by Juan M. Gutierrez
Coming back to the seminary after being away for my internship year was exciting and exhilarating, mainly because after being away from the Seminary one begins to miss the friendships and the fellowship we had with our fellow seminarians at St. John’s. Moreover, having experienced the joys and challenges of internship, we now come back for two more years of study and preparation to God willing go back to a life of ministry which we have already glimpsed after a year at the parish.
Our transition back to seminary life is marked by an intensive period of spiritual formation (IPSF), which seeks to provide us with some tools that we can use to integrate our internship experience in both the joys and challenges we have gone through at our given assignments.
During the first week of IPSF, we went through a debriefing process in which we shared with our fellow interns the ups and downs of our internship year. This time allowed us to see that, regardless of who we were and where we had been sent, life and human frailty presented for us plenty of opportunities to grow in patience when dealing with difficult situations and the consequences of our fallen nature.
Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik provided for us in IPSF a piece of wisdom that is great to keep in mind when our relationships with other people turn challenging: difficult times are oftentimes opportunities we are given to love. And out of love, we will not only bear one another’s frailties, but we will also call each other to a new and holier way of life.
Another speaker who came to share with us the pearls of wisdom he has accumulated through the years was Msgr. Albert Bahhuth. His talk on the Priest as Leader and Collaborator invited and challenged us to think about the kind of leaders we want to be. Among the most valuable lessons, I hope to take from this lecture is that a good leader is first and foremost, a good servant. In order to be a good leader, we have to be trustworthy and authentic, because people will only listen to us if they trust us, and they can only trust us if they see that we walk the walk and talk the talk.
Since priests are most effective in their ministry when they are healthy of body, mind, and soul, our IPSF program also includes the participation of individuals such as Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Tammy Ezzi. Her insights regarding the integration process and how this is a vehicle on the journey of transformation were so meaningful. This process is even more effective when it is strengthened by prayer and the grace of God, who wants us to be fully human and fully alive.
I am truly grateful that our formation program has given us this time to go through IPSF, and I now look forward to our last week of retreat. In it, we will make ourselves available to hear the voice of God who – as Fr., Eugenio Cardenas says– speaks the language of silence.