Milan archbishop overhauls seminary programme amidst drop in candidates

Milan archbishop overhauls seminary

Amid plunging numbers of seminary candidates, Milan Archbishop Mario Delpini has approved a major overhaul of seminary formation in the Archdiocese.

The archbishop published a seven-page document outlining the changes.

The document noted the number of new entrants to priestly formation in the archdiocese has dropped from 150 to six over the past ten years.

“I would like to inform this particular assembly that I have approved, on a trial basis for a three-year period, a reconfiguration of the seminary path, according to what has been prepared by the seminary formators and discussed with the Milanese episcopal council,” he told archdiocesan clergy, referring to the new document.

The changes will be introduced in a three-year trial starting in September this year.

The formation period consists of two years focused on spirituality and four years dedicated to theology.

Under the new plan, seminarians will study at a single location rather than separate sites for the two-year and four-year periods.

As part of the reforms, seminarians will spend their third year living in small groups in parishes while attending daily classes at the seminary.

They will also be connected with families that will offer them support.

In addition, seminarians in the Milan archdiocese previously wore clerical dress from the start of their third year.

Now, they will wear it from their ordination as deacons at the beginning of their sixth and final year.

Reduced number of admissions

The Archdiocese of Milan dates back to the 4th century and has its own liturgical rite.

The archdiocese has around 2,000 diocesan priests, 800 male religious, and more than 6,000 female religious. Its 1,107 parishes serve an overall population of more than 5.4 million people.

The new document states there were a total of 150 seminarians in the year 2013-14, 139 in 2017-18, and 78 in 2022-23. However, there were only 24 new admissions in 2017, 19 in 2018, 18 in 2019, 16 in 2020, 11 in 2021, and six in 2022.

According to seminary rector Fr Enrico Castagna, the primary motivation for the changes was the “reduced number of admissions compared to the past.”

“To the primary and compelling reason are added others: experiences lived in recent years (including during the pandemic), various perplexities in the face of some steps of the path, opinions that emerged in diverse meetings with priests and laity convinced us of the need for a broader rethink,” he said.

“Moreover, it seems to us that, in this way, it is possible to make evangelically propitious (and not just live as ‘a retreat’) the situation providentially placed before us,” Castagna said.

Archbishop Delpini stressed that “the main motivation guiding any choice referring to the seminary is and will remain to foster, accompany and instruct some young people in the archdiocese in discernment and docility to the Spirit.”


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