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Rome Reports

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Bishop Robert Deeley on seminary formation during Vocations Awareness Week

Vocations Awareness Week falls on the first full week in November, the same time the first group of U.S. Bishops happened to be in Rome for their ad limina meeting with Vatican delegates and the pope.

Bishop Robert Deeley, from the Diocese of Portland, is promoting this week with flashback pictures on his Twitter. He says vocations run strong in his very devout family, with both him and his brother being priests. 

Bishop Deeley remembers his interest sparking as early as five years old, watching his three older brothers as altar servers, helping the priest. 

Bishop Diocese of Portland, Maine
"When I was a junior in high school, the priest who had been in the parish for eight years, he had taught me to be an altar server and was in charge of the youth program. He was a very close friend of my family. He said to me one day, 'Robert, have you thought about being a priest?' That was when the penny dropped and so I went into the seminary after high school.”

It is one area he encourages men to pursue and discern, with various seminarians coming from the diocese. 

Bishop Deeley is on the board for Rome's U.S. Seminary, the North American College, and insists seminary formation is of the utmost importance for all those who will be leading the people of God.

Bishop Diocese of Portland, Maine
"I think we have to very careful that the people we accept in the seminary are healthy, psychology, spiritually, and in terms of human development. They are able to relate to others, are able to communicate with others, are able to appreciate the gift that others are to us, and are able to be educated. That's just the other pillar, so that they can bring an intellectual understanding of the faith we share emotionally and spiritually through the Eucharist.”

This is done not only through vocations retreats and events, which the diocese hosts, but the actual training and restriction process for who can enter seminary. He says these restraints are not only for U.S. seminaries.

Bishop Diocese of Portland, Maine
“Did they not believe the sexual abuse crisis was a major problem in only 'Anglophone' countries, until it exploded here in Italy, Chile, and Poland and Germany, and Eastern Europe and Africa? Human nature is human nature, and the existence of sin or bad decisions or crimes in peoples lives, exist in any culture. We have to help our seminarians to be healthy."

This is being done by focusing on inner formation of seminarians, through Ratio Fundamentalis, a rule the Holy See has produced. It looks at the hearts and behavior of the men seeking to become priests, through formation, unity, community and a missionary spirit. Its application has been one of the points discussed in Rome, during Vocations Awareness Week.

Melissa Butz