As Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), we try to form the candidates to our community to embrace a missionary perspective from the very beginning.
From the very first year of formation, they are prepared by our formation personnel to go out and give witness to the Gospel. They are encouraged to reflect on the word of God in their own lives and to share their faith experience with others.
Our seminarians enter our formation program after high school. Some come directly after high school and others come after a few years of life experience.
We want to provide a deeper picture of what it means to be a MSC seminarian, and what we emphasis during formation to ensure that our candidates are fully prepared to share the Gospel with zeal and joy.
It is important to be with the people
Twice a year, at the Christmas season and during Holy Week, our seminarians are sent out together with our priests to rural areas of Colombia to serve in areas where there is very little ongoing ministry. The seminarians will be divided into small groups in a larger area, and the priest will visit each group at least once during the mission experience. During these trips, they learn to live with the people in the immediacy of rural life. That means sometimes leaving behind indoor plumbing, comfortable mattresses, hot water, and privacy, while accepting a new and challenging reality.
We try to form our seminarians so that they will "smell like the sheep" as Pope Francis says. They will often work with children and youth to teach them the Gospel through games and sharing life experiences. They prepare the people for the Sacraments so that when the priest comes they are ready for Confession and the Eucharist. When the priest is not present, they will conduct a Liturgy of the Word and distribute communion.
Their daily lives are full of responsibilities
During the school year, when our seminarians are not in missions, they live a very committed life. They rise early in the morning, often celebrating mass in community at 5:30 a.m. before leaving for the university. In spite of the early hour, they prepare songs and participate in a reflection on the readings of the day.
They spend a good portion of their day at the university, but when they return home they not only spend time on their studies, they also help with the cleaning and maintenance of the seminary. They wash the floors, clean the bathrooms, take care of the gardens, etc. They also wash dishes everyday, and on the weekends, they take turn preparing the meals. They all need to learn to cook so that in the future they can survive in any mission situation.
Each day will also include prayer times, and on certain days, formation meetings to learn about the MSC religious life. Each of them will also have a ministry responsibility which might be teaching catechism, directing a youth group, visiting the sick, etc. They also learn another language to be ready for mission wherever they might be called.
Family is the foundation of their formation
Most of our seminarians come from very simple backgrounds, and we try to keep them in touch with the reality of their own families. As missionaries, we do not want our seminarians to become too affluent or sophisticated, forgetting from where they have come. During the year, there will always be at least one family celebration, where the families of the seminarians get to know each other, all the other seminarians, and become a part of our MSC family.
Our seminarians who are going to be priests study philosophy and theology which fulfills the requirements of the church for ordination, but we see the formation in community life, prayer, and service to others as highly important. The formation of brothers in the community looks a little different academically, but shares the same stress on community life, prayer, and service.
THey share their mission throughout the world
The formation of the MSC seminarians is a long process, sometimes taking up to nine years. In the United States we have benefited from several MSC priests from Colombia who have served our Church here. At this time, we have three Colombian MSC priests serving in the United States. Currently, there are eight MSC priests in Colombia and twelve seminarians.
Our seminarians in Colombia participate in the Latin American Novitiate after college, either going to the Dominican Republic or Brazil for one year for intense preparation for their first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Those who are going to continue in theology will go to the international MSC Theologate in El Salvador.
These daily habits and larger trip experiences help us cultivate in our seminarians a true spirit of service and a zeal for spreading the good news of Christ to the humblest of communities.
Because the MSC missions in Colombia are still largely dependent on the MSC USA Province for financial support, we humbly and faithfully ask that you consider supporting the formation of our MSC seminarians. Learn more about our seminarians and the work they do in Colombia and around the world.