My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On Thursday, Nov. 10, before hundreds gathered at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, and I signed into agreement the creation of a single program of priestly formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) in Yonkers.
We are proud of the fact that at the beginning of September, 2011, Cathedral Seminary Residence in Douglaston welcomed 78 new students to its pre-theologate and collegiate program of priestly formation. Together, they represent six dioceses: the Archdiocese of New York, and the Dioceses of Brooklyn, Rockville Centre, Rochester, Syracuse, and Scranton, Pa.
Iam grateful to Archbishop Timothy Dolan for his leadership, and for taking the first step to enroll the seminarians of the archdiocese in a single program of priestly formation at the collegiate level. The priests of the Archdiocese of New York are a great resource to all of our seminarians. As a former rector of the North American College, Rome, Archbishop Dolan recognized the benefits of bringing together these seminarians. We all agree it has been fruitful for students and faculty alike.
The curriculum and fellowship in Douglaston have implications for the new graduate level program at Dunwoodie and the ongoing formation of clergy envisioned for Huntington. The ethnic, experiential and intellectual diversity, as well as catechetical formation, among the students at Douglaston has enabled the program of priestly formation to ensure that the human development of these students is well rounded. At the same time, the liturgical celebrations in spiritual life have improved dramatically, leveraging the gifts and resources of those who are in the process of priestly formation. Finally, the intellectual formation of these young men is robust. Those students with greater abilities have opportunities for deeper exploration with peers and those with more limited abilities have greater resources among their peers to assist them in their studies.
The success of this year’s program of priestly formation is in no small part due to the efforts of our neighbor to the East, Bishop William Murphy. Our two dioceses have a long history together and will be forever joined. From 1853 to 1957, we were one diocese; from 1957 to the present, our students have been formed at the same institutions. Our respective presbyterates have deep roots with one another.
Bishop Murphy is among our nation’s most intelligent and courageous bishops. We in the Diocese of Brooklyn are grateful to have had him as a partner in the formation of priests together in our two dioceses. He has long been a proponent of a rigorous program of priestly formation. Together with Archbishop Dolan, I look forward to our continued collaboration on the ongoing formation of the clergy and the faith formation of the laity.
This historic merger is an opportunity to fulfill the call of the late Blessed John Paul II for the New Evangelization. It is an invitation for all Christians, priests and lay persons alike, to enter into a renewed and deeper relationship with Christ. The formation of the Sacred Heart Institute for On-going Formation of Priests and the Verbum Domini Preaching Institute in Huntington will be critical in providing the resources to ensure the sanctification of the clergy who will in turn sanctify the people of God.
Further, the graduate level programs for lay formation and spiritual development will be expanded. In an era when the laity are taking greater and greater responsibility in the Church, this will help meet a critical need.
Born of this partnership is the opportunity to put out into the deep, and look beyond the shore into the not so definable sea that surrounds us.