Friday, August 5, 2022
Fr. Matthew Gomez - The Archdiocese of Miami
Photography: TOM TRACY | FC
Father Matthew Gomez serves as director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Miami.
MIAMI | “This “communitarian form” [of priestly ministry] also means that priests are to develop and foster bonds of fraternity and cooperation among themselves, so that the reality of the presbyterate may take hold of their lives.” (PresbyterorumOrdinis, no. 8)
These words from the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Ministry and Life of the Priest are at the root of why the seminarians and even priests have a convocation. It is fitting that the new Program of Priestly Formation would quote this pivotal document.
From August 1 to August 4, 2022, the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Miami and I, the vocations director, gathered at St. John Vianney College Seminary for their annual convocation. This is a privileged time they have to gather as brothers, to pray, rest, and get ready for the upcoming year of formation.
From August until May, these men will be praying, studying, and living with each other as they are formed to be the priests of the future. During the summer months, they are assigned to different experiences. The most common summer experience is the parish assignment. Some seminarians had a chance to go on the Rome Experience, the Institute for Priestly Formation, and a little closer to home, STU Impact.
Gathering at the end of the summer, the seminarians were able to share their experiences and their stories: “the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all” (Acts 4:33).
The experiences of the men further along in formation build up the men who are younger in formation.
The week began with a morning of reflection at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity where the rector, Father Jose Espino, imparted some practical wisdom from the life of Our Blessed Mother: A seminarian and a priest must have a radical openness to God and a radical openness to others. Mass was offered asking Our Blessed Mother, the image and model of the Church, to guide the men to be good and holy priests.
Later in the afternoon, the Emmaus brothers from St. Agnes Church, on Key Biscayne, invited the seminarians to what can only be considered the greatest tradition of the seminarian convocation: a cookout at “El Farito” Beach. It is a great moment of encounter to have the Emmaus brothers see the future presbyterate of the Church, but also to have the seminarians see the generosity of the people of God firsthand.
Throughout the week the seminarians listened to various conferences on the realities of the Church and their lives. Luis Nieves, director of evangelization for the Catholic Church of the Epiphany in Port Orange, spoke on the importance of intentional discipleship. His point: Yes, the job of the priest is to make disciples for Jesus, but the priest must also be an intentional disciple of the Lord.
Tessie Lobon, a physical therapist, personal trainer and longtime parishioner of St. John Neumann Parish in Kendall, spoke of the importance of exercise and eating healthily by giving the seminarians practical tips.
As vocations director, I presented an overview of the new Program of Priestly Formation, which recently received the recognition and confirmation from Rome to be implemented in the Church in the United States.
I asked the seminarians to pray for the bishops and seminary staff as they meet to see how to best implement the new “PPF.”
Father Rafael Capó, vice president of Mission and dean of the School of Theology at St. Thomas University, spoke to the seminarians about the Eucharistic Revival that is beginning throughout the country. Father Capo, one of the National Eucharistic Preachers, spoke about the origins of this revival and where it is heading.
The last conference was the State of the Vocations Office address, where I shared with the seminarians the plans for the upcoming year and what has been done this previous year.
The convocation ended with a Mass presided by Archbishop Thomas Wenski and concelebrated by all the priests from St. John Vianney College Seminary, Father Emmanuele De Nigris, rector of Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary in Hialeah, and myself.
August 4 is the feast of St. John Vianney. It was only fitting that the archbishop would preside at this solemn Mass, at the seminary, with the seminarians who are looking to the saintly priest, the Cure d’Ars, for intercession as they approach ordination.
In his homily, the archbishop said: “A priestly vocation, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, is both a ‘gift and a mystery.’ To embrace the gift and to enter into the mystery which enables the priest, in communion with Jesus, to act in his name and in his sight, as a shepherd of souls, is a step not to be taken lightly. That’s why we take so seriously the formation you undergo at our seminaries.”
As the seminarians continue their formation in their respective seminaries, let us pray that they may be opened to the mystery and gift that is the priestly vocation. That this step, not taken lightly, may be one that bears much fruit. Let us also ask the Master of the harvest to send more laborers from the parishes, schools, ministries, and movements of the archdiocese into His vineyard. (Mt. 9:38)