New seminary rector comes highly recommended

Archbishop Aymond    Last week you announced the appointment of a new rector-president of Notre Dame Seminary, Father James Wehner, who will begin serving in his position July 1. Father Wehner has served for the last three years in a similar capacity at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus. How significant is this appointment?
    First of all, the positions of rector at both Notre Dame Seminary and at St. Joseph Seminary College are very significant because the rector is entrusted with the formation and education of our future priests. The church will be stronger if it has good, holy and dedicated priests. The rector also provides leadership for the seminary faculty and formators.
    How did Father Wehner come to your attention?
    We had announced last November that we were seeking a new rector for Notre Dame Seminary. Father José Lavastida had served at the seminary for 15 years, including the last five years as rector. I wrote to Catholic institutions, dioceses and seminaries asking for the names of candidates, and I received many positive responses. In writing to each seminary, I asked the seminary rector if he knew of anyone on his own faculty who might be interested in the position. In this case, Father Wehner wrote back and said, for various reasons, none of his faculty members wanted to leave Ohio. But he kept thinking about it himself and kept thinking about the opportunities it would present to work with another seminary that was doing well, particularly Notre Dame Seminary, and to help build its priestly formation programs. The more he thought about it, he became enthused and he called me and offered himself as a possible candidate. Then he entered into a process of discernment.
    What strengths does Father Wehner bring to Notre Dame Seminary?
    He comes to us with a great deal of experience. He has shared in many different ministries. He was the personal assistant to then-Bishop Donald Wuerl when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. He also had many different diocesan and parish responsibilities in Pittsburgh. Most recently, he served for six years as rector of St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh and for the last three years as rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus. He is very widely respected by the bishops on the board of the Josephinum. He is highly recommended by Cardinal Wuerl. He is well respected by the seminarians and faculty at the Josephinum. He is seen as a rector who is hard-working, faith-filled, very loyal and committed to the teachings of the Magisterium. He has truly made a name for himself in using his gifts to teach and talk about evangelizing American culture. He also serves as a consultor to the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, of which Archbishop Hughes is a member. He is known as a priest who is not only a father to the seminarians but also a role model. He’s also someone who is a very strong administrator and leader. I’m very grateful to God that he allowed our paths to cross.
    Who conducted the search?
    He was interviewed by a committee of bishops that I had asked to serve in that role. Bishop Fabre was the head of the committee, and the committee included three other bishops in the region. They were all very much impressed by him and his commitment to the church.
    How big is the Pontifical College Josephinum?
    It is a both a college seminary and a theologate. Father Wehner significantly increased the enrollment in the time he was there and brought in a very qualified faculty. He rebuilt the seminary and fostered a good spirit. When we welcome him to Notre Dame Seminary, he will have an outstanding faculty in place. We have been very fortunate in attracting top-notch laypeople to teach, and we have outstanding diocesan and religious order priests on our faculty. I’m very proud of and grateful for our faculty. Our new faculty members include Father Jeff Harvey, a Vincentian, who is an excellent professor of homiletics. Also new is Dr. Nathan Eubanks, who is a Scripture professor. We’ve also hired Dr. Thomas Neal, who will be a professor of theology and also will serve as the director of lay ecclesial ministry program called Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. Returning to the seminary is Father Michael Flynn, a graduate of Notre Dame Seminary and a priest of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. He has completed his licentiate in liturgy, and he will be a professor and spiritual director. Also, one of our own priests is open to returning part-time to teach and serve as a spiritual director.
    It sounds as though you are very excited about the direction of the seminary.
    This is a new time for the seminary. The number of young men and not-so-young men who are entering the seminary is increasing. We serve all of the dioceses of Louisiana as well as dioceses in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and we serve religious communities. The seminary is a blessing not only to us but also to Catholics throughout the entire region.
    Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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