By Tony C. Diaz
Umatuna Si Yu’os
Archbishop Michael Byrnes announced his decision to close the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yoña, setting a timeline which would enable remaining seminarians to finish the current semester through the first part of December.
“The current semester that is underway will be the final semester of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary,” Archbishop Byrnes said.
“The semester ends in the first couple of weeks in December,” he said. “So certainly by the end of the year, the seminary will be officially closed.”
Archbishop Byrnes made the announcement at a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 4 in the St. John Paul the Great Center for Evangelization at the Chancery on San Ramon Hill.
He said he took no delight in the task, but said it was the right move.
“I’ve deliberated long and hard. This has not been an easy decision,” Archbishop Byrnes said. “I know it saddens many, especially the people in the seminary.
“It’s not with any delight that I do this,” he continued. “This has been a very difficult decision. But I think it’s the right one for moving ahead in the Archdiocese of Agaña.”
Archbishop Byrnes acknowledged the conflict and controversy which has divided our archdiocese for the last several years, involving the seminary and Neocatechumenal Way and outspoken opposing groups like the Concerned Catholics of Guam (CCOG).
“My hope is that we will be, very clearly, one church – which we are one church – and that some of the strife in the church will subside,” he said.
The archbishop chose not to dwell on those issues during the news conference, however, and described what he said was the core reason for his decision to shutter the seminary.
‘It’s not with any delight that I do this. This has been a very difficult decision. But I think it’s the right one for moving ahead in the Archdiocese of Agaña.’
– Archbishop Michael Byrnes
“The main reason for closing the seminary is that it’s just not a sustainable model for the Archdiocese of Agaña,” the archbishop said.
The Redemptoris Mater Seminary model is a missionary seminary model whereby priests are formed at a diocese and are then sent as missionaries to other places, the archbishop explained.
That model could work and be very sustainable in other places, in particularly large dioceses like Denver or Miami where Catholic faithful number in the millions, the archbishop said. However, it is not sustainable on a small island like Guam, he said.
The archbishop announced that he would assemble a transition team which would oversee the many aspects of the closure and the relocation of the 15-20 existing seminarians.
The archbishop emphasized the importance of taking care of the seminarians and assisting them as they relocate to other seminaries abroad to continue their vocation to the priesthood. Establishing and maintaining a repository of the seminarians’ academic and formation records is vital, for instance, so that seminarians can be assured that their transcripts would be properly transferred upon request.
The bishop whom Pope Francis appointed to lead our Church on Guam as Coadjutor Archbishop of Agaña last Oct. 31, said he deliberated carefully and consulted multiple advisory groups. Those consultative bodies included the Presbyteral Council, College of Consultors, and Archdiocesan Finance Council.
The archbishop also met with the leaders of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and the seminarians themselves.
Serious study and evaluation of the seminary began even before Archbishop Byrnes took the helm on Guam last January. In June of 2016, then apostolic administrator Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai created an ad hoc committee charged with studying the seminaries of the archdiocese “to assess their status, their formation programs, the personnel, and other matters involved in the formation of the clergy for the archdiocese.”
That ad hoc committee was another group that Archbishop Byrnes consulted as he considered his decision. He also assigned Deacon Steve Martinez to be the Delegate to the Neocatechumenal Way, and the deacon will have a key role in the new transition committee.
One reporter asked about the Pontifical Lateran University, which several months ago wrote to Archbishop Byrnes informing him that they were not renewing their affiliation with the seminary. Called “The Pope’s University”, the Pontifical Lateran University is located in Rome and was established in 1773 by Pope Clement XIV.
While the withdrawal of the Lateran University’s affiliation is noteworthy, Archbishop Byrnes said that it wasn’t the main determining factor.