If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vocations Video from the Norbertines


VATICAN CITY, 11 MAR 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday morning, as is traditional at the beginning of Lent, the Pope met with pastors and priests of the diocese of Rome to whom he imparted a "lectio divina" inspired by St. Paul's address to the elders of Ephesus in chapter twenty of the Acts of the Apostles, focusing on the priesthood as service and faithfulness. "One cannot be a priest part-time", said the Holy Father. "We are always priests with all our soul and with all our heart. ... Being an ambassador of Christ ... is a mission which penetrates our entire being". The Apostle Paul "did not preach an 'a la carte' Christianity, organised according to taste, he did not preach a Gospel according to his own preferred theological ideas". Priests "must announce the will of God entire, including the 'more difficult' will, ... the themes they may least like personally". Referring then to Lent which has just begun, the Pope spoke of conversion which, he said, must be reflected, above all, in "a change of thinking and of heart" which leads us to focus not on the things of the world, "but on the presence of God in the world". The Pope also highlighted the importance that spiritual life must have for priests. "Praying and meditating on the word of God is not time lost from the care of souls, but a condition enabling us to remain in contact with the Lord, and so be able to speak first hand of Him to others". Finally, the Pope encouraged priests not to lose hope, despite the difficulties they may encounter in their ministry. "The truth is stronger than lies", he concluded, "and love is stronger than hatred. God is stronger than all adverse forces. With this joy, with this inner certainty we follow our journey amidst the consolations of God and the persecutions of the world".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Project aims to help international priests"

From the St. Louis Review
By Jennifer Brinker

On his way home from the airport in New York, the priest was pulled over for a routine traffic stop.

New to the United States, the priest knew that the police in his home country had a history of robbing people and couldn't be trusted. So he did what he thought was the right thing: He fled.

While the story sounds unusual, the idea of a cultural disconnect among international priests living in the United States is not all that uncommon. And a group of priests and laity is hoping to overcome some of those barriers through a special project that they hope will spread across the nation.

The Parresia Project is the brainchild of Sebastian Mahfood, associate professor of intercultural studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and Msgr. Richard Henning, professor of biblical theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, N.Y. Parresia, Greek for openness, has been used in the New Testament in describing the quality of preaching in early Christianity.

Msgr. Henning said that the Church needs to develop a more proactive approach in preparing priests from other countries who come to the United States to minister. The Parresia Project, he said, goes beyond just responding to the needs of an international priest and supports the idea of developing a more systematic approach, using a combination of a human-interest angle and technology.

"We feel the burden should not be entirely placed on the priest who is arriving in the U.S.," Msgr. Henning said during a visit to St. Louis last month. "The process should be more mutual. And this is because we're Catholic. When this priest comes here, it should not just be us saying, 'This is the way it is in America, and you've got to learn.'"

"There should be a sense that you are a brother in the Lord and you have left behind your family and friends and your whole life to come serve us," he continued. "Wouldn't it be nice if the receiving community would have some way of learning ... about the world that he's come from?"

By the numbers

The number of priests who come to the United States from other countries is rapidly rising, both Mahfood and Msgr. Henning noted. In 2004, the Seminary Department of the National Catholic Educational Association conducted a study and found that nearly 18 percent of priests in the United States were born outside of the country. But that figure is out of date, said Msgr. Henning.

"We don't know what it is, because we haven't done the research" recently, he said.

Last spring, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter wrote that one-sixth of the roughly 40,000 priests serving in the United States are from abroad, and about 300 international priests arrive in the United States every year. Msgr. Henning said he believes those numbers may be conservative given the rapid rise in the number of priests arriving in the United States.

The priest noted that the statistics become higher in certain areas. In the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., for example, about 35 percent of all priests are international, according to Msgr. Henning. The Archdiocese of New York says about 40 to 50 percent it its priests are from other countries.

By contrast, the Archdiocese of St. Louis has much lower numbers. According to the archdiocesan Office of Priests Personnel, there currently are nine priests serving in parishes and four seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon who were born in other countries.

In most cases, said Msgr. Henning, these priests are coming here because of an invitation from U.S. bishops to help serve in their dioceses. Others cases include student priests who are helping serve here during their studies or priests who emigrated to the United States as adolescents and subsequently felt a call to the priesthood here.

