A seminarian in the Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands and a member of the Lambeth Palace-based Community of St Anselm over this past year, Ruel Strachan II, reflects on seminary and life thereafter.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a Bishop who offered me some words of advice as I go forth with the hope of ordination. This advice was given to him by his College Chaplain, “Take these four years and turn them into forty”. In this, I heard the words of St. Paul to Timothy “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you” (2 Tim 1:14).
For those who have tested their vocation to the priesthood, the seminary journey can be quite an enriching one, an opportunity to be shaped and formed by God through the daily rhythms of prayer, study, ministerial experience and life together. As much as we may want to, or not, we cannot relive those years we spent in seminary, but we can take the memories, knowledge, experience, wisdom and depth of spirituality and make them last a lifetime of ordained ministry.
We can also take with us the reality of challenges. As enjoyable as seminary was, it had its fair share of challenges and perhaps these would appear in different forms in different places depending on where or when one trained. Completing seminary may have been overcoming a challenge of sorts but ordination, I presume, does not mean that challenges cease, and we may even find that they increase but we take with us again some words of St. Paul to Timothy, “For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
During my time in seminary at Codrington College in Barbados, I interviewed one of my lecturers and I asked him what advice he would offer to those preparing to be ordained soon. He quickly answered, “Know what it is to which you are being called and bolster it with a heavy degree of spirituality.” Those words have stuck with me ever since and I think it is worth offering to all who are being ordained at any time throughout the year.
“He was marked by continuous personal holiness.” These words were used by the Rev. Harry Jones to eulogize Fr. Charles Lowder, a great hero of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England and hopefully these words can be used for years to come to describe the lives of all those preparing to be ordained at this time.