Monday, February 4, 2013

Fidei Donum (Gift of Faith)

 In the 1957 encyclical Fidei Donum (Gift of Faith), Pope Pius XII asked local churches with a surplus of priests to send them to countries in need.  Both Catholic papers, commenting on the relatively large number of priests in Korea, mentioned that the Korean Church was now in a position to answer the pope's wishes in Fidei Donum.

The Peace Weekly reported on the plight of a diocese in France where four years ago only one priest was ordained and since then have had no ordinations or seminarians. The French diocese is asking Korea to send them priests, and our bishops, who have worked diligently to foster vocations in recent years, are now able to respond to their need.

Several new approaches to increase vocations have been tried. The high school seminary  approach, discontinued in 1983, was replaced with monthly meetings of those interested in the priesthood while still in their middle and high school years. This proved helpful, but the Seoul diocese decided to test another approach, setting aside a class for future seminarians in one of their high schools. The students would follow the same class schedule as did all the other high school students, with more freedom allowed for after-school hours to associate with students from the other classes. In addition, a dormitory is planned that will accommodate 200 students. This is not a return to the high school seminary days but an effort to start educating students for the priesthood while living with other students their age, experiencing the life of the typical teenager and yet preparing for entrance  to the seminary.

This year, out of a first class of 27 graduates from the seminary preparation class 14 passed the government exam for college entrance. Those that failed will try again next year.

To see this in perspective, let us see what happened last year; out of the 24 applicants who were accepted by the seminary, six were 3rd year high-school students who had passed the government exam. The rest were students who had taken the government exam and had failed and later passed the retake exam, or were transfers from other colleges, or were college graduates. This year 19 students in 3rd year high school passed the government exam; 14 of them were members of the seminary preparation class who had graduated from the Catholic High School.

It is apparent that the experiment by the Seoul diocese has been a success, and in the coming years will be better prepared, along with other dioceses, to respond to the pope's appeal in Fidei Donum.

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