An idea is born

The Parresia project was born from previous conversations Msgr. Henning and Mahfood had on seminary formation and an awareness of the increasing number of seminarians from various cultural backgrounds. The two also had been working on another project involving distance learning through seminaries.

"It began to occur to us that distance-learning methods or technologies could be used fruitfully ... in trying to orient a seminarian or priest coming into the United States," said Msgr. Henning.

An anonymous donor awarded the two a $20,000 planning grant, and they spent a year consulting those who provide orientation services to international priests, seminaries and experts in culture, including leaders with the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (chaired by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson) and the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. The same anonymous donor has given the duo a $150,000 grant for the implementation phase of the project.

The project is sponsored by the Seminary Department of the National Catholic Educational Association and the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. Mahfood and Msgr. Henning said that the project also is supported by a small staff and advisory board and about a dozen volunteers.

Msgr. Henning noted that only three national programs that provide a formal orientation to priests who come to minister in the United States: The Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John's University in Queens, N.Y.; the International Priest Internship Program, operated by the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio; and the Cultural Orientation Program for International Ministers at Loyola Marymont University in Los Angeles.

But for the most part, there isn't one widespread formal program to prepare priests before they arrive in the United States. There are a number of local programs operated by dioceses and religious communities, but only about one quarter of arriving priests have any opportunity to attend an orientation program, said the priest.

"Some priests may only know about the U.S. from watching movies," said Msgr. Henning. "That's not real, and that's certainly not the Church."

Human connection through technology

In 1999, the U.S. bishops issued Guidelines for Receiving Pastoral Ministers in the United States as a means of providing support to priests from before they leave their home country to long-term mentoring and support. But when the bishops wrote those guidelines nearly 12 years ago, the idea of reaching to a global audience was more far-fetched. After all, technologies such as the Internet were just emerging on the scene.

Today, however, commercial technological resources such as Skype, an Internet-based video chat, are simple methods that can help improve communication between an international priest and his new community even before he arrives.

"When you know Father Joseph is coming from India, why can't the children at the parish school Skype with him before he comes over?" said Msgr. Henning. "So then it becomes a big moment before he arrives. This is simple, easy stuff that technology makes possible in a way that couldn't have been done before."

The two said they hope dioceses will be able to pool resources so that they can launch programs to educate the faithful about the international priests who come to serve them. Multimedia content, including videos, interviews and photos of international priests, will help serve that end.

"We don't want it to be a matter of textbook learning," said Msgr. Henning. "We envision if the parish council has convened before Father arrives ... and they want to learn about life in his world, you don't want to hand out State Department country guides," said Msgr. Henning. "We would like to have a web-based multimedia database of personal interviews, photos and stories about his upbringing. It's that human-to-human contact that people love."

The future

The Parresia Project is expected to develop over a two-year period, at least initially, said Msgr. Henning, primarily through efforts in advocacy and training others. Another long-term goal is to develop a formal orientation program for international seminarians.

"By the end of these next two years, we hope to have many more people" on board with the project, said Msgr. Henning. "This is an issue that's really larger and more fundamental than we had (initially) realized. We love the Church and we love priests, and our goal is to help a priest be the most effective priest he can be."

For more information on the Parresia Project, visit parresiaproject.org.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Every Catholic Is Called To Encourage Vocations, Pope Says"

VATICAN CITY, February 10 (CNA/EWTN News) - The vitality of the Church depends on individual Catholics fostering vocations in their homes and parishes, the Pope says in his annual message for the May 15 World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

"It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations," the Pope writes in his new statement issued by the Vatican on Feb. 10.

He speaks of the role of the Church in helping children and young people to grow in a real friendship with Jesus, to increase their familiarity with the Scriptures, to understand the truth of his message and to be generous in creating relationships with others.

The theme of this year's prayer for vocations day is "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church." The Pope says this "means having the courage, through an attentive and suitable concern for vocations, to point out this challenging way of following Christ which, because it is so rich in meaning, is capable of engaging the whole of one's life."

Answering Jesus' call of "Follow me!" is "no less challenging" today than it was for the disciples 2,000 years ago, says the Pope.

"It means learning to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, growing close to him, listening to his word and encountering him in the sacraments" and "learning to conform our will to his."

The Church is called to protect and love the gift of God's call to people to share in his mission and serve as ordained ministers and consecrated religious, he says.

"Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by 'other voices' and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one's own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs to consciously feel responsible for promoting vocations."

