In your October 2004 edition you twice (pages 2 and 3) refer to recent seminary reforms in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. Having recently experienced, first hand, life in each of those seminaries I would heartily endorse those remarks.
The omission of any mention of the seminary at Wagga Wagga may have been an understandable oversight, but lest it give weight to a widespread misunderstanding that Vianney College has folded up, I wish to draw the attention of you readers to its continuing existence.
In fact, the founding of Vianney College in 1992 can be seen as the beginning of a process of reform that has been taken up by other seminaries. Much of this reform has been outlined by Pope John Paul II in Pastores dabo vobis published a few weeks after this seminary was inaugurated.
My recent visits to the other seminaries mentioned gave me some valuable insights into formation of priests which I have introduced here, but I also noted that many of the reforms I witnessed have been part of our policy from the beginning.
Our present enrolment of five is low compared to our peak of 24 seminarians in 1997. However, five seminarians for a country diocese compares well with most other dioceses in Australia, and even some archdioceses. And the 25 priests, most of whom are now serving in the Diocese of Wagga Wagga, who have done all or some of their training in Vianney College, are a witness to the foresight of Bishop Brennan in founding his own seminary 13 years ago.
It is the stated policy of the present bishop of Wagga Wagga, Bishop Gerard Hanna, to continue the seminary as long as sufficient numbers present themselves to make it viable.
A recent retreat day held at the seminary for single men interested in discerning a vocation, attracted 26. A similar retreat conducted by the Confraternity of Christ the Priest, a community of priests and brothers within this diocese, was just as successful.
These are hopeful signs. I am also encouraged by the team of capable and orthodox lecturers that are available to teach in Vianney College. These lecturers, who work directly under the seminary administration, are well qualified and bring a wealth of pastoral experience to their task, as most of them are also serving in parish appointments.
Vianney College has played a significant part in the recent history of seminaries in Australia and, I am confident, will continue to do so.
FR PETER THOMPSON CM
Rector, Vianney College,
Wagga Wagga, NSW