Friday, September 21, 2012
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Today, after a good meeting of the Board of Trustees, we gather with this seminary community to celebrate the Holy Eucharist – and, at this liturgy, Father David Toups will formally assume the duties of rector by making his profession of faith.
The Bishops of Florida are grateful to Bishop Lynch for releasing Father from his duties in the Diocese of St. Petersburg and we are grateful to Father Toups for accepting our call to be a seminary rector which is certainly a difficult but unique service in and for the Church of God. In choosing those whom we entrust with the responsibility for the formation and education of future priests we, bishops, look to priests of exemplary life who possess a number of qualities including “human and spiritual maturity, pastoral experience, professional competence, stability in their own vocation and a capacity to work with others”. (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis)
(That’s quite a check list – but we believe that you fill the bill.)
Father Toups, as rector, along with the faculty members and formators of this seminary, you are called, in the words of St. Paul in today’s Epistle to the Ephesians, to “equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ…” As you begin this service, may you also find comfort and strength in St. Paul’s assurance: “But, grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
Grace, of course, in the words of Pastores Dabo Vobis does not “cancel human freedom; instead (this gift of God) gives rise to freedom, develops freedom and demands freedom.” It is in that freedom, you responded “Yes” to God in baptism; it is in that freedom, you also said “Yes” to the call of the priesthood; and now once again, you have responded “Yes” to this new mission you have assumed in becoming rector of this seminary. This “yes” frees you for the mission entrusted to you.
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. In his life and, to be sure, in his martyrdom, he witnessed to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and also the power of his grace. We seek his intercession, that of all the holy apostles and that of St. Vincent de Paul as we install Father David Toups as the new rector of this still young seminary which soon will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
And in assuming office, he will make his own profession of faith – and in his profession of faith, and in our own, we wish to recognize the same faith that the apostles preached and, like Matthew, died for. It is this same faith that the universal Church wishes to proclaim with renewed conviction, confidence and hope during this Year of Faith. And, if these men entrusted to your care are to be the heralds of the New Evangelization, then that faith – in all its fullness and authenticity – must be professed, celebrated, lived and prayed in this seminary community.
In the Church, we trust in God. (“God will provide” was the Episcopal motto of my predecessor, Archbishop Favalora); however this trust must be accompanied by the grave responsibility on our part to “cooperate in the action of God who calls, and to contribute toward creating and preserving the conditions in which the good seed, sown by God, can take root and bring forth abundant fruit.”
As we look out on this chapel full of seminarians, we can say that God does provide; but you, Father Toups and your collaborators here in formation must nurture and help bring to maturity the vocations that God sends us. And so, we pray, that your own gifts shaped and perfected by God’s grace will indeed leave their own distinctive mark on this institution and make their own unique contribution to this seminary and all who pass through it
As we can see in today’s Gospel that tells us of the call of Matthew, God doesn’t necessarily call the qualified – (and who among us can claim to be deserving of such a vocation?) But, through the work of formation done here at St. Vincent de Paul, through your stewardship of this office entrusted to you, God will qualify the called. (And those whom he doesn’t qualify you will not recommend for orders.)
As rector, you together with the faculty must discern how best to form future priests who are truly able to respond to the demands of our times and therefore capable of evangelizing the world. The rapid changes in our society and culture, the diversity and complexities of our local churches do not make this task easy. However, your discernment is not done in a vacuum but indeed is guided by the wisdom of the Church in her teachings and in the lived experienced of her saints whose examples continue to edify and inspire us.
The priests of tomorrow, no less than the priests of today, must resemble Christ – under your leadership, we pray that these men learn Christ – not as merely a figure remembered from distant history, or as an abstract idea, but as St. Paul did, as the one who, though once was dead, is alive.
David, by the grace of God, you are what you are – and his grace will not be ineffective!