My name is Father Jim Dillenburg. I'm currently pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
I completed my training and formation for the priesthood at Saint John's School ofTheology and Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1965. I've seen our Catholic Church experience a lot of change since Vatican II. I'm proud that the Benedictine community at Saint John's took a leadership role in helping Church leaders plan and implement liturgical changes designed to engage more Catholics in the Mass and make the Catholic faith more relevant in the daily lives its practitioners.
While I've never regretted my decision to become a priest, I don't mind telling you that there have been days when I've felt disheartened, feeling that my vision is not being realized among the faithful I minister to on a daily basis. But, I found hope. It came from my alma mater - Saint John's School ofTheology·Seminary. The same seminary that prepared me for ordination was there to help sustain me as a priest 40 years later.
My staff and I recently participated in a year-long ministry colloquium program that brings together staff teams from four different parishes. Over the course of three days facilitated by Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary staff and faculty, we experienced an environment in which time, space, rhythm of work, prayer, and leisure came together to create a powerful source of renewal for all of us. Together with colleagues from three other parishes in the upper Midwest, we discovered the common challenges we all face in addressing the needs of our parishioners - parishioners who increasingly are not coming to Mass or are participating minimally in parish activities and events.
The Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary faculty and staff helped us ask the right questions. For example, how can we get people who want to receive communion to want to participate in community? How can we get people who want to be married in the Church to want the Church in their marriage? How can we get parents who want their children raised and educated in the Church to take a more active role in their faith formation?
They call the program Conversatio, which is the monastic term for continuing growth in the life of faith. Growth is exactly what we experienced. It was a pure gift of the Holy Spirit for me. Thanks to Saint John's School ofTheology and Seminary, my staff and I have designed an intergenerational faith formation program that we hope will bring generations within families together and get parents more actively involved in the training of their children in their Catholic faith.
I want to send my heartfelt gratitude to all the people who support Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary. Your gifts make it possible for programs like Conversatio to exist and give new life to parishes like ours - and yours.
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