According to a report from the U.S. bishops, there are currently 5,131 men enrolled in the U.S. seminaries. The number is up from 4,973 in 2009.

The Pope urges the faithful to take every opportunity to develop vocations. "Every moment" in Church community life from catechesis to prayer and pilgrimages can be "a precious opportunity for awakening in the people of God ... a sense of belonging to the Church and of responsibility for answering the call to priesthood and to religious life by a free and informed decision," he says.

"The ability to foster vocations," Pope Benedict concludes, "is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church."

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Catholic priest first Canadian confirmed dead in Japanese earthquake"

From the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL — A 76-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Quebec is dead after his car was hit Friday by a tsunami wave in Japan, officials confirmed Sunday.

Andre Lachapelle, who was working as a missionary in Shiogama, is the sole Canadian victim of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake to date.

Working with the Quebec Foreign Missions Society, Lachapelle was in Sendai when the earthquake hit, according to a report posted on the society’s website.

He was en route to his parish in Shiogama — mere kilometres away — when his car was hit by a tsunami wave.

Guy Charbonneau, the society’s superior-general in Laval, said Sunday afternoon that Lachapelle had been identified by his Canadian passport, which he was carrying at the time of his death. Charbonneau said he had been informed of his colleague’s death on Saturday morning.

Lachapelle had been ministering in Japan since 1961, a year after he was ordained, Charbonneau said, and returned occasionally to Quebec.

He remembered his colleague as a refined man with a dry sense of humour and a fascination with Japanese culture.

"He very much liked dialogue with other faiths," Charbonneau said, noting that at one point during his time in Japan, Lachapelle had worked as a prison chaplain with Protestant pastors, Buddhist monks and Hindu priests.

The Department of Foreign Affairs informed Charbonneau about the man’s death through police.

While there are currently 1,773 Canadian citizens registered with the Canadian Embassy in Japan — with very few registered in the affected area — officials estimate there are 10,000 to 12,000 Canadians in the country overall.

It is feared as many as 10,000 people were killed as a result of the quake, which struck about 260 kilometres off Japan’s northeast coast, triggering a tsunami with metres-high waves.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Protestant "Seminaries Move Toward More Online Training"

From time to time I like to post articles about the challenges protestant denominations face in recruiting and forming ministers. Since there is a perception that somehow the vocations crisis is limited to the Catholic Church, I think it is important to see that many protestant denominations are having a far worse time recruiting and forming ministers.

From the Courier Journal
By Peter Smith

Seminaries, like other higher-education institutions, are increasingly offering classes online.

In the latest mark of that trend, the United Methodist Church's University Senate decided in January to allow students seeking ordination to get two-thirds of their master of divinity credits via online courses, up from the previous requirement of one-third. (The change only applies to course work at 14 seminaries with close ties to the Methodist movement, including Asbury in Kentucky, a pioneer in the movement.)
“We don’t want United Methodist clergy trained only online, but we have to do a better job of making classes more accessible. I think this plan strikes a wonderful balance," said Bishop William H. Willimon, a senate member and chair of the Methodists’ Commission on Theological Education.

One-hundred fifteen seminaries and divinity schools in North America offer distance education courses, according to the Association of Theological Schools. Fifty-four percent of schools surveyed by the association reported that more than half of their students commuters, taking courses from a distance or both.

But is that a good thing for training for a job that requires regular contact with real people? Pastors-in-training are spending less time together in brick-and-mortar classrooms, dorms and cafeterias.

Continue reading the article HERE.

"Benedict XVI: Priesthood Is a Vocation, Not a Job"

From Catholic Online

The Pope said the priest "does not preach a Christianity a la carte, according to his own tastes, preaching a Gospel according to his own preferred ideas, according to his own theological ideas.He does not exempt himself from proclaiming the whole will of God, also the uncomfortable will, also topics that personally do not please him so much."

VATICAN CITY, (Zenit.org) - The priesthood is not a profession, to be engaged in part-time, but a full-time and perpetual vocation, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this on Thursday in a traditional meeting with priests of the Diocese of Rome held annually at the beginning of Lent, Vatican Radio reported.

"One is not a priest for part of the time; we are so with our whole soul, with our whole heart," he said.

The Pontiff added that "this being with Christ and being an ambassador of Christ, this being for others is a mission that penetrates our being and must penetrate ever more the totality of our being."

The Holy Father gave an in-depth lectio divina inspired by chapter 20 of the Acts of the Apostles, in which St. Paul speaks to the elders of Ephesus.

