Approved by the Priestly Formation Board on April 14, 2016
MISSIONARY DISCIPLES: FROM THE HEART OF THE CHURCH TO THE PERIPHERIES
Notre Dame Seminary’s Formational Vision statement sets the stage for how the seminarian understands the indispensable role of priestly ministry in the Church. This vision reflects the constant teaching of the last three pontificates which has emphasized the need for personal holiness as the essential element for effective evangelization in the modern world.
In his landmark exhortation on priestly formation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, St. John Paul II wrote that the new evangelization needs new evangelizers – the first of whom are priests who, following the heart of Christ, are serious about their pursuit of holiness and desire to shepherd the people of God (cf. PDV 82).The Holy Father challenged the entire Church to embrace the new evangelization in order for the Gospel of Christ to reach every sector of society and all the cultures of the world.
Pope Benedict XVI renewed the call for Universal Church to embrace the new evangelization as the way in which humanity comes to know Christ and His Kingdom. As he argued in Deus Caritas Est (no.1), “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” This radical encounter with Christ is the goal of formation; it is this encounter that is the abiding inspiration for a life of pastoral ministry. Acting with conviction and courage, with clarity of purpose, priests are called to seek out women and men wherever they are to be found, and offer the gift of that encounter with Christ, for “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).
Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, reaffirms the centrality of this encounter for evangelization in calling for a church of missionary disciples, a church which, having experienced Christ, takes the initiative to go forth to the world in order to invite the outcasts to share in the Good News (no. 24). The joy of having found the Messiah (Jn. 1:41) elicits an ardent desire in Christ’s disciples to share his saving love with all people. But this mission entails a ready willingness “to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium no. 20).
Notre Dame Seminary seeks to form holy missionary disciples to evangelize the culture and its peripheries. A seminarian begins his discernment by recognizing a personal call to discipleship to the Lord. He entrusts himself to God obediently, chastely, and docilely, cultivating a prayerful spirituality after that of Our Lady. This conversion is completed by prayer and study, which forms in him virtue and a profound relationship with Christ. Without prayer, without conversion, without knowing the heart of Christ, there is no discipleship; without these there can be no ministry. The People of God rely on the holiness of priests to help them in a world torn by sin by being living examples of the healing power of truth.
This requires seminarians to have a renewed sense of “mission.” They are called to be a missionary disciple to both our own culture and to all whom we are called to serve. The call to missionary work no longer means travel to foreign lands, for the peripheries of culture can be found in our own neighborhoods wherever a person is neglected or is in need of love.
We are Notre Dame Seminary! We are preparing missionary disciples for the new evangelization. Pray for us!