Institute for Priests and Presbyterates in Action
Fr. Chris Wadelton
Increasingly, seminarians are finding themselves in parishes much sooner and with more responsibilities. Where do they look for guidance and who do they turn to for advice and assurance?
Those are some of the questions Saint Meinrad is addressing with its landmark initiative, the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates (IPP), which assists diocesan priests in their work through continuing education and formation.
Fr. Chris Wadelton, of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is a participant in the Institute and a 2009 alumnus of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.
Currently the associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish on the east side of Indianapolis, Fr. Chris has found that the IPP offers both ongoing personal formation and programs that foster a sense of community for his presbyterate (a presbyterate is made up of all the priests and the bishop of a particular diocese).
"There's a sense of coming home," he says. "It's an opportunity to share some of our recently learned experiences-talk to others about what we've been doing, what our ministry is like."
As a student at Saint Meinrad, Fr. Chris began the Settling into Priesthood program in his final year of seminary and continued into his first year as a new priest. The goal is simple: to make the transition into priesthood as seamless as possible.
"Before we were ordained, a lot of the information we were given was theoretical," he notes. "This is what ministry is going to be like and this is what to expect-but none of us had a vast amount of experience. Coming back, after just a few months, we could bring our experiences back and reflect on them. It made the theoretical much more practical."
Settling into Priesthood is just one of several programs the IPP offers to help priests in their first five years of ministry to continue their formation, learn from their peers and find the assistance they need as they adjust to their new roles.
During 2010, the Institute hosted 12 programs, with 117 participants. Programs include offerings that begin in the seminary to help the soon to be priest as he makes the transition into ministry. Mentor training and ongoing formation programs help priests in their first five years to continue to learn and grow in their ministry.
Finally, the IPP offers several programs that address presbyteral unity, bringing priests and their bishop together to form a cohesive unit and become more intentional about their common purpose.
"This year was my first convocation with all the other priests," says Fr. Chris. "It's a great opportunity to build fraternity. There's a feeling of coming back to the Hill, not as a student, but as one of the presbyterate."
The Institute for Priests and Presbyterates is expanding its offerings for dioceses, as well as serving more priests through existing programs. The new programs include a World Priest program to help international priests transition into diocesan ministry in the United States, and a Stoking the Fire sabbatical program for priests.
Growth and change at Saint Meinrad, in response to the changing needs of the Church, is part of what draws Fr. Chris back to the Hill. "I think it's a dynamic that is good to see in a seminary-that they continually update and remake themselves," he says. "Updating facilities and programs can be seen as a metaphor for ministry. Each priest has to learn to rejuvenate himself and remake himself continually in order to stay dynamic."