American College offers top-notch priest formation, says rector

By | June 24, 2009

 

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Bishop David Ricken hands the keys to the America College of Louvain to Msgr. Ross Shecterle during Msgr. Shecterle’s installation as rector in 2007. (L. Oosterlynck | for The Compass)

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Read: Invitation to support American College.

Read: Bishop Ricken kicks off ‘Louvain Initiative’.

Read: Wisconsin connections.

“This past year, Bishop Ricken wrote a series of letters to all the bishops of the United States, informing them about our seminary programs and encouraging them to send us a seminarian, graduate priest, or sabbatical participant and personally asked them for financial support as well,” he said in an e-mail to The Compass. “I know that he also takes every opportunity to speak with his brother bishops about their historic national seminary.”

 

According to Msgr. Shecterle, the American College’s formation program is world-class.

“At the start of each formation year in September, we visit Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who is both our local ordinary and the chancellor of our university in Louvain,” the rector explained.

“Invariably he talks to the seminarians about the vital importance of a well-educated, intelligent, cultured, thinking presbyterate. Our seminarians not only gain thorough knowledge of the Catholic faith – its history, spirituality, theology and its sacred art – but they also learn how to effectively communicate the Gospel message in an increasingly secular American society.”

Along with “traditional orthodox theology,” the seminarians learn about ways to “engage a culture that is increasingly indifferent and if not even hostile to a Catholic way of life,” said Msgr. Shecterle. Because the Catholic university has an international student body, students experience the “global church, the Catholic Church in a very real and concrete way.”

He said one of the most important parts of his job as rector is to cultivate friends and supporters of the college.

“I knew, before becoming rector, that Louvain was off the radar screens of many bishops,” he said. “Most bishops who do look overseas look exclusively to Rome. So, again, an important aspect of my ministry, when I am in the U.S., is to ‘reintroduce’ the U.S. bishops to their historic seminary in Louvain.”

His job is made easier with help from bishops like David Ricken.

“Bishop Ricken is an alumnus of the seminary and remains fond of and committed to its future in the formation of priests,” he said. “I cannot overstate the importance of his fundraising efforts on our behalf this past year. He personally appealed to our alumni, to all the U.S. bishops and to the faithful of northeastern Wisconsin. We appreciate his genuine concern and always look forward to his visits.”

Asked how Catholics in Wisconsin can help the American College, Msgr. Shecterle offered three suggestions:

n Pray for the seminary, its staff and students. “Along with praying for us specifically, pray also for more priestly vocations,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in the power of petitionary prayer: ‘Ask and you shall receive,’ Jesus instructs us.”

n Financial support. “There are a number of sacred restoration projects in our 19th century chapel that are under consideration,” he said. “New vestments that need to be purchased, as well as sponsorship of one of the stations of the cross that are being commissioned for the chapel are possible ways to offer financial support.” Basic needs, such as new mattresses for the seminarians, building and grounds upkeep and even paint, also need funding. “You would not believe how expensive a gallon of paint is here in Belgium,” he wrote.

n Spread the word. “Specifically by encouraging those priests, deacons, sisters, and lay ecclesial ministers and educators who are planning an upcoming sabbatical to consider one of our many sabbatical programs,” he said.

Msgr. Shecterle also invites Catholics from the Diocese of Green Bay to consider a visit to Louvain.

“It’s a charming medieval university town, just 15 minutes from Brussels, capital of Europe,” he said. “Visit us at the college. Come to know for yourself this special American seminary and its tradition of forming for America many of her finest priests over the past 15 decades.”

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