Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan sees Mother Teresa as a model for priests. She once said that evangelization is “taking the Jesus that is in my heart and putting him into your heart.”
That’s what Saint Paul Seminary in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where Msgr. Callaghan is rector, is trying to do.
Msgr. Callaghan came to the position after serving as an official with the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and as vicar general for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
He spoke recently with Register senior writer Tim Drake at the seminary.
What led to your vocation?
My home pastor, Father Charles D. Walsh, was born in Ireland and was a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was an older man. My brother and I served Mass every day. I saw this old man, who at times had to struggle to get up the steps. When you saw that the celebration of the Mass was the most important moment of his life, that had an impact.
What led you to St. Paul?
I studied as a seminarian in Rome and was ordained for the Diocese of Allentown. I returned to Rome for graduate studies in canon law. When I returned, I worked in the chancery as the bishop’s secretary and as vocation director. In those days I got to know another young priest who was rector of Mount St. Mary’s. He was a legend for being able to attract young men. That was Father Harry J. Flynn [who would become archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1995]. Over the years, our paths crossed.
Three years ago, I learned that the Saint Paul Seminary was looking for a rector. What attracted me most was the way Archbishop Flynn looked on seminary work and formation as the hope of the Church. One of his legacies is the strong presence of vocations to the priesthood and his intent that they be well formed.
What’s your goal in seminary formation?
Our goals are to prepare our seminarians to be gentlemen, holy men, men of the Eucharist and men who love Mary. One thing that is so noticeable to me in the daily life of our seminary is that men spend quality time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and have a natural desire to ask for Our Lady’s intercession for what they do. Our men are praying at all times of the day in the chapel. To be a priest today, there are many challenges. It can be so daunting. They all have the desire and are on fire to bring God’s love to others. The men can keep that fire burning when they are there in prayer.
Is there something that binds the “new priests” together?
Each age has its own way of expressing its desire to preach God’s word. Today’s men see more than ever, with the breakdown of community, family life and the needed unity that is lacking in society, the need to strengthen what the priesthood is as fraternity. They see themselves as a band of brothers and want to help each other. There is unity in strength. The Second Vatican Council invited us to read the signs of the times. I think the new priests have read them well. Mother Teresa once told a group of priests her definition of the “New Evangelization.” She said, “Evangelization is such a big word. It’s taking the Jesus that is in my heart and putting him into your heart.” That’s what we’re looking for.
What’s brought that about? The legacy of Pope John Paul II. We have to realize that for most of the seminarians preparing for the priesthood, John Paul II was the only Holy Father they knew. They saw his strength and determination to bring the faith to people. That has much to do with how these men are what they are. Any number of them say he’s why they came to the seminary.
I understand the seminary is also expanding its lay formation programs, including a new catechetical institute.
We’re ramping up the programs in lay formation because we see how important it is that people who give ecclesial service to the Church be well prepared. Their role is different from the priest. They are to be the closest collaborators with the priest. The goal is to help them to learn how to work side by side, while always respecting the differences between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the laity.
One of the most exciting initiatives beginning next fall is the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute, which we will oversee, under the leadership of Jeff Cavins. It’s another opportunity to help our laity to be lay leaders in the Church. We already have 70 applicants. It’s designed to help people grow in their faith and to help form young adults and couples for the leadership roles in their parishes and communities. It’s based on the tenets of the faith, the Creed, and the Catechism.
What can be done to foster vocations?
Pray, pray, pray. I encourage priests to let others see the joy and happiness of serving God this way. When young men see priests who are happy and doing the work of the Lord, that’s magnetic. Also, we can all identify potential in young people to answer God’s call to service in this way. Sometimes they need a fraternal nudge or push, asking, “Have you ever thought of the priesthood?” Sometimes, it’s just that word that a person needs.
Does the seminary have any special plans for the year devoted to Paul?
We hope to open the academic year with the focus on “men of mission.” We have to be about proclaiming the Word and being evangelizers. In September, after our opening Mass, we hope to have Archbishop [John] Nienstedt bless a new statue of St. Paul that is being carved in Italy for our courtyard. I’m also hoping we’ll have some initiatives on the writings of St. Paul, and perhaps even a conference on his writings.