Every year on March 25, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which naturally occurs nine months prior to Christmas. It is the day on which we reflect deeply on the mystery of the Incarnation of Our Lord: God became man. In His divine plan to save us, God chose to enter into human history, becoming one of us. And as we strive to deepen our relationship with Him, we do so not by bypassing our own humanity, but by becoming fully alive in it.
This year, March 25 is also the 30th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s landmark apostolic exhortation on priestly formation, Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds). This document, the fruit of a synod of bishops, launched what I would call the modern renewal of priestly formation in our country. St. John Paul II articulated a comprehensive, integrated approach to priestly formation, focusing on four dimensions: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. These dimensions continue to be at the heart of what we do at The Saint Paul Seminary as we seek to form priests, deacons and lay leaders for service to their local Church.
“As we strive to deepen our relationship with [Christ], we do so not by bypassing our own humanity, but by becoming fully alive in it.” — Fr. Joseph Taphorn, rector, Saint Paul Seminary
Both the Annunciation and Pastores Dabo Vobis highlight the importance of the human dimension of formation, which is really the foundation of our work. If we cannot live in and from our humanity in a healthy way, we cannot lead others to Christ. As St. John Paul II wrote pointedly 30 years ago: “In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity” (PDV 43).
Our new propaedeutic stage of formation stresses the human dimension of formation . And our journeys abroad this past January-term provided the opportunity for seminarians to encounter and share the faith with others in the midst of challenging circumstances.
In these ways and others, we seek to form future Church leaders who, through their humanity, can be that bridge connecting others to Christ Himself.
Please accept my gratitude and prayers as you support our mission to form joyful, Catholic leaders.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Reverend Joseph C. Taphorn, JCL
Rector and Vice President