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Bishop Justice

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St. Patrick Seminary honors Auxiliary Bishop William Justice with ‘Four Pillars’ award
September 16th, 2009
By Laura Bertone

St Patrick’s Seminary and University honors one of its own graduates, San Francisco Auxiliary Bishop William Justice, with the “Four Pillars” award at a gala tonight, Sept. 18, at St Mary’s Cathedral Event Center. The Four Pillars award recognizes individuals who have contributed to the excellence of seminary formation by embodying and promoting the four pillars of formation.

The mission of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University is to prepare priests according to the mind of Christ and the needs of the Church in our present day using the four pillars as a guide. The four pillars originate from the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds, 1992) and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation (5th ed., 2005).

The four pillars of formation are: Human, Spiritual, Pastoral, and Academic. Human formation seeks to help men become healthy and mature adults in the faith who can serve as bridges to others seeking Christ. Spiritual formation directs our hearts to God by fostering a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, faithful priestly discipleship, and clarity in one’s vocation. Intellectual formation looks to open young minds and hearts to the wisdom found in the bringing together of faith and reason. Pastoral formation unifies and gives direction to the whole formation process. Pastoral formation directs young men to see Christ in those to whom he ministers and come to see Christ at work in himself.

Following his graduation from Serra High School and St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View, Bishop Justice entered St Patrick Seminary in 1962 with 25 other men to prepare for priesthood under the Tridentine liturgical rite and a strict hierarchy of clergy. Seminary formation was fairly austere and static: seminarians wore cassocks and birettas to class, were taught and took exams in Latin, observed the Grand Silence daily, and could be expelled for leaving the Menlo Park grounds without permission.

But with Vatican II underway in Rome, the young priest-to-be William Justice was able to experience the changes at the seminary and in the Church at large while still learning. Bishop Justice has said that he felt fortunate to be in the seminary while everything was developing: “The changes that were happening were easier to understand – we saw how it was rooted in the liturgy and scripture.” Although he says their scripture professor was “horribly boring” he is grateful to him for giving the students the concepts of biblical interpretation and opening the Word in new ways – something that would not have been done just a few years earlier.

Reverend Frank Norris, SS, who was Bishop Justice’s second year theology professor, had just returned from Rome where he had observed the Vatican Council. The class used the documents from the Council as their textbooks, studying and absorbing the documents as they were published. “We were lucky” says the former seminarian of his time at St Patrick’s preparing to minister in a Church that was radically different from the one he had been expecting to be ministering in.

But life at the seminary was not all classes and rules. One thing that “kept us sane” was putting on plays at the seminary, recalls Bishop Justice. Originally performed only for the other students, eventually they were able to convince the administration to allow the men to perform their theatrics for family on visitors’ days. Bishop Justice acted as the costume manager for such productions as “Oklahoma,” “My Fair Laddie,” and “Hello Dolly”, all performed from scripts rewritten by the talented seminarians to avoid the fact that there were no women at hand to play the female roles.

By the end of his time at St Patrick’s, Bishop Justice now recognizes that the seminary was “more balanced” due to the changes brought about by Vatican II; there technically had been no major alterations to the rules that governed seminary life, but there were “so many little changes that overall our lives were different.” There was more interaction and communication with what was going on outside the walls of the seminary, English was being used in the classroom and the liturgy, and seminarians were able to leave the grounds more often to work in parishes. In his final year, having been ordained a deacon, Bishop Justice went to a parish on the weekends where he taught CCD and learned along with members of the parish new hymns and music that were being published in English.

Following his graduation from St Patrick’s Seminary with a Masters in Divinity and ordination to the priesthood in 1968, Bishop Justice spent the next 39 years in pastoral assignments throughout the Archdiocese. And although the four pillars had not been developed when Mr. William Justice entered St Patrick’s Seminary, Bishop William Justice sees them at work in his life today and when looking back on the last four decades of priestly ministry. Pastoral formation is perhaps the easiest to see in Bishop Justice’s priesthood: “Pastorally, I have 39 years of experience: including 22 years as pastor of parishes in the Archdiocese. Even today, as Vicar for Clergy, I see myself as trying to be a pastor” to other priests in the Archdiocese.

For continuing human formation, Bishop Justice “tries” to exercise four to six days a week by walking, hiking, or using a NordicTrack or stationary bike. Intellectually, Bishop Justice keeps up with magazines and newspapers to be aware of what is going on in the greater world as well as within the Catholic Church; he prefers to read histories and biographies when he has time for recreational reading. Even after receiving a Masters in Applied Spirituality in 1976, Spiritual formation is what Bishop Justice sees as something that continues to challenge him: “I have to work at it. I’m more comfortable now, but I always have to remember to make time for it”; therefore, Bishop Justice makes it a priority to get up early and say Morning Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament shrine at St Mary’s Cathedral whenever possible.

Bishop Justice’s time at St Patrick’s Seminary in the early 1960’s reflects the growth and evolution of priestly formation in the Church: from strict rules and structure to the four pillars of formation which seek to develop a whole and balanced minister. In honoring one of its most-loved and respected graduates, St. Patrick Seminary commemorates its mission to the ongoing formation of Roman Catholic priests in a contemporary multicultural world using the four pillars of formation, and it celebrates with Bishop Justice the ongoing importance of formation and balance in the men who minister to the Church.

Laura Bertone is a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University and a Regent of St. Mary’s Cathedral.



From September 18, 2009 issue of
Catholic San Francisco.


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