Catholic San Francisco


(Photo courtesy Edward Messinger /Immaculate Heart of Mary)

Father Stephen Howell was joined by many of the seminarians and priests who have served with him through the years in a special tribute to the pastor at the Immaculate Heart of Mary 27th Annual Dinner Dance and Auction April 9.

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Archbishop appoints Father Stephen Howell to role mentoring newly ordained priests
May 24th, 2016
By Valerie Schmalz

Saying that “it is a very critical stage in a priest’s journey,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone has instituted a