IN the four years that I’ve worked in the seminary, I would always tell people of my gratitude to God for granting me the privilege and the blessing of preparing men to become priests. And even though I miss being a pastor, I find my work at the seminary profoundly fulfilling because of my indirect contribution to the spiritual lives of thousands of people that the seminarians will serve. Their future parishioners’ spiritual health will also depend on the kind of priests the seminarians will become. If they serve with the heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as we often teach them, the people of God will benefit abundantly from their ministry.
Although I’m still far from retirement age, I find my work as passing the baton to the next generation of priests. I feel like Jesus in the Gospel today on Solemnity of the Ascension who was instructing his disciples before leaving and ascending to heaven “to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” “Preach Jesus and be part of people’s lives,” I always remind my students.
I’m confident of many seminarians’ abilities, especially when I witness their love, zeal, and passion for ministry while they are on internship. Many of them possess gifts that I didn’t even have when I was a seminarian myself such as those that pertain to preaching, administration, organization, and leadership.
Our seminarians possess idealism, boldness, and eagerness to preach the Truth of Jesus Christ to people who lack knowledge and depth of the Christian faith. We can compare their attitudes to the words of Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel—they are not afraid to “pick up serpents with their hands” or “drink any deadly thing.” Figuratively, this means that they possess courage and boldness of heart. They may need more prudence, but they will have this charism as they gain more experience in the priesthood.
Lay people also have the responsibility of continually reminding seminarians and priests of the call they have received. Using the words of St Paul, they should urge seminarians and priests to live in a manner worthy of the call they have received, serving “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”
We all have the responsibility of nurturing vocations and forming good priests. As I told a group of lay people who served as members of the internship advisory board of one of our seminarians, it also takes a village to train a man to be a good priest.
The Good News of the Scripture Readings today is that Jesus Christ left the Holy Spirit to Church so that we would all be faithful to our baptismal call and use our particular gifts to build up the body of Christ. He sent us the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts so that we can spread the Good News of hope and peace in Jesus Christ to everyone! Amen.
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.