Seminarian Formation Initiatives: Heroic Leadership and Etiquette

May 23, 2024

After their finals and before beginning their summer assignments, the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon were called together by their Vocations Director, Fr. Peter Julia, for a week-long retreat. The men spent the time in study, prayer, and fellowship. Fr. Julia said, “It is rare to get all of our guys in one place, yet the reality is that, as brother priests, they will need strong relationships with each other for the rest of their lives.”

The focus of the week was a leadership program that was founded and sponsored by John and Cynthia Hooper. John was inspired to use his skills in training corporate leaders to support the future leaders of the Church. Archbishop Sample and the priest faculty mentored the seminarians by sharing their own personal experiences of growth in self-awareness and pastoral leadership. Matt Rudolph, founder of Cor Integrations, facilitated the presentations which included, “Jesus, the Model of Leadership,” “The Virtues of a Heroic Leader,” and “Managing Conflict.” He said, “We are looking at the whole man to integrate the interior life with external, practical applications so that when they become pastors they will be more prepared and more confident to be spiritual fathers. While we are looking to the future, we are teaching them to practice these skills, virtues, and habits now in their current situations and relationships.” Further development of the leadership training will include quarterly meetings and presentation tracks for different levels of formation.

Fr. Julia invited the Seminarian Tea Ladies to co-host an etiquette dinner for the men to practice some of the finer points of social graces. Gail Wilhelms, chair of the association, used her 4-H coaching experience to organize the semi-formal dinner with a demonstration of table setting and table manners. Vocations team member, Wikko Alleman, shared advice on the topics of dignity and common courtesy. Appetizers and mocktails were followed by evening prayer and a 3-course meal. The Portland Serra Club generously donated to the week and the transitioning presidents, Paul Harris and Terry Prince, served the mocktails.

Considering the counter-cultural nature of being a Catholic gentleman, Fr. Julia said that it is even more impressive for men to show respect for themselves and others. He told the seminarians, “As a priest, I stand out. I am a beacon, a witness of Christ’s presence in the world. People often approach me in public, even at the grocery store and gym. Our faith is about relationships and we build them by having these good habits.”

The seminarians enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the week’s presenters as well as the opportunity to share times of prayer and recreation. The Liturgy of the Hours regulated the days. Common books were discussed and summer ministry plans were exchanged. Competitions used frisbees, bean bags, and board games. Finally, a road trip to the coast celebrated the end of the academic year.

The group had a sense of fraternity and community throughout the broad range of ages and formation. From washing dishes to playing strategy games, they collaborated with enthusiasm. Fr. Julia told the men, “We need others to do things well. As brothers, we can help each other to grow. We are here, working together now, to change the future.”

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