Formation crucial in the life of the ordained

October 10, 2017

Flooded during Hurricane Harvey, St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring held their first Friday Mass out in the front steps of the church. Photo courtesy of St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring.

HOUSTON — Pope Francis has stated that formation should accompany the entire lives of ordained men as they serve in their role as disciples of Christ who shepherd the faithful. Church Canon Law states “…the Church has the duty and the proper and exclusive right to form those who are designated for the sacred ministries.” (Can. 232).

Thus, the Holy Father and bishops worldwide recognize the need for ongoing clergy formation and training, which must integrally address the intellectual, human, spiritual, and pastoral dimensions of each man serving.

The office responsible for providing lifelong formation opportunities for both active and retired ordained priests and deacons in the Archdiocese is the Secretariat for Clergy, one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

According to Sister Gina Maria Iadanza, MSC, associate director for the Secretariat, the office is comprised of a variety of ministries and programs that support 434 priests, as well as 411 permanent deacons currently actively serving in the Archdiocese.

“DSF is vitally important to the development and ongoing formation of priests and deacons, as it not only provides needed resources, but directly commits every Catholic to the sacramental future of the Church and the mission of Christ,” said Sister Iadanza. “As a community of faith, we need shepherds who are deeply spiritual, healthy and effective, which requires years of formative education prior to ordination, as well as ongoing formation programs throughout their years of ministry. When a personal commitment is made to DSF toward clergy formation, we are strengthened as a local Church to meet the needs of a growing culturally diverse faith community that needs even more priests as we move into the future.”

Under the umbrella of Clergy Formation is the Office of Ministry to Priests, which is responsible for overseeing the pastoral care and coordination of the Archdiocesan programs and activities which support and strengthen the priestly life and ministry of the presbyterate of the Archdiocese.

Resources are provided that offer sacramental reconciliation, spiritual direction, various support groups and mentoring of newly ordained priests and acculturation process of international priests, and visitation of elderly and infirm priests. To encourage fraternity and hospitality among Archdiocesan priests, activities include days of prayer and annual retreats, as well as consultation to the Priests Personnel Committee and the Ongoing Formation of Priests Committee.

For almost 20 years, Father Norbert Maduzia Jr., E.V., pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring, has helped lead the efforts of the Ongoing Formation of Priests Committee.

Its main purpose is to provide lectures, workshops and conferences, which provide information that helps priests to continue developing in the areas of theology, Scripture, homiletics and pastoral care. Father Maduzia believes that programs offered should help foster the lifelong formation of happy, well-balanced and effective priests of Jesus Christ.

“Our programs integrate the four pillars of intellectual, human, spiritual and pastoral development,” Father Maduzia said. “All pillars are critical, but on the forefront, is the continual spiritual formation of priests, which Pope Francis has encouraged the people of God to support, even when it takes the priest temporarily away from his ministerial duties. We need retreat time, to go up to the mountain to pray alone, just like Jesus had to do to stay connected to the Father and fulfill his mission.”

Father Maduzia said the human development of priests is also of major importance, especially when it comes to the acculturation process of international priests.

“We have to teach them about our culture in the United States... This helps the priest to be welcomed and accepted as the pastoral leader for the people of God he has been chosen to shepherd,” he said.

A personal example of when ongoing formation training paid off for Father Maduzia was when he attended a national convention held in New Orleans at a parish devastated by Hurricane Katrina more than 10 years ago. He remembers the incredible stories told by the pastor and parishioners impacted by the devastation, and efforts they undertook to survive and bring the faith community back into existence after the flooding.

“Fast forward 10 years later, somewhere in my psyche, in my heart and spirit, all that information was stored away and without even thinking, I was able to immediately draw from that experience when my own parish flooded last month during Hurricane Harvey,” Father Maduzia said. “I intrinsically knew what I had to do, which was to quickly gather my people together, my flock, so we could maintain our identity and still be church. We are so much further along as a parish one month later than we would have been if I hadn’t attended that training and retained the information in my brain.”

Father Maduzia said one main event his ministry offers, which is required for all Archdiocesan priests to attend every two years, is a week-long Priest’s Convocation held in Galveston. In addition to workshops and lectures, the priests gather together in prayer and Liturgy of the Hours, celebrate daily Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and anoint the sick and elderly. Again, all four pillars of formation are represented.

“Programs like this demonstrate the level of support we receive from our Archdiocese, which began with the vision of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza and continues this day under the leadership of Daniel Cardinal DiNardo,” said Father Maduzia. “Many dioceses larger than our own do not have this level of support. I personally continue to serve in this ministry, because I love being a priest and want my brother priests to be happy and effective in ministry, which can be done through program.”

Father Maduzia said he feels it is important for priests across the Archdiocese to gather together like a family to share stories and celebrate in each other’s triumphs, as well as to challenge each other and give encouragement when the going gets tough. Nobody can understand a priest like another priest.

“We are scattered all over the city, overworked, and few in number, so we come together in a loving, fraternal way to strengthen our priestly family and to help and encourage one another,” Father Maduzia said. “We leave pumped and ready to get back to ministry.
Father Maduzia believes that through these programs, they form a unique fraternity of priests, one that develops and fosters bonds and cooperation, which creates the reality of a presbyterate in communion with its bishops.