Monday, March 18, 2013

Selection Conference

Who will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for future generations?
This weekend fifteen men gathered at Wonersh for the annual Selection Advisory Conference. They are all applicants for the priesthood and had come to Wonersh to be interviewed by a panel who would then make a recommendation to their respective Bishops. This year the candidates were from Southwark, Arundel & Brighton, Brentwood, Portsmouth and Clifton. Plymouth and Cardiff have now pulled out of the Wonersh Conference and organise their own panels to advise their bishops.
During the weekend the Candidates are interviewed by a member of staff at the seminary who is trying to ascertain their understanding of priesthood, knowledge of the faith and the general health of the Christian life. A second interviewer, with an educational background, seeks to asses their intellectual ability and interests. This is important for the bishop because he needs to know at which seminary they would be most likely to flourish and also, at a most basic level, whether they will be able to access the level of studies required of a future priest. A third panel member interviews to try to get some idea of the background and emotional maturity of the individual.
Once the interviews are complete the panel makes a recommendation which will be forwarded to each candidate's bishop. I always recommend to Vocation Directors that they sit in on the feedback session with the Rector because it is helpful to see who says what and also to ask questions when things are not clear. An important question for the Vocations Director to consider is whether he sees his candidate reflected in the panel's observations.
The Selection Advisory Conference is just that: it gives advice. It is one piece of a jigsaw received by the bishop and it would be wrong to take its advice out of context. The other pieces are the report of a psychological assessment which each candidate is asked to undergo; the recommendation of the Vocations Director (who has usually had considerably more contact with the candidates) and the bishop's own insights gleaned through a personal interview with the candidates.
Please pray for this year's applicants from these five dioceses. Inevitably some will be disappointed with the eventual outcome of the process but each one of them has had the generosity to offer themselves to the Lord for priestly service. That generosity is an example to us all.

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