Living Hope Newsletter – February 2020
“Today a great work is beginning.”
This was St. Anthony Mary Claret’s message to five young priests in a Spanish seminary as he founded the Claretians, the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Although Catholic priests and brothers seem to be in short supply in the U.S. in recent years, the Claretians continue to thrive, as witnessed by the over 600 Claretian seminarians dispersed throughout the world, eight of whom reside in Chicago.
Fr. Jose Sanchez, C.M.F., serves as the Prefect for Formation for the students, who range in ages from 27 to 46 and come from a wide range of countries, including the United States, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Philippines, and Vietnam. “The education process varies depending on how much education they have when they enter into our formation program,” says Fr. Sanchez. “Some may come with advanced degrees already, while others may have only a couple of years of junior college under their belt.”
In the Claretian formation program students are required to take three years of philosophy, four years of theology, one novitiate year, and one pastoral year. Students are also encouraged to get a specialized degree in scripture, spirituality, spiritual direction, social justice, or sociology.
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 selections.
“It’s an intensive admissions process,” admits Fr. Sanchez. “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 a 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. “In general, a newly ordained Claretian Missionary will be expected to be sent to a parish for his first three years of ministry,” explains Fr. Sanchez. “We believe that it is important for a young ordained priest to be exposed to the pastoral and sacramental needs of a parish community. This will also allow him to experience creative ministry with the many missionary evangelization projects we have going on in our parishes. Parish ministry also allows our newly ordained to get involved in collaborative, team ministry with the laity."
“The decision about where a newly ordained or perpetually professed brother is sent is done in dialogue through a discernment program—thinking about the decision and talking about it with others,” says Fr. Sanchez. “At times there may be a particular need in the province or the congregation, and the young priest or brother may be considered for this depending on his gifts and capacity.”
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.
“The Claretians and I are very grateful to all the St. Jude devotees because it is through their prayers and financial support that we have been able to continue forming and preparing young men for the Universal Mission of the Church,” says Fr. Sanchez. “I pray that all of our hearts may burn with Apostolic zeal, as did St. Jude’s and St. Anthony Mary Claret’s, so that we may continue to be messengers of life and hope, especially to those most in need.”