Greetings and welcome to St. Patrick’s Seminary & University located in beautiful Menlo Park California. St. Patrick's is an institution dedicated to the initial and ongoing formation of priests for service in the Roman Catholic Church. St. Patrick's serves dioceses throughout the western United States and the Pacific Rim. The priests of the Society of St. Sulpice have dedicated themselves to this ministry of preparing diocesan priests here at St. Patrick's since 1898 when the first Sulpicians came to San Francisco.
God continues to bless St. Patrick's in so many ways. Amidst so many rich gifts and experiences the Lord teaches his disciples of today, just as he taught his first disciples, telling all to focus only on the tasks he gives each to do. This sets the stage at the outset of our academic and spiritual enterprise. As St. Patrick's welcomes new men the community is humbled by the work of the Holy Spirit and the action of God in the lives of these individuals. The seminary focuses on cultivating the seeds of faith sown by their parents, family members, pastors, religious, vocation directors, catechists, friends, lay faithful and countless others. All are reminded to be very conscious of the sacrifice of those who have sowed the original seeds of faith in the hearts of the men who come to the seminary. Those who come here, who desire to study and be formed into priests of the Lord Jesus Christ, do so moved by the example of saints all around them and ultimately motivated by the One who provides for the growth. As the evangelist St. John records, "For here the saying is verified that 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work." (John 4:37-38)
The men of our time studying for the priesthood aspire to a noble enterprise. They will certainly need selfless and positive energy in these challenging and yet wonderful times. Many of these new priests will take assignments wherein they will be responsible for ministering to people in multiple locations. They will also be blessed to be ordained into service of a church that encourages the people of God to assist them in the tasks of addressing the many needs of their brothers and sisters in their communities. In light of this reality the seminary is further convinced about the need to form pastors in the seminary today rather than simply parochial vicars who would, in previous decades, be named pastors later in their years as priests.
This requires ever renewing focus and ongoing research and study. Thus, “a day in the life of a seminarian” necessitates daily reflection on the stark and real challenges facing priests today. The programs of the Vatican II Institute also promise wonderful support to these new priests in their ministry. The Mantle of Elijah program, for example, prepares experienced priests and pastors in the dioceses to serve as mentors to the new priests. The mentors are formed to provide crucial insights, guidance and support to the new diocesan priest. The programs for new priests and pastors, including study days, also provide opportunities for priests to further equip themselves for the ongoing demands of their ministry.
As the seminarians today prepare for their ministry, they do so in light of a culture that seems to believe that the priesthood is obsolete. As Pope Benedict XVI relates in his letter to the seminarians of the world this year, "In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a “job” for the future, but one that belongs more to the past. You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life’s true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity." And learning to bring people to God in every age, particularly our own, is the raison d'être of this seminary. May God continue to bless the efforts of all who give of themselves to this mission. And, may God bless St. Patrick's, its benefactors, patrons and holy ones now and always.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. James L. McKearney, S.S.