Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This week marks a month since we celebrated the funeral of our beloved former pastor Fr. Michael Tegeder. One of the universal comments I received during these past weeks has been that Fr. Mike died too young. Yes, age 67 is young, and is getting younger every year for many of us. We all had hoped that Fr. Mike would serve another ten or twenty years in active ministry — note, the normal retirement age for priests is age 70 — and yet, we all must acknowledge that he like all of us would eventually have to let go of his ministry and his time on this earth. Yes, we are all given a limited time to live out the earthly life God has given us.
One of the lessons we are called to learn is that we must prepare for our departure. What will our legacy be? Who will take over the good work we have begun? How will the ministry we have offered the Church continue? Yes, we must look at the responsibility we have as members of our family, our society, and especially the Church. Thus, we must ask who our replacement workers will be. This raises two areas for concern regarding the Church: first, how are we fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life; and second, how are we preparing our future Church leaders.
First, I believe that vocations come first from God and second from the family. In the past there existed an understanding that every family should work at fostering a vocation; namely, that every family should offer one of its children to serve in an ordained or professed ministry. Today, I wonder whether parents even mention the possibility. How easy it is to think that a vocation will come from someone else’s family. Perhaps in past years this was easier to consider when Catholic families were larger (e.g., I have five siblings), or when there wasn’t so much scandal or difficulty within the Church. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that the Church needs vocations and all of us are responsible for providing these future leaders.
Second, I believe that we all are responsible for the formation of our future leaders. This support must be more than merely providing financial aid. One of the lessons I pray that we have learned amidst the scandals of recent years is that we must be involved in our Church. Thus, how are we actively involved with our local seminaries? Remember, a “Fr. Mike” just doesn’t happen; rather, he is nurtured through the family, the community, and the Church.
The good news here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is that we do have a significant opportunity to immerse ourselves in the formation of our future Church leaders, especially when it comes to our priests. For some thirty years The Saint Paul Seminary (SPS) has embraced the “Teaching Parish Program” (TPP). Simply understood, each seminarian is assigned to serve in one of our local parishes during his years at SPS. Each year he immerses himself in a different parish ministry in an effort to prepare himself for the day when he will leave SPS and begin his service to the local Church. One of the key TPP components is a support group provided by the local parish. These 8 to 10 parishioners will meet with the seminarian on a monthly basis to offer feedback and counsel.
The great news here at the Church of St. Edward is that we are being considered to be a part of the TPP. This means that 16 to 20 parishioners — apparently two seminarians are assigned to a parish — will need to step forward to serve on these support groups. More info will follow in the coming weeks; however, for now, I wanted to make you all aware of this great opportunity/responsibility that may be coming our way. If you are interested, please let me know. Remember, the next “Fr. Mike” does not just happen; rather, we all must play a role in his formation.
Fr. Brian Fier