Saturday, January 13, 2007

Latin Formation in Demand

A piece from the San Antonio paper on its seminary, which is experiencing a boon of applicants and interest as dioceses increasingly (and, in many places, belatedly) wake up to the reality of where their future lies:
John Nolan has experienced life on his own in the secular world, tasting both success and failure. Now he wants to serve others as a Catholic priest.

But first, he’ll have to learn enough Spanish and become comfortable enough in Latino culture to minister to the Latinos who will make up the majority of his future parishioners.

Last fall, at age 42, he enrolled at San Antonio’s Assumption Seminary, the nation’s premier Catholic training center for bilingual, bicultural ministry with a Mexican-American flavor. Nolan is one of 26 men who came to Assumption for the first time this year — its largest entering class in 36 years.

While nationwide graduate-level seminary enrollment statistics are basically flat, the San Antonio school has a bumper crop of seminarians. Enrollment jumped from 51 in 2005-06 to 76 this academic year, also a 36-year high.

Seminary officials say eight more young men are arriving this month, and others are expected next fall....

Assumption is considered the nation’s premier Catholic seminary for training bilingual, bicultural priests for ministry in a predominantly Mexican-American environment, said Father Larry Christian, its rector.

For decades, most bishops in other parts of the country have ignored Assumption as a “ niche” seminary for Latino ministry, since their flocks included few Hispanics.

But today, they urgently need priests trained in Latino ministry, and some are realizing that Assumption is well-equipped to help them face that challenge.

Assumption has accepted eight more seminarians for this spring semester — bringing enrollment to 84 — and more dioceses want to enroll men here next year.

Six dioceses are asking about Assumption for the first time ever, Christian said.