Monday, September 26, 2016

Church report: Seminary may need to be closed

A committee of Catholic priests said a seminary in Yona may need to be closed for the good of the Archdiocese of Agana unless the seminary can clarify its purpose, seek formal accreditation to ensure the quality of its priest formation program, and ensure its financial independence.

Father Jeffrey San Nicolas, delegate to Apostolic Administrator Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, released the church report earlier this week after holding a press briefing about issues facing the Catholic church on Guam, including the Neocatechumenal Way’s alleged interference in local church matters.

A member of the board of directors of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, which is run by the Neocatechumenal Way, said the report is biased.

“The way this committee arrived at their conclusion came from a biased perspective. They’re not interested in the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. They’re more interested in the closure of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary,” said Dr. Ricardo B. Eusebio, who has been a member of the Neocatechumenal Way on Guam for 19 years.

He said the seminary has produced 17 priests now serving the community.

A group pushing for the removal of Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, called the Concerned Catholics of Guam, said weeks ago that it believes the Redemptoris Mater Seminary is a sham.
The church committee's report is in line with many of that group's concerns about the seminary, from control and ownership of the property to the quality of formation program.

Hon, who was sent by the Vatican to Guam on June 6 to temporarily administer the local Catholic Church, formed four ad hoc committees of clergy members to assess different areas related to the church, including a review of seminaries, priest assignments, scenario of situation and ongoing formation.

The Seminary Visitation Ad Hoc Committee Report, dated Sept. 12, is so far the only ad hoc committee report that the archdiocese has made public.

The report made three recommendations:
  • The seminary needs to clarify its purpose, to include the sound formation of diocesan priests for parish ministry in the Archdiocese of Agana, notwithstanding their availability to be sent on mission.  
  • It is recommended that the seminary seek formal accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to ensure this quality of formation.  
  • The financial viability of the RMS must be independent of supplemental financial support from the Archdiocese of Agana, because the current financial situation of the Archdiocese of Agana is unable to support the seminary’s operation.
"If the above three recommendations cannot be achieved in an expedient fashion, the (RMS) may continue to lack the needed local confidence and support of the faithful and may need to be closed for the good of the Archdiocese of Agana," the report states.

Eusebio said RMS is not financially dependent on the archdiocese, and the archdiocese at most gives the seminary only about 17 percent of the annual appeal. Eusebio said the majority of RMS funds comes from private donations.

He said it is not fair to criticize the formation program when the seminary has already produced 17 priests, who have been doing good in the community.

Eusebio said the seminary is not only teaching the principles of the Neocatechumenal Way.

He said the ad hoc committee didn’t give the rector of the seminary or its board of directors a copy of the draft report for comments before finalizing it.

“I think it’s a consultative report. In other words, it is an assessment that somebody has who has their own opinion, and I say, 'Thank you, we appreciate your opinion,' and then we go on,” he added.

Hon has said Apuron disobeyed instructions from the pope more than a year ago to lift the deed restriction on the Yona property where the Redemptoris Mater Seminary is located. 

The deed restriction allows the seminary and a theological institution to use the property indefinitely through a process that Hon said is unusual.

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