A Very Special Christmas Gift for the Pope: A Seminary
Diocesan Seminary Directed in Rome by the Legionaries of Christ
ROME, DEC. 24, 2000 (ZENIT.org).- Among the many gifts given to John Paul II this Christmas, perhaps the most original is a seminary. The seminary, located in Rome houses aspirants to the priesthood from all parts of the world.
At the request of the Holy Father, the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, founded by Fr. Marcial Maciel exactly sixty years ago, has opened a seminary available for use by all the bishops of the world. This year, the seminary moved to its definitive location.
The Pontifical College “Maria Mater Ecclesiae” currently has an enrollment of 230 seminarians between the ages of 20 and 25 from 77 dioceses in 22 countries. It began its history nine years ago in a provisional center on the outskirts of Rome.
On the Jubilee Christmas eve, the Pope´s desire became reality, in a modern facility located on Via Aurelia Antica, near downtown Rome.
This was quite a gift for the Pope and the bishops. The rector of the seminary, Fr. Juan Manuel Dueñas, told ZENIT that this formation center “was born at the express desire of the Holy Father. During his visit to Mexico in May 1990, the Pope, at the request of many bishops, asked for ´this grace of God in priestly formation to be given to our diocesan brothers as well.´”
Currently, most of the seminarians are from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa.
This formation center´s main objective is to prepare future seminary formation personnel according to the spirit of Vatican II. These seminarians, who have accepted the gift of the priestly vocation, receive a “spiritual formation based on a solid and fundamental prayer life,” explains Fr. Dueñas.
Their day begins early at 5:30 AM and is interlaced with moments of prayer and study, rest and fraternal living with young men from all parts of the globe. A large number of seminarians attend the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, while others go to one of the many Pontifical universities and athenaeums within the Eternal City.
“It is very beautiful to see the dining room full of seminarians from different communities and countries and listen to their conversations,” comments the rector. “It´s a small reflection of the universal Church.”
“In fact, this is one of the elements that characterizes this seminary,” Fr. Dueñas adds. “We offer future priests the possibility to prepare themselves alongside the Pope in the heart of the Church, with their eyes fixed on the horizon of the priestly mission that awaits them at the beginning of the millennium.”