God made me for this purpose.
That same thought occurs to me every year after the St. Paul Center’s exhausting, exhilarating Letter & Spirit Summer Institute. We just wrapped up our sixth annual gathering of doctoral candidates. It’s five intense days of fellowship, study, prayer, and discussion. But it’s become so much more than that. It’s become a community. What started as an Institute is becoming an institution. And it’s all made possible by your generosity.
Why is this so important to me? Because when I look out at all those brilliant young scholars — from the best schools — I’m looking into the future of the Church. I’m looking at the future faculty of Catholic seminaries, colleges, and universities. I’m looking at the professors who will help form the men who will become priests, deacons, and bishops.
This year we drew more than twenty attendees to discuss the New Testament Letters of Peter, a treasury of sacramental theology and the doctrine of the Church. Participants came from Notre Dame University, Marquette, Ave Maria, University of Dayton, Catholic University of America, and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. A priest flew in from England to join us. One of the returning participants told me that these events have been the most valuable part of his formation as a Catholic scholar.
The times of prayer and fellowship are a key piece of these gatherings. The young scholars get to know each other and build relationships. They teach each other. They teach me, too. They encourage and advise one another. And this year I was joined on “faculty” by a world-class scholar of the New Testament and the Church Fathers, Dr. Daniel Keating, formerly of Oxford, now at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. It was a privilege for all of us to learn from him.
This intensive investment in the next generation is so important because our project at the St. Paul Center is long term. We’re pleased when we see near-term successes — and we’ve had our share of those. But we’re looking to build an historical movement.
What begins in our Institute is becoming and Institution. We’re now embarking on a new project that will extend the Summer Institute experience into perpetuity for those who attend — and will extend it further, to the future priests and deacons they teach.
We are now assembling a team of top writers and scholars to work with me and the makers of Verbum Bible software to produce a software tool for seminary classrooms. This tool will integrate the Catechism with papal writings, magisterial documents, Scripture commentaries, and essays that connect the dots between all four, as well as apply those writings to the life of faith. This software could serve as the foundation for seminary courses in fundamental theology, biblical theology, dogmatic theology, and moral theology — and lay a solid foundation for the homilies we’ll hear for many years into the future.
I believe that such a resource has the potential to revolutionize how the faith is taught to the teachers of the teachers, helping our future spiritual fathers grasp the inner unity of faith and reason, the New and Old Testaments, nature and grace, Scripture and sacraments.
It’s a massive undertaking. It will take years — but not too many years — as well as the time and talent of many people. We’re committed to doing it — and extending our Summer exhilaration to many people, for many years.
I thank you for all you do to make this possible. Please pray for it. Please give generously.
I assure you of my daily prayers.