The Pope concentrated on the meaning of service and on the fidelity that must animate the presbyter.

Service, he pointed out, requires a humility that is not an exhibition of "false modesty," but rather love for the will of God, for proclaiming without "creating the idea that Christianity is an immense package of things to learn."

The priest, in fact, "does not preach a Christianity a la carte, according to his own tastes, preaching a Gospel according to his own preferred ideas, according to his own theological ideas," the Pontiff said.

He continued, "He does not exempt himself from proclaiming the whole will of God, also the uncomfortable will, also topics that personally do not please him so much."


The Holy Father underlined the theme of conversion, especially in regards to the season of Lent, understood above all as a change of thought and heart, with a focus not on things of the world and how they are presented, but on the presence of God in the world itself.

"Let us not lose the zeal, the joy of being called by the Lord," he exhorted.

"Let us renew our spiritual youth," Benedict XVI said, encouraging the priests to keep "the joy of being able to go with Christ to the end, of 'staying the course to the end' always with the enthusiasm of being called by Christ for this great service."

In the same way, he exhorted them to be "attentive also to our spiritual life, to our being with Christ."

The Pope affirmed, "To pray and to meditate on the Word of God is not time wasted" or taken away from the care of souls, but rather "it is a condition so that we can really be in contact with the Lord and thus speak firsthand of the Lord to others."

Despite the difficulties the Church is facing, there must be no loss of hope, he said.

The Pontiff stated, "Truth is stronger than lies; love is stronger than hatred, God is stronger than all the adverse forces."

"And with this joy," he added, "with this interior certainty let us start out [...] in the consolations of God and in the persecutions of the world."

Priestly qualities

In his greeting to the Holy Father, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, mentioned the 60th anniversary of the Pontiff's priesthood, which will be celebrated on June 29.

The cardinal underlined the clergy's most appreciated priestly qualities of Benedict XVI: "humble and joyful fidelity, without cracks, to the Lord Jesus; total willingness to serve the Church where Providence has called him, to the formidable weight of the Supreme Pontificate; love of the Word of God and of the liturgy and the joy of living time according to the rhythm of the liturgical year; the exercise of intelligence and the passion to propose and defend the search of truth without compromises; gentleness of manner and the magnanimity of heart; serenity of a soul wholly given to Christ."

During the audience, the Pope also met with a Pakistani priest, Father Shahzad Niamat, in representation of the clergy, religious and seminarians of Pakistan present in Rome.

Father Niamat later reported to Fides that he "explained to the Pope the situation of Christians in Pakistan, where witnessing to the faith at times can lead to death."

He added, "The Holy Father was very concerned; he expressed to us his solidarity, his support and assured us of his prayers."

The priest said, "We also thanked the Holy Father for his words and recent appeals dedicated to Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, for Asia Bibi, for the law on blasphemy."

He noted that the Pontiff "communicated the hope that things might change and that in Pakistan full respect of human dignity and religious liberty will be exercised."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Three Franciscans make final Profession in Perth"

From The Record
By Anthony Barich

PHOTO: The Sisters embrace each other for the Sign of Peace during their Profession Mass after being crowned with Christ’s crown of thorns during their Profession Mass, symbolising being the eternal spouse of Christ. Photo: Monica Defendi

THREE Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculata made their final Solemn Profession on 22 February to live a life of sacrifice in poverty, chastity and obedience, with a unique extra vow of unlimited consecration to Mary, who is ‘The Immaculate’.

Srs Maria Regina, 41, Maria Jacinta, 30 (Philippines) and Nigerian Maria Teresina, 34, made their final Solemn Profession before Perth Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton and their Order’s co-founder Fr Gabriel Pellettieri on the feast of the Chair of St Peter.

Sr Marie Antoniette, 33, also Filipino, renewed her vows the same day.

Despite having a deep relationship with Jesus since childhood – “when I was alone, I was not lonely” – Sr Maria Regina never imagined she would be a nun. It all changed when the calling she had resisted for so long became so strong she could no longer concentrate on her work in human resources at the Daily News, Cebu’s major daily newspaper in the Philippines.

When she was 33 – “the same age Jesus died that I might live, the birth of my Religious life” – she entered the Immaculata.

“I resisted as I was very attached to a job I loved, I had a loving family I didn’t want to leave, but it was like a force within me. I felt restless with a deep longing and only if I responded to it would I be at peace,” she told The Record last week.

