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Our Lady of the New Advent Institute, St. John Vianney Seminary, to convert hearts

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

The following is the text of the welcoming address delivered by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., to introduce the dedication day ceremonies for St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Sept. 8, 1999.

Good afternoon, and welcome to everyone:

Quite a day, isn't it? I think we should remember this moment: A moment like this occurs only once or twice in a lifetime. And it gives me a lot of joy to share it with you. Thank you for being here.

When you're the diocesan bishop, you have the luxury of a diocesan newspaper. And the good people who staff it are usually pretty eager to print whatever you have to say. I've already said a great deal about the institute and seminary we inaugurate here today - both in print and in speaking. So I'd like to focus on just two quick points before we begin our program.

First, everything you see around us - the pastoral center, the institute, the seminary, the grounds, all of this - was founded for a single purpose: to preach and teach Jesus Christ. Unless the Lord build the house, the workers labor in vain. Whatever we accomplish here comes from God's grace alone. And we'll succeed in the future only if we stay focused on spreading the Gospel of His son.

Second, this has direct, personal, intimate consequences for each of us. Each of us is a missionary. There are no exceptions. If we don't share our faith, we lose it. Each of us is responsible to help bring all things, and all people, to salvation in Jesus Christ.

The "new evangelization" is not just a vocabulary game or a clever marketing idea. It means that a new missionary spirit has to be born in each of our hearts. As Christians, we're not here to be assimilated or digested. We're here to be leaven - to change our communities and our world radically and forever in Jesus Christ.

That's why Our Lady of the New Advent Institute and St. John Vianney Seminary exist: to convert the human heart and mind; to form them in a love for excellence in God's service; and to send us all out - ordained, lay and consecrated - to be new apostles to the world. You see, we don't live in a "post-Christian era." That's a delusion. We live in the pre-Christian era. The world doesn't believe, because we haven't been the servants and missionaries God needs. And that needs to change - beginning here, now, today.

These past few days I've had the pleasure to spend time and share meals with the bishops visiting today, and truly, they've been among the happiest in my life as a priest. These are wonderful men of faith, and I'm very grateful to welcome them here today.

Bishop Guy Bagnard's diocese in France is the home of our seminary's patron saint, John Vianney, and he has his own thriving seminary, which is a testimony to his leadership.

It is not an exaggeration to describe Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger as one of the great Churchmen of our lifetime. As archbishop of Paris, he's been a voice and a force for renewal during very difficult times for the European Church. He is also, in a very real sense, one of the living patron saints of our effort here. Over the past four years, he has hosted more visitors from Denver than he probably cares to remember - and I don't mean World Youth Day. His approach to seminary formation, and especially his preliminary spirituality year, played a very big role in our thinking about our institute. There are some significant differences between the situation of the Church in France and our own terrain here in northern Colorado. But we've learned a great deal from the cardinal's experience, and I want tot thank him a special way for his support.

I want to extend the same thanks to Bishop Angelo Scola, the rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Our link with the Lateran is something we hoped and prayed for, because it's the cornerstone of our academic effort - but Bishop Scola made it real with his counsel; his patience; his cooperation, good humor and support.

Finally and above all, this moment exists because my predecessor had the vision to imagine it - and the energy and skill to set it in motion. Cardinal Stafford arrived in northern Colorado in 1986, at a very different moment in the life of our local Church. His 10 years here were filled with many, many experiences of joy, a lot of hard work, and also a few of the challenges which every diocesan bishop faces today. His ministry made today possible. This center, this institute, this seminary, are tributes to his leadership and stewardship. They're his spiritual children. And the Church in northern Colorado will always be grateful.

 

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