A Change in Seminary Formation
In 2016, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy provided new guidelines and norms for the priestly formation process throughout the world. These norms call for an additional period of formation at the very beginning of a man’s journey to the priesthood. This additional period is called a Propaedeutic Phase. This phase will last from one to two years and will serve as a transition period before he begins the required academic courses in philosophy and theology. Thus, it is pre-seminary formation designed to prepare young men to ask the fundamental question: Is God calling me to be a priest of Jesus Christ?
“It is very difficult for anyone to hear the voice of God in the noise of this world,” said Father Barnett, Rector of Bishop White Seminary. “Saturated with technology, social media, and academics, young men need a ‘detox’ from the current culture.”
The new phase will become mandatory within the next five years. It calls for a physically distinct community with its own rule of life, with adequate space for recreation, study, and prayer. Yet Bishop White Seminary is landlocked, near capacity, and with no room to expand. So when a former convent nearby became available, Bishop Thomas Daly directed Father Barnett to explore the feasibility of purchasing it.
On Oct. 7, 2020, the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral and the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, he signed papers finalizing the purchase. “It is an answer to many prayers,” noted Father Barnett.
Our Response: Cor Christi Pre-Seminary Formation
But a building is only part of the answer. “God promised to give us shepherds after His own heart, and He fulfilled that promise in Jesus.” The new program will be called “Cor Christi: Pre-Seminary Formation at McGivney Hall. .”
“Cor Christi” (Latin for “Heart of Christ”) will be a place where young men will develop healthy fraternity, solid spirituality, strong catechesis, and formation in chastity, while developing a dynamic of self-giving through apostolic service.
Bishop White is ideally suited to provide this initial formation. It currently serves nine (Arch)Dioceses from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California, and its program has gained the trust of the bishops in those locales. Since the specific norms of the program have not yet been finalized, this is a wonderful time to make adequate preparations.
The building purchased in the fall, which was constructed in 1950, was originally a convent for the Holy Names sisters. This new facility is named McGivney Hall in honor of Blessed Michael J. McGivney, the simple parish priest who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.
McGivney Hall is a large building, over 16,000 square feet. Given its age, the wear and tear by decades of tenants, and deferred maintenance, significant renovations are necessary to bring it up to code and suitably prepare it for seminarians and faculty. The current residents will occupy the property through May, 2021, and Bishop White Seminary will take possession on June 1. Renovations are planned to begin in the summer of 2021, and the propaedeutic phase for a new group of discerning men will not begin before the fall of 2022. In the meantime, there is much to do.
A development committee has been assembled to spearhead the campaign with a fundraising goal of $3.6 million. These funds will be used to cover the purchase and renovation of the building, and the costs of developing the program itself. The seminary hopes to leverage a broad base of support from across the West Coast in order to raise the necessary funds. Initial donations received to date total $59,000, and are being used for preliminary expenses related to the project.
A stronger future
“Many people feel helpless facing today’s challenges: the pandemic, civil strife, tensions within the Church, and how to navigate ‘the new normal,” said Father Barnett. “Yet I firmly believe that Jesus is telling us what he told St. Peter: ‘Put out into the deep, and lower your nets for a catch’ (Luke 5:4).”
If you are moved to support the work of Bishop White Seminary and the new Cor Christi Program at McGivney Hall, please visit the Donate page..