Mild mannered Father William Baer, unaccustomed to public speaking as he is, was awarded Saturday night with the Catholic Servant newspaper's "John Paul II Catholic Servant of the Third Millenium Award."
In his ramblin' acceptance speech, Father Baer, who had revealed to some of us that evening that he was a Georgia Tech grad in architecture, believe it or not, and, being a technical bean-counting geek, he wants his work at the St John Vianney college seminary at the University of St Thomas to lay a proper foundation for the Catholic Church in these early years of the Twenty First Century.
How's that for a strained and over-labored metaphor?
He began his acceptance speech by shocking those in attendance (me being there only by virtue of a corporal work of mercy) by revealing that the success of the SJV seminary, the largest in the United States, that of the St Paul Seminary under the skilled leadership of Monsignor Aloysius Callaghan, and most importantly, the vibrancy of the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis, with more Adoration Chapels than any other diocese in the country, under the pastoral guidance of our beloved and esteemed Archbishop Harry Flynn, is due to three guys from the East Coast who couldn't spell or pronounce "Minnesota" when they got here.
Talk about knocking the stuffing out of a bunch of preening Minnesotans!
Then he got serious.
The Archdiocese has 13 Catholic high schools with about 9,000 students. Father Baer said that about one-half of one percent of those students enter the seminary. He added that If the Catholic Church were in the business of training doctors, lawyers, engineers, or even architects, and only one half of one percent of their students would decide to pursue degrees in those subjects, everybody would agree that the schools were failures (he didn't use that word). He used the word "outrageous."
Most of his students in the seminaries are coming from public high schools and universities.
Father thinks those kind of results are "unacceptable" and that we can do better.
In return for his award, a case of pop and a gorgeous icon, Father Baer suggested that the Catholic Servant (and the rest of us) could do better, too.
Specifically, he suggested that the Servant (and by implication, other newspapers in the Archdiocese), should create a "Junior Board of Editors" composed of, say, 12 seminarians who would write, edit and seek out articles extolling the heroic truths of the Catholic faith designed to appeal to high school men who might be potential enrollees at SJV and SPS.
[Oooooops. It has been brought to my attention that I got Father Baer's proposal rather wrong. That's what you get when you take "mental notes."
Father Baer suggested that the "Junior Board of Editors" would be composed of representatives from the 13 Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese who would meet regularly with representatives of the SJV Seminary. These school representatives would report on things that students are doing and talking about at their schools, share ideas with each other and formulate questions for the Seminarians and report back to their schools. Seminarians would be tasked to write articles for the Catholic Servant discussing the issues that are being talked about by Catholic high school students, providing the students with the Church's position on many of the issues that call for a moral or religious answer.]
And by implication, every parent in the Archdiocese should not think of a son becoming a priest being a "loss", but rather a contribution.
Any of you would would be willing to help John Sondag, publisher of the Catholic Servant, Director of Religious Education at St Helena's Parish in Minneapolis, with Father Baer's project, might contact Father Baer at the SJV Seminary Here.
Once Father Baer gets that SJV enrollment up to 500 or so, I think then it will be time to give him responsibility for review and recommendations and, more importantly, approval power over all Catholic church renovations in the Archdiocese, especially for those structures built or remodeled since the year 1960.