At the time she had no idea what Religious life was like, she just knew it was serving God. A year of aspirancy and postulancy in Manila followed, then a one-year novitiate before she made her temporary Profession, when she was sent to Italy to complete her studies, before arriving at the Sisters’ St Joseph Convent in Marangaroo last year, located adjacent to an aged care centre.

“I’m very happy I’ve found my home. It really is my calling – what God wants of me. It’s like a treasure I’ve found. It keeps the peace in your heart when you just trust God,” she said.

“In the Religious life, we are privileged, because through the mouth of our Superior comes the will of God. They are God’s representatives. For us Franciscans of the Immaculata, we know this is also the will of Mary, as her will is so conformed to God’s will.”

The Sisters rise at 4.45am for prayer until breakfast at 8am, then they prepare for 9.30am Mass and bring the people from the nursing home to Mass as well.

The Sisters are then on a rotation between chores in their convent and their apostolate of pastoral care in the nursing home before and after lunch at 12.45pm.

Their daily siesta from 2-3pm is preceded by adoration before the Blessed Sacrament twice a week, followed by Vespers; some pray the Rosary while others simultaneously do their apostolate.

The nuns aim to pray at least the four Mysteries of the Rosary daily – Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious – but Sr Maria Regina said they pray as many as they possibly can, even during chores, as “the more Rosaries you pray, the more souls you get into Heaven”.

While she says Religious life is “beautiful”, it is “not the absence of crosses”. They become easier when they carry their cross with Jesus and Mary.

“Religious life is a life of sacrifice, a life of reparation – we follow in the footsteps of St Francis who loved poverty and followed in the steps of Jesus in His poverty and humility,” she said.
It is a life of mortification and penance, but “when you do it for the love of God, knowing you can save many souls, not only your own but others’, and for the conversion of sinners, then it’s worth doing”, she said.

This way of bearing daily crosses for the sake of the Kingdom is not unique to Religious life, she said – it applies to married life too, so long as Jesus is put at the centre of one’s life, “with Mary as queen of the home”.

“The frame of mind (in Religious life) is obedience. When you’re in the world, you do what you want to do, but in Religious life you follow the will of Another; you give up your will for the love of God – which is probably the hardest thing for many,” she said.

Living by Providence, she said, is accepting what you’re given, including food – unless there’s a serious medial reason not to. The point is, they own nothing; everything, including their habits, are given for their use.

There are at least three Australian-born nuns with the Immaculata, plus one aspirant from Sydney. “Hopefully there will be more,” Sr Maria Regina said.

Congregation for the Clergy Sends Lenten 2011 Message to Priests


S. Em. R. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza
Prefect of the Congregation For the Clergy

Esteemed Brothers,

This time of grace, which is given to us to live, calls us to a renewed conversion. The ministerial Priesthood is always new and through this gift the Lord Jesus is made present in our lives and, through our lives, in the lives of all men.

Conversion, for us Priests, above all else means to conform our lives more closely to the preaching that we offer daily to the faithful, becoming in this way 'a piece of the living Gospel' that everyone can read and accept. The foundation of that behaviour is, without doubt, the conversion of our own identity: we must convert ourselves to that what we are! The identity, welcomed and received sacramentally in our wounded humanity, demands the progressive confirmation of our hearts, our minds, our behaviours to everything that we are in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd that has been sacramentally imprinted in us.

We must enter into the Mysteries that we celebrate, especially in the most Holy Eucharist, and to allow ourselves to be formed by them. It is in the Eucharist that the Priest rediscovers his true identity! It is in the celebration of the Divine Mysteries that one can catch sight of 'how' to be a shepherd and 'what' is necessary to truly serve each other.

A de-Christianised world requires a new evangelisation, yet a new evangelisation requires 'new' priests. Not Priests in the superficial sense, like every passing fashion, but in the sense of a heart profoundly renewed by every Holy Mass, renewed by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Priest and Good Shepherd.

Particularly urgent is the conversion from noise to silence, from the anxious need 'to do' to the desire to 'remain' with Jesus participating ever more consciously with His being. Every pastoral action must always be an echo and expansion of that what the Priest is! We must convert ourselves to communion, rediscovering what it really is: communion with God and the Church and with each other.

