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Pope to US seminarians: Listen to the Lord, walk together, offer witness

Welcoming a group from Saint Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio (USA), Pope Francis encouraged them to deepen their listening to the Lord, walking together in communion, and giving witness to their faith, key elements that mark their seminary formation and the Church’s synodal journey.

By Thaddeus Jones

Pope Francis met with priests, deacons, seminarians and staff from Saint Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday morning. The US group is celebrating the 175th anniversary of the seminary’s founding. 

After opening greetings by Cleveland’s Bishop Edward Malesic, Pope Francis addressed the group by first giving thanks to God for the great number of priests formed by the seminary over almost two centuries. He noted how the seminary continues this mission today by educating and training deacons and lay ministers “to assist God’s holy people in living their call to be missionary disciples.”

The Pope in his prepared text then highlighted how this mission of formation takes on “ever greater importance” as the Church continues in its synodal journey by underscoring three key elements: listening to the Lord, walking together, and giving witness.

Listening to the Lord

Listening to the Lord is an essential characteristic, as “by ourselves we can do nothing,” the Pope pointed out. This awareness calls us to mediate on the Lord’s word every day, to spend time in prayer, silence before the Tabernacle, and to have the help of spiritual accompaniment. 

“Never forget the importance of placing yourselves before the Lord to hear what he wants to say to you. In fact, listening to God’s voice deep within our hearts and discerning his will is indispensable for our interior growth, particularly when we encounter urgent and difficult tasks”

Seminary life already helps develop this habit of prayer that is key to ministry, the Pope observed, and listening to the Lord helps in responding to our faith so that we can effectively teach and proclaim “the truth and beauty of the Gospel in an authentic and joyful way.”

Walking together

The Pope then focused on the importance of deepening the spirit of fraternal communion among those at the seminary, but also with their Bishop, the faithful of the local Church, including men and women religious and the lay faithful, all with an eye to the wider world of the universal Church. 

“We should recognize that we are part of one great people which has received God’s promises as a gift, not as a privilege. In the same way, your vocation is a gift to be placed at the service of building up the body of Christ.”

Pastoral ministry includes showing the path forward, encouraging others and always accompanying the flock.

Giving Witness

Listening to God and walking together help us become “living signs of Jesus present in the world,” the Pope recalled, and in this way we can give witness to our faith. The Pope expressed his hope that their seminary formation will help prepare them to be give of themselves completely “in celibate love and with an undivided heart, to God and his holy people.”

“The Church needs your enthusiasm, generosity and zeal in order to show everyone that God is always with us, in every circumstance of life. I pray that, in the various educational and charitable apostolates in which you are already engaged, you will always be signs of a Church that goes forth, bearing witness to and sharing the merciful love of Jesus with all in the human family, especially the poor and those in need.”

The three actions of listening, walking together, and witness are key elements of the Church’s synodal journey, the Pope emphasized, as well as their own formation journey in preparing for ordination. 

“Entrusting you to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of your seminary, I warmly bless each one of you, your families and your local Churches. And I ask you please to pray for me. Thank you!”

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