Building the Church up

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Students take notes during a class at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Photo: PUHC
Students take notes during a class at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Photo: PUHC

An Australian foundation which enables seminarians and religious from third world countries to study in Rome is calling on Australian Catholics to help build the Church in places where it doesn’t have the resources to form men and women to lead it.

The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (PUHC) Foundation assists seminarians and religious to study at its Rome campus just off the famous Piazza Navona.

There, students can undertake courses in its schools of Theology, Canon Law, Philosophy and – interestingly -a school of Church Communications to prepare communication professionals for ecclesial institutions. Its Higher Institute of Religious Studies forms pastoral workers for local communities and prepares students for activities of the lay apostolate.

The university has become a major educator of seminarians and religious from all over the world, including from countries where the Church cannot provide higher education to form its future leadership.

By contributing to the university’s Australian Foundation, Catholics can help resource the Church in need, the Foundation’s Australia co-ordinator Frank Casadesus said.

“By contributing to the Holy Cross Foundation here in Australia, Catholics provide an educational and formative experience that such men and women would not otherwise be able to have …”

“Nothing is more important than forming priests and religious who can preach the Gospel, serve the Church and provide its sacramental life to its members, especially in places where there are few – if any – resources to form those priests and religious,” Mr Casadesus told The Catholic Weekly.

“By contributing to the Holy Cross Foundation here in Australia, Catholics provide an educational and formative experience that such men and women would not otherwise be able to have.”

“This is a practical way that we, in Australia, can put our faith into action and build the Church where our brothers and sisters in faith need it most – even if we may not necessarily see the result ourselves when they return to their homes to begin their mission.”

Mr Casadesus was speaking to The Catholic Weekly after a similar Vatican foundation announced that 96 priests, brothers, sisters and laity on five continents now have the chance to study in Rome as part of its own scholarship program.

The Papal Foundation’s St John Paul II Scholarship Program announced a total of A$1.1 million in scholarships enabling recipients to choose from one of the ecclesiastical universities in Rome for their studies.

A group of friends, seminarians from all over the world, relax for a snapshot on the rooftop of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Photo: PUHC
A group of friends, seminarians from all over the world, relax for a snapshot on the rooftop of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Photo: PUHC

Pope Francis has recently reiterated that “priestly formation is decisive for the mission of the Church; the renewal of the faith is possible only if we have well-formed priests”.

Since its founding, the program has provided around A$18 million in scholarships to more than 1,600 individuals, known as Saeman Scholars, to advance their education and prepare them to return to their own countries to teach.

Here in Australia, the PUHC Foundation was established in 1999, enabling Australian Catholics to resource the mission of the Church in places where priests and religious are desperately needed.

The university is one of just seven pontifical universities operating in Rome. All, except PUHC, had their origins centuries ago.

“One difference of PUHC is that the majority of its lecturing staff hold doctorates from civil universities as well as ecclesiastical ones …”

Currently it has six Faculties, a Higher Institute of Religious Studies, 87 full time academics (plus 128 who are delegates, visiting or assistants) and about 1,500 students.

One difference of PUHC is that the majority of its lecturing staff hold doctorates from civil universities as well as ecclesiastical ones, bringing a knowledge and experience from the secular world into the ecclesiastical one.

At last count, students came from 28 African, 7 Central American, 10 South American, 3 North American, 17 Asian and 27 European nations, including places or nations where Catholicism is relatively new.

Mr Casadesus said that those who want to second what Pope Francis himself is doing can do so through a donation or a bequest to the PUHC Foundation.

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (PUHC) Foundation: PO Box 176, Gordon NSW 2072. Commonwealth Bank account BSB 062 173, Acc. number: 2800 8038.