. Studying with men who come from Latin America, from Europe, and from Asian countries, and of course from across the United States, provides a different perspective about the Church, such as what approaches to the New Evangelization might work in one place but not in another.

Even though Father found the program to be academically challenging, he enjoyed that social time was allotted for praying, laughing, and doing things together that made for a wonderful community of priests supporting priests.

A Fire Inside

Fr. Patrick Mary Russell, MFVA, is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, a religious community founded to communicate the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith, particularly through modern means of communication. He was in the application process with another school when he discovered Sacred Heart's STL brochure in his mailbox.

When I read it, it was like a fire sparked inside of me, he recalls. He immediately went to his superior.

I feel really drawn to this. What do I do? Father asked.

If you feel drawn to the programlet's go for it, his superior responded.

The quality of the instructors he encountered this summer made a strong impression on Father Russell.

I can definitely tell the faculty members have a great love for the Church, he says. We see the zeal with them and that's very inspiring. That inspires us to go out and reach others and be evangelizers for the twenty-first century.

Father agrees that it is a great gift that adds a great richness to be in the classroom with priests from throughout the country and the world, and from different pastoral experiences.

I would certainly encourage any priest who wants to be more zealous, especially in reaching those who have fallen away from the Faiththis is the place to be.

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.