Fr. Chris Wadelton
Increasingly, seminarians are finding themselves in parishes
much sooner and with more responsibilities. Where do they look for
guidance and who do they turn to for advice and assurance?
Those are some of the questions Saint Meinrad is addressing with
its landmark initiative, the Institute for Priests and
Presbyterates (IPP), which assists diocesan priests in their work
through continuing education and formation.
Fr. Chris Wadelton, of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is a
participant in the Institute and a 2009 alumnus of Saint Meinrad
Seminary and School of Theology.
Currently the associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish on the east
side of Indianapolis, Fr. Chris has found that the IPP offers both
ongoing personal formation and programs that foster a sense of
community for his presbyterate (a presbyterate is made up of all
the priests and the bishop of a particular diocese).
"There's a sense of coming home," he says. "It's an opportunity
to share some of our recently learned experiences-talk to others
about what we've been doing, what our ministry is like."
As a student at Saint Meinrad, Fr. Chris began the Settling into
Priesthood program in his final year of seminary and continued into
his first year as a new priest. The goal is simple: to make the
transition into priesthood as seamless as possible.
"Before we were ordained, a lot of the information we were given
was theoretical," he notes. "This is what ministry is going to be
like and this is what to expect-but none of us had a vast amount of
experience. Coming back, after just a few months, we could bring
our experiences back and reflect on them. It made the theoretical
much more practical."
Settling into Priesthood is just one of several programs the IPP
offers to help priests in their first five years of ministry to
continue their formation, learn from their peers and find the
assistance they need as they adjust to their new roles.
During 2010, the Institute hosted 12 programs, with 117
participants. Programs include offerings that begin in the seminary
to help the soon to be priest as he makes the transition into
ministry. Mentor training and ongoing formation programs help
priests in their first five years to continue to learn and grow in
Finally, the IPP offers several programs that address
presbyteral unity, bringing priests and their bishop together to
form a cohesive unit and become more intentional about their common
"This year was my first convocation with all the other priests,"
says Fr. Chris. "It's a great opportunity to build fraternity.
There's a feeling of coming back to the Hill, not as a student, but
as one of the presbyterate."
The Institute for Priests and Presbyterates is expanding its
offerings for dioceses, as well as serving more priests through
existing programs. The new programs include a World Priest program
to help international priests transition into diocesan ministry in
the United States, and a Stoking the Fire sabbatical program for
Growth and change at Saint Meinrad, in response to the changing
needs of the Church, is part of what draws Fr. Chris back to the
Hill. "I think it's a dynamic that is good to see in a
seminary-that they continually update and remake themselves," he
says. "Updating facilities and programs can be seen as a metaphor
for ministry. Each priest has to learn to rejuvenate himself and
remake himself continually in order to stay dynamic."