Irish seminary in Rome's future uncertainSaturday, May 19th, 2012
The Pontifical Irish College in Rome’s future as a seminary is looking less secure following comments by the Archbishop of Dublin questioning whether the Irish Church could afford to maintain two seminaries.
Speaking to the Irish Times on Thursday, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a trustee of the seminary, which was founded in 1628, said the recent decision to return three quarters of the staff at the college to duties in Ireland was, “related to the ongoing future of the college.”
Asked whether the decision in relation to the staff was linked to the apostolic visitation of Irish seminaries led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Martin told the Irish Times, “I’d say it’s related to the ongoing future of the Irish College, rather than directly with the visitation.”
He added, “The big question the visitation never addressed was how can Ireland at the moment maintain two seminaries."
“For me the question for the Irish College isn’t the staff, it is where are we going to get the students for it? If it’s going to be a vibrant seminary then you need the candidates,” he told the Irish Times, suggesting that the current intake might not be sufficient to make it viable to function as a seminary.
The Archbishop suggested that the College could become, even partially, a “postgraduate house.” There are currently 23 Irish seminarians studying for the priesthood at the Irish College in Rome, out of a total of 58 seminarians. The other 35 student priests hail from 22 countries.
Last week, Archbishop Martin said in Rome that the retirements of the College’s vice rector, Fr Albert McDonnell, the director of formation, Fr Billy Swan, as well as the college’s spiritual director, Fr Chris Hayden, was linked to ill health in the case of the spiritual director while the vice rector was serving beyond his term of office.
Archbishop Martin told CNA that in the light of the Apostolic Visitation it is, “not a bad idea to bring in new people, new ideas and move forward.” The current rector, Fr Ciaran O’Carroll from Dublin, was appointed last September and replaced Mgr Liam Bergin. Mgr Bergin held the post for 10 years and is now lecturing at Boston College in the US.
In a statement last week, Fr O’Carroll, announced that Fr Albert McDonnell, Fr Billy Swan and Fr Chris Hayden, would return to their respective dioceses of Killaloe and Ferns at the conclusion of this academic year, and would undertake new appointments. He also said the trustees of the Irish College, who are the four archbishops of Ireland, would announce new appointments after they meet later this month.
Meanwhile, the President of St Patrick’s College Maynooth confirmed that the national seminary’s faculty of theology is currently drawing up plans for the incorporation into the academic programme of in-depth formation on matters of child protection, with increased pastoral attention to victims of sexual abuse and their families.
Mgr Hugh Connolly said that while such formation is already undertaken in both a seminarian’s human formation and pastoral formation, the change in emphasis in the academic programme was in response to a, “salutary” recommendation.
At the launch of the apostolic visitation summary on March 20, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin indicated that this shift in formation on the issue of child protection would be coming down the line. He also said that there needs to be, “much greater discretion in accepting candidates,” for the priesthood.
Mgr Connolly confirmed to ciNews that a Forum on Seminary Selection and Admissions was held recently in Maynooth involving seminary formators, members of the Episcopal Commission responsible for selection, and formation issues and diocesan vocations’ directors.
“The college [Maynooth] is working closely with vocations’ directors and other personnel for a more consistent and coherent national selection and admissions procedure,” he said.
By Sarah Mac Donald