OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Forming formators: “It's not enough to have a degree in theology. There's more to it,” Bishop Luc Matthys tells Fides

Monday, 22 February 2010

Rome (Agenzia Fides) – Bishop Luc Matthys is the Bishop of the Diocese of Armidale, in New South Wales, Australia and was recently in Rome on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy of Australia to attend the course on "The Bishop: The First Representative of Christ in Priestly Formation," for English-speaking Bishops responsible for forming the clergy. The course has been organized by the International Center for Missionary Animation (CIAM). Agenzia Fides was able to speak with him on February 19, just minutes before he headed off to the consistory that was presided by the Holy Father at the Vatican, for the canonization of six “Blesseds,” including Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Australian foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (1842-1909), who will become the first Australian saint.
Although his diocese does not have a seminary of its own and his priests and seminarians receive their formation either in Rome or in other ecclesiastical institutes, Bishop Matthys has come to participate in CIAM's course so as to develop an on-going formation program for his clergy. At the moment, the Diocese holds two formation assemblies each year to discuss “what the priests are actually asking for,” he says. “On-going formation is a need presented by the clergy themselves.” When asked about the main themes in on-going formation in his diocese, the Bishop cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with a focus on “how to present the material to the people,” or “a new document that has come from Rome,” or “proper participation in the liturgy,” etc. The diocese also organizes a yearly retreat for the clergy, as well, to ensure the on-going spiritual formation of its priests.
Bishop Matthys also mentioned the unique characteristic of his diocese, which is that it has a fairly small clerical population, which allows him “to know each of them personally.” “I'm always available to them,” he emphasized, explaining that this availability and openness to his clergy has helped maintain healthy relationships with them.
In reflecting on how CIAM's course has been helpful to him, Bishop Matthys explained that “I have the general impression that on-going formation has not been taken sufficiently seriously in Australia, so I've certainly picked up a number of things which I will report to them...especially the seriousness of forming seminary formators.” The Bishop also mentioned the need for Bishops in general to “be very careful and send more people to be formed as formators.”
“It's not enough to have a degree in theology. There's more to it,” Bishop Matthys concluded. (AR) (Agenzia Fides 22/02/2010)