01: The long-awaited updating of a landmark study of Catholic seminary education has recently been published.
Under the editorship of Sr. Katarina Schuth, the book, Seminaries, Theologates, and the Future of Church Ministry; An Analysis of Trends and Transitions (Michael Glazier, Liturgical Press) builds on a l989 study she edited.
A symposium in Commonweal magazine (February 11) brings together Fr. Robert P Imbelli, now teaching theology at Boston College; Sr. Doloros Lecky of Woodstock Theological Center; and Dr. Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools to discuss the book’s findings.
Imbelli’s large-picture review examines the methods, scope, and purpose of the study and draws special attention to four issues: the declining number of seminarians and its impact on the schools and the church; the visible decline among new seminarians in intellectual preparation for advanced study; the mounting polarization over ideology and theology among students and between faculty and students; and the overwhelming need for more collaboration among ordained and lay ministers.
All of this must be done without sacrificing the unique sacramental role of the priest. Lecky focuses directly on the growing importance of lay ministerial education and parish leadership, as identified by Schuth’s research and from her own experience. She comments on such areas as: spiritual formation, intellectual formation; formation for collaborative ministry, and the issues of finances Given the crises over declining number of priests as well as revenues, Leckey offers a guide to how these issues can be directed into constructive channels with, among other things, the increase of lay ecclesial ministers.
Aleshire critiques the study from the vantage point of his position within Protestant seminary education to discuss the need for further reform within Catholic schools, particularly in such areas as the need and opportunities for seminaries to continue to lead the Church in constructive theology; the complicated issue within all seminaries of the problems of authority and certainty among theologates committed to their strong confessional heritage; and finally, how Protestants and Catholics can learn from one another in reformulating governance within their schools.
An interesting sidebar to the symposium is William Porter’s account of how the students at Mount. St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland have not so much become conservatives as much as “evangelical Catholics.” The seminarians don’t invest much time in thinking about Vatican II, as they practice a personal yet vigorous faith that stresses witnessing to Catholicism in a pluralistic society.
For more information on this issue,write to: Commonweal, 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 405, New York, NY 10115.
— By Erling Jorstad
02: The new book Surveying the Religious Landscape (Morehouse, $17.95) by George Gallup Jr. and D. Michael Lindsay contains a wealth of survey material on the religious beliefs and practices of Americans in a compact format.
Drawing on decades of Gallup Polls, Gallup and Lindsay cover everything from church attendance (likely to be the most contested subject in the book due to revisionist research during the past few years which has challenged Gallup’s higher figures) to Catholic spirituality to giving patterns of Americans. Preceding each section of survey data are helpful general accounts of religious history and current events that relate to the trends under discussion.