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Training the Educators: ‘A Priest for You’

February 13, 2020. ‘You have shown me the beauty and universality of the Church’

“You have shown me the beauty and universality of the Church”, said Father Habtelel Ghebray from Eritrea – Father Hagos Danne from Ethiopia also thanks us, with these words: “Together with all the priests, our brothers from all over the world, we were like one big family. The Catholic Church is one great family.” These two priests had recently taken part in an international training course in Rome for seminary teachers and were interviewed by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Each year this course brings together over a hundred professors, rectors, and lecturers from all over the world.

They spend a month in the Regina Apostolorum Institute, not only brushing up on their theoretical knowledge and getting up to date with the latest research in the field of education but also experiencing the wonderful depths of that mutual “sacramental fraternity” described by the Congregation for the Clergy in its guidelines for priestly formation – in shared prayer, Holy Mass and joint excursions to view the Eternal City. This awareness of their common fraternity, in the priesthood and service of the sacraments, is something that needs to be constantly deepened. The patron saint of priests, the holy Curé of Ars, put it like this: “Oh how great is the priest! He will understand himself only in heaven. He holds the key to the heavenly treasures. The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution, does not administer the sacraments to himself. He is a priest not for himself, but for you.”

It is this awareness that the seminary formators must seek to convey to their seminarians, and they are strengthened in this mission by the spirit of fraternity they experience here. Most of them come from Africa and Latin America, from countries where the Church is rich in vocations but too poor to be able to fund the cost of these courses. So each year ACN contributes more than €100,000.