Process of reunion, a way to live priestly communion

Omnes-April 23, 2018-Reading time: 4 minutes

The Archdiocese of Valencia is carrying out the Process of Priestly Reunion, a project that seeks to "achieve a dialogue among priests".

TEXT - Fernando Serrano

The Archdiocese of Valencia has proposed a program called Process of priestly re-encounter. It is an action that began in September and will end in May 2018. Throughout these months, retreats, conferences and seminars are held that seek to address priestly identity, evangelization and worship.

This formative project has three steps. The auxiliary bishop of Valencia, Bishop Javier Salinas, explained in an interview to Palabra that, "in the first step we review all the elements that are part of the life of a parish. From the aspect of the person of the priest, to the actions of how to welcome those who come to the parish, the catechesis, the collaboration of the laity".

The second step concerns the organization of the parish and the diocese and the final objective is to see how to face the future. "I hope that after all this journey we will at least arrive at some fundamental points that will allow us in the future to face, if necessary, the rethinking of how we have to offer the Gospel to others with the means we have," says the auxiliary bishop.

Priestly reunion as communion

This initiative, promoted by the Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, aims to "achieve a sincere dialogue among priests" in view of the celebration of a Priestly Assembly in the fall of 2018. The Process of Priestly Reunion was born from the need to talk and share the problems of the priests that were raised in the Council of the Presbyterate. In this way, these meetings are intended as a reunion of each priest with himself, with the Lord and with his ministry, as well as a reunion with other priests and with the bishops.

"To achieve this," explain the professors of the Faculty of Theology, José Vidal and Santiago Pons, "we want to initiate a dialogue that clearly raises the problems and differences that we see in our priestly and pastoral life, that allows us to talk about the processes to achieve the conversion of our parishes into evangelizing and missionary parishes, and that helps us to discover how to share responsibilities in the dioceses and parishes."

"It is called a reunion because it is a way of recognizing that, sometimes, along the way, some of the priests have disengaged from the relationship, they have become isolated. And it is about looking for ways to live the priestly communion": this is how the auxiliary bishop of Valencia, Bishop Javier Salinas, explains the formation action that is being carried out in the archdiocese of Valencia.

The intention of this training project is to support priests in the difficulties they encounter in their pastoral work. "The feeling of the priest on some occasions is that he is offering something to someone who has no interest in it, that he is doing a religious service that later does not take root in a continuity of life," explains Bishop Salinas. This feeling leads the priest to fall or may fall into discouragement when he sees that his work does not develop as it should. "In the Episcopal Council we have perceived that and we want to give a new impulse to priests," he stresses. "We see a certain weariness, a bit of not knowing what to do. We (the bishops' council) are taking the step of offering this reunion". Not only the bishops of the archdiocese intervene, but also the Faculty of Theology with a series of initiatives for the ongoing formation of the clergy. "So, from that perspective, we see that we have to come up with another way of dealing with this issue. We have to touch more the heart in the lives of priests and it is from that dialogue that the initiative arises."

In relation to the formation carried out in this project, Bishop Salinas emphasizes the importance of personal listening: "All the talks, all the contributions, touch on that fundamental point that appeals to the personal listening of the priest. Faced with the difficulties we are experiencing, we have two attitudes: defeatism, or that of an opportunity to offer a new response. But this requires a personal contribution.

Periodic training

The Priestly Reunion Process is another way for priests to participate in formation. To be a priest one must be formed and study, as in any profession. But this formation does not remain in the seminary, but every year, periodically and systematically, the priest receives classes, lectures or seminars to develop his pastoral work in the parishes.

"All dioceses see to it that their priests have spiritual attention and ongoing formation of an academic nature taken care of. The diocese offers resources and means so that this formation can take place", emphasizes the director of the Secretariat of the Episcopal Commission for the Clergy, Juan Carlos Mateos, in conversation with Palabra. In each region they are carried out in different ways. "Each diocese has a plan, perhaps more modest, of formation. There are academic formation days of several days. Others combine formation and living together. There are dioceses that hold one day a month. There are others that do it by vicariates".

Not all dioceses organize them in the same way. "Some have specific actions for younger priests and others for those who have been there longer. In other places they do it without differentiating," says Mateos. It is important that "the formation be systematic, in the sense that the theme that is approached is done in an overall vision and in the totality and over a period of several years".

Attention to priests often revolves around the events of diocesan life. "Many dioceses take advantage of the pastoral plan that is approved as a way of evangelization and put ongoing formation in that key", explains Mateos, "they articulate it around liturgical feasts, beatifications or canonizations... This is so that they can live well the event that is taking place. It is usually brought forward to be able to see a particular theme during the academic year".

Evangelization projects

The director of the Secretariat of the Episcopal Commission for the Clergy emphasizes that this year many dioceses are focusing on youth ministry on the occasion of the upcoming Synod of Youth. "Taking advantage of the fact that this event is going to take place, they will train their priests to have a better experience and benefit from this event." "The Church is very concerned that the Gospel can reach the hearts of young people," explains Mora, and stresses that the parishes are taking care of the attention to young people, both those who participate in the activities and those who do not.
In the same way, he emphasizes the need for parishes to have an evangelizing character in order to reach everyone. "The pastoral care of maintenance, of worship, is not enough. What is needed is to evangelize and form mature Christians who can reach the fullness of life".

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