The ecclesial communion is characterised fundamentally by a renewed conscience that is lived out and announces the same doctrine, the same tradition, the same history of holy men and therefore the same Church. We are called to live Lent with a profound ecclesial awareness, rediscovering the beauty of being in an exodus of people, that includes all the Ordained Priesthood and all people, that looks to their own shepherd as a model of secure reference and with an expectation of renewed and luminous testimony.

We must convert ourselves to the daily participation of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Christ made possible and efficacious our Salvation with His perfect vicarious substitution. In the same way, every Priest, alter Christus, is called, as were the great saints, to live first hand the mystery of their substitution for the service of all especially in the faithful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Sacrament is sought for ourselves and generously offered to everyone, along with Spiritual Direction, such that in the daily offering of our lives we repair the sins of the world. Serene, penitent, Priests before the Blessed Sacrament bring the light of evangelical and ecclesial wisdom in contemporary circumstances which seam to challenge our faith. In this way, they become authentic prophets able, in their turn, to launch to the world the only real challenge: that of the Gospel that calls us to conversion.

Sometimes the fatigue is really great and we experience the feeling of being only a few before the needs of the Church. However, if we do not convert, we will always be less because only a renewed, converted, 'new' priest can become an instrument through which the Holy Spirit calls other new Priests.

To the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, we trust this Lenten journey imploring from Divine Mercy that, based on the model of our Heavenly Mother, also our Priestly heart will become a 'Refugium peccatorum'.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Cuba Has a New Catholic Seminary"


March 2 — The new San Carlos y San Ambrosio Seminary was inaugurated barely four months ago. There are few photos of it, perhaps because it is so out of the way on the outskirts of the city. In any case, this report provides photos of the interior and external of the facility, as well as information related to the institution.

The seminary was inaugurated on November 3, 2010. Its construction was carried out on land controlled by the Archdiocese of Havana, about 10 miles to the southeast of the city. According to a statement by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino during the inauguration, this will be “an appropriate space for prayer, study and silence on the part of those who are preparing for the priesthood in Cuba.”

The historic site of the school, situated in the tourist center of Old Havana, didn’t provide the conditions of isolation necessary for this type of facility. In addition, according to one seminarian, the students lived in overcrowded conditions at the old seminary.

The current building area is close to 6,000 square meters, with a capacity to house 100 seminarians. The building presently serves 44 of the 66 students who are studying in the entire country today. In the San Basilio Magno Seminary, in Santiago de Cuba reside 17 students, and another five in the Propedeutico at the Archdiocese of Camaguey.

The design includes a main building with an entrance way, a lobby, a reception hall, a main classroom, several smaller classrooms, a library, an infirmary and offices. The chapel occupies a central focus in the architectural concept.

There are four buildings for theology and four for philosophy, along with classrooms and bedrooms on the lower level and bedrooms in the upper level. For the philosophy seminarians (those in their first four years at the seminary) individual rooms were built, with a bathroom serving each two rooms. The theology seminarians (those in the last four years) will have individual rooms, each with their own bathroom.

There exists a services building with a basement and two upper floors. Located there is the dining room, recreation areas and the dormitory for beginning seminarians. To this was added the construction of 10 rooms for teachers, and a residence for nuns (this is already occupied by Franciscan Sisters of San Jorge, who assist with the operation of the seminary).

The buildings are connected to each other to prevent rain from bothering people when moving between them. Still under construction is the sports area, which will have two ball courts. In the meantime the seminarians have set up their own rudimentary gym. There exits a plan to build a swimming pool, though this is on hold due to budgetary limitations.

Areas are being prepared with fruit-bearing trees and a vegetable garden, as well as for the breeding of farmyard birds, pigs and other animals for consumption by the seminarians, teachers and service personnel.

From 2009 to 2010, the number of seminarians in the whole country increased by 16.2 percent. It’s interesting to know that 98 percent of the students are Catholic converts, meaning that they don’t come from families with extensive religious backgrounds.

In the past decade, the number of ordinations was barely 6.2 percent of the initial enrollment in seminaries of the country. The statistic is below the average at the world level, where perseverance stands at 10 percent.

The 2004-2005 school year experienced the greatest enrollment at San Carlos, with 104 students; while the smallest figure corresponds to the current class, with only 44 youths. This implies a rate of one seminarian for each 250,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Havana.

A substantial advantage of the new school is that seminarians will be able to obtain the official degree of Bachelors of Theology because the new center is affiliated with the Gregorian University of Rome.