Shortly after Msgr. Robert McClory was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Gary in November 2019, Fr. David Kime, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Gary at the time, came to him with a recommendation: let’s send our seminarians back to Detroit.
The Diocese of Gary had enrolled seminarians at Sacred Heart previously, and a number of current priests in the diocese attended Sacred Heart Major Seminary.
For the 2020-21 school year, Sacred Heart welcomed two seminarians from Gary. This fall, five of the twelve men in priestly formation for the northwest Indiana diocese came to Detroit.
“As a new bishop, I wanted to respect the traditions that were in place and understand our experience of seminarian formation,” said Bishop McClory. “I was pleased that the vocations director broached the subject and recommended Sacred Heart. Though I’m very proud of my affiliation with Sacred Heart and I believe it’s an excellent seminary, it was helpful for me to hear a voice who made the recommendation independent of my own experience.”
Bishop McClory studied at Sacred Heart in the 1990s. He then taught at the seminary part-time for fifteen years and served on the Board of Trustees for ten years.
Vocations director for the Diocese of Gary, Fr. Chris Stanish, studied theology at Sacred Heart from 2010 to 2014.
“We have a long legacy with Sacred Heart,” said Fr. Stanish. “I like that it’s an intimate community, with a close bond of fraternity and a deeper understanding and knowledge of the seminarians.”
Steven Caraher, a second-year theology student, returned to Sacred Heart for his second year in August. With fewer COVID-19 restrictions this year, he’s looking forward to more opportunities to engage with his fellow seminarians, faculty and priests.
“I’ve found Sacred Heart to be an awesome seminary, and cutting edge in terms of implementing the New Evangelization which is heavily emphasized here,” said Caraher. “A lot of being in seminary is going to class, but a lot of seminary is getting a sense of what’s important from the priests and faculty that you’re with, and the diocese that you’re in. The Archdiocese of Detroit is very strong on the importance of evangelization. It’s wonderful to be able to soak that in for four years at Sacred Heart and, God willing, bring it back to the Diocese of Gary as a priest.”
That emphasis on evangelization is cited as one of the primary reasons Bishop McClory, Fr. Kime and Fr. Stanish chose Sacred Heart for nearly half their seminarians.
“The emphasis on the New Evangelization is in line with a number of pastoral initiatives that we’re emanating from our own synod here in 2017,” Bishop McClory said. “While there’s been more attention given in recent years to the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart was at the forefront of that and has more experience in forming priests and lay ecclesial ministers for the new evangelization than just about any other seminary I can think of.”
Fr. Stanish believes the seminary will help his diocese form priests who know what it means to proclaim Christ crucified – the very kerygma of the Gospel.
“The temptation today is to form priests who are administrators or managers. While those skills are important, the most important thing is to have a heart according to Jesus Christ, the good shepherd,” Fr. Stanish said.
Alex Kouris is a first-year theology student at Sacred Heart. In his short time in Detroit, he has felt an increased desire to learn more about the Church as he shifts gears from philosophy to theology. He plans to take a class in spiritual direction to help counsel people when he becomes a priest.
“What we need in the Church now are priests that can go to people who are outside of the Church, or those who have left, and bring them in,” said Kouris. “We’re in a time where the Church does not need priests just to sit in a comfortable parish and hear confessions on Saturday; the Catholic Church needs priests who can change the world and bring Jesus Christ to the hearts of many.”
Kouris values spending time with his seminarian brothers from the Diocese of Gary. The five men set aside Saturday nights to have dinner and pray Night Prayer together. Kouris knows that the bonds formed here will help him throughout his priesthood as they build each other up in both good times and challenging times with a strong inner-diocesan fraternity.
Bishop McClory believes his seminarians are in good hands at Sacred Heart and that his diocese will benefit when its newly ordained priests come home to Gary.
“The heart in Sacred Heart is one of the defining characteristics of the seminary,” said Bishop McClory. “I believe there is a sensitivity to the needs of the communities in which their priests serve and a desire to equip priests with what they need theologically and pastorally to serve the faithful in this day and in this age.”