Subtle Francis effect seen in one US seminary

A US expert in seminary education is noting a subtle “Francis effect” emerging in her classroom.

Franciscan Sr Katarina Schuth told the National Catholic Reporter she sees a subtle shift in her classroom in St Paul Seminary in Minnesota.

In recently assigned reflection papers, three of her first-year students wrote about priestly ministry and the poor.

“That’s the first in a long time that has been mentioned,” she said.

If Francis has a long pontificate, the results will show in seminaries, as more new bishops are appointed, she added.

Seminarians, said Sr Schuth, often model their view of priesthood on their diocesan bishop, a phenomenon she has observed for the past three decades studying seminarians.

Sr Schuth said Francis’s influence might diminish the trend towards a “restorationist” view of priesthood among seminarians.

Restorationist outlooks focus on traditional liturgical rubrics and emphasise priests asserting authority.

These have been a feature of seminary life, particularly during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the NCR article stated.

Sr Schuth noted that recent seminarians have embraced a viewpoint focusing on the specific powers of priesthood, with a diminishment of focus on collaborating with lay people.

There has been a strong emphasis on separating men out for priestly ministry, with separate education and religious training.

Due to a shortage of priests, many seminarians with such viewpoints will be parish priests not long after they are ordained.

Sr Schuth said lay ministers in parishes are getting older, and are more likely to be women. It is a mix which will challenge those men who are ordained in the near future.

But she said that the more seminarians are exposed to Francis, they are more likely to admire his approach.

For example, seminarians at the North American College in Rome, who have regular contact with Francis, tend to have highly positive reactions to his style.

“You can’t have contact with him and not like him,” she said about Francis.


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