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​Welcome to the website for the Office of Priestly Vocations of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI. This year twenty-five men from our diocese will be in seminary formation programs in preparation for ordination, seven of whom are new to formation. Thirteen of these men are at St. John Vianney College Seminary and twelve are at USML/Mundelein Seminary.

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Embarking on a new assignment: Fr. Nolan returns to SJV Seminary

July-August 2024
By Father Scott Nolan
Receiving the message from Bishop Walkowiak that I had been asked to serve on the formation faculty at Saint John Vianney College Seminary (SJV) was quite the day. I was excited that The Lord had seen fit to open this door for me to serve at the seminary where I was formed many years ago. For a number of years, it had been my hope to serve at the seminary and now that hope is realized. At the same time, as I prepare for this new assignment in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and  Minneapolis, I am sad to leave behind friends, family and the beauty of parish life.

My new role as a faculty member begins in August. My primary responsibilities will be human formation, as well as spiritual direction. Human formation is something most people are familiar with, albeit perhaps not by name. Parents do human formation, starting with very basic things, like teaching their children to walk, talk and eat. As children enter adolescence and young adulthood, the human formation that parents do shifts to growth in maturity, navigating responsibility and developing resilience. This is the work that I will be doing with a group of the seminarians at SJV, as part of a team of priests and lay people.

The Program for Priestly Formation (PPF), the document that governs the formation of priests in the United States, has this to say about human formation: “The foundation and center of all human formation is the Word made flesh. In his fully developed humanity, he was truly free and with complete freedom gave himself totally for the salvation of the world.

The basic principle of human formation is found in Pastores Dabo Vobis: the human personality of the priest is to be a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the human race. As the humanity of the Word made flesh was the instrumentum salutis [instrument of salvation], so the humanity of the priest is instrumental in mediating the redemptive gifts of Christ to people today. The disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who is free to be who he is in God’s design: someone who does not—in contrast to the popular culture—conceive or pursue freedom as the expansion of options or as individual autonomy detached from others, but who rather overcomes every form of self-promotion or emotional dependency.” (181-182)

I love the line from the PPF: “The disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who is free to be who he is in God’s design …” The disciple of Jesus Christ, which a seminarian and future priest must first be, needs to seek what could be called a theonomous way of living, seeking the law (nomous) of God (theos), rather than the law (nomous) of self (autos). The law of self – autonomy – is not a Christian virtue. Internalizing the Logos of God is what the disciple is meant to do, so that Christ might increase, and the disciple might decrease.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with men who are discerning the priesthood. The seminary is the Church’s place of discernment and formation for priesthood; time that a future priest dedicates to God and the service of his people. A time of grace, for both the seminarian and those responsible for his formation.

FATHER SCOTT NOLAN was ordained a priest on June 1, 2013. He served as pastor of Saint Stephen Parish in East Grand Rapids from July 2016 to June 2024.

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