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Milan archbishop overhauls seminary program, increasing time with the flock

Seminarians sitting in pews at Mass

Thoom | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/14/23

As well as consolidating the program to keep the students together, the program will see seminarians spend more time with the faithful.

Milanese Archbishop Mario Delpini has announced an overhaul of the archdiocesan seminary formation programs. The changes come after the archdiocese recorded the lowest number of incoming seminarians in 2023. This “reconfiguration” of the priestly formation program was announced at a Chrism Mass in Milan Cathedral on April 6. 

According to The Pillar, the number of seminarians has been dwindling in the last 10 years. In 2013, there were a solid 150 seminaries studying to join the priesthood, which fell to 139 by 2017. Now, in 2023, there are as few as 78 prospective priests discerning their vocations, cutting the number nearly in half. 

In 2017, the archdiocese recorded 24 men entering the seminary, which fell to just 19 in 2018, and 18 in 2019. By 2022, only 6 men entered the seminary.

To address the concerns over the future of Milan’s seminaries, Archbishop Delpini has put in place a number of adjustments. The changes are subject to a three-year trial period, in which the archdiocese will measure their effectiveness. 

One of the adjustments concerns the location of the seminarians. Previously, the seminarians would spend two years at one facility focusing on spirituality, and four years in a second location where they would study theology. Now the classes of seminarians will spend their entire six years in one location. The move is expected to foster more unity among seminarians, as well as consolidate the program. 

Another change will affect the dress code. Whereas seminarians would previously don their clerical garbs at the beginning of their third year, they will now wear the priest’s collar only after they are ordained to the diaconate, which comes in their sixth year. The move would bring Milan in line with other Italian dioceses, but it also allows for a more gradual immersion into the lifestyle of the priesthood. 

Finally, a major change will be seen in the seminarians’ third year, when they will be sent in small groups to live in parishes. While they will still attend classes at the seminary, this arrangement is expected to foster relationships with families within the diocese and connect seminarians with the faithful. By working with the families they intend to serve earlier in their education, seminarians will have the opportunity to get real experience as diocesan priests, which will help prepare them for their vocations. 

In an interview with the Italian outlet Chiesa Di Milano, seminary rector Fr. Enrico Castagna said of the changes: 

“To the primary and compelling reason are added others: experiences lived in recent years (including during the pandemic), various perplexities in the face of some steps of the path, opinions that emerged in diverse meetings with priests and laity convinced us of the need for a broader rethink,” he said.

Read more at The Pillar.

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