Living Hope Newsletter – April 2009
Although Catholic priests seem to be in short supply in the U.S. in recent years, the Claretians continue to thrive, as witnessed by the 600 Claretian seminarians dispersed throughout the world, seven of whom reside in Chicago.
Father Thomas Joyce, C.M.F. serves as Superior for these students who range in ages from 23 to 37. “It is about a nine year process if they are starting out with no college or deep theological background,” says Father Joyce. “The type of studies they do are generally a liberal arts degree with an emphasis on philosophy.”
Becoming a Claretian priest or brother is no easy task. The application for candidacy includes letters of recommendation, transcripts, a behavioral assessment, psychological testing, and a brief history of the vocation journey. The Claretian Board of Admissions reviews these materials and makes the decision.
“It’s an intensive admissions process,” admits Father Joyce. “It’s what we call discernment – thinking about the decision and talking about it with others. We accompany the seminarian in the discernment process and the implications in terms of family or ambitions he may have. We want to know if he has a sense of service and whether he truly knows the Claretians and the work we do.”
Being part of a missionary order, each newly ordained Claretian knows the type of work that awaits, but they do not know where that work will take them. “Technically, you go where you are sent,” explains Father Joyce, who served as Superior at Our Lady of the Angels in Kingston, Jamaica as a member of the Claretians missionary team from 2001 to 2006. “In the old days you didn’t know where you were going until the day after ordination. Now there’s consultation. We take one year to get a feel for the person and his ambitions."
“It’s a negotiation process and depends on the needs of the community and the desires of the individual if possible,” says Father Joyce. “Though your own desires are limited by the needs of the congregation.”
“Helping people grow in their faith, and helping them to answer life’s ultimate questions is very rewarding personally. It's not about material rewards. If you think this is a profession for the powerful or wealthy, you’d be wrong.”
Educating and sustaining these young men in Claretian seminaries is a challenge. Both in the U.S. and in the far reaches of the world, resources are scarce, which is why the Claretians consistently instill in each student the importance of the members of the St. Jude League, whose gifts make their work possible.
“We Claretians have a great sense of gratitude to members of the St. Jude League and St. Jude devotees,” says Father Joyce. “Our seminary depends upon their contributions. We have to feed and house our students which can be very expensive. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them. We keep impressing upon our students that it is hard working people of faith who actually support their vocation.”