2/27/2014 9:01:00 AM SEMINARIAN'S DIARY Interning at a parish
BY BRIAN KELLY
As part of formation for the priesthood, those of us in our second year of theology go to our home dioceses for a 10-week internship in a parish. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to return to Christ the King parish in Guilderland.
The internship is meant to immerse us in what it truly means to be a public, present and active minister to the people. This is a vital part of our formation, reminding us that although we learn a great deal about what it means to be an active minister in the classroom, it's only through experience that we truly learn how to apply it.
The excitement of getting out of the classroom and into the real world of the Church is joyous, although overwhelming. There are many texts, rites to follow and papal encyclicals to help; however, they don't teach us how to develop our own style of ministry.
Every priest, though trained in almost identical ways, has a style, a personality and various gifts that he brings and applies to his ministry that makes him who he is. What works for one priest could be disastrous for another.
We need to be able to try out different things, be willing to be pulled out of our comfort zone and trust that it is God working through us that should be our focus and drive.
When Bishop-elect Edward B. Scharfenberger was introduced as the Albany Diocese's new bishop Feb. 11, his statement at the press conference that, "Sometimes, the shepherd needs the sheep to show him where to go - so show me," struck a chord with me about how to envision my next two months.
An internship allows us to not only shadow a priest and his way of ministering, but more importantly, to work with and learn from the people in the parish who minister to others.
It is the people in the parish who encourage, motivate and support those studying for the priesthood. It is the people who will teach us the most about ourselves as ministers: how to be that public/present person and how to develop our own ministerial style.
Interns are to immerse themselves into the lives of the people, who, at the end of Mass, are called to "go in peace, glorifying the Lord by their lives." From the pastor, we learn how he has been able to encourage more men and women to be full, active participants in their faith - how he has helped form and motivate the flock to begin to live out the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor.
We learn how the various groups in the parish offer to build community, whether it be through the Knights of Columbus, hospitality or communal prayer. We come to understand the long-term vision of each parish and its efforts to evangelize and welcome new members or those who have gone astray. We learn the parish's incorporation and focus on the youth, their involvement and the application of their hopes for the future Church.
Only by diving deep into all aspects of the parish do we really learn what it means to be a shepherd who will help lead the people toward Christ and His salvation.
When I think about being open to God's working in our lives, His forming us and preparing us to be servants of the Church, I can't help but think of the creation accounts in Genesis. Looking back from when I first began formation and seminary, I can see how God has been molding and forming me into who He wants me to be.
God has been working through others to touch my heart, encourage me to go on and begin to approach others as Christ would. Each experience has helped me to better understand God's will for me, leaving me only to grow in my faith, confidence in my calling and willingness to respond with a heartfelt "yes."
(Brian Kelly is a seminarian studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. A native of Newtonville, he was formerly business manager at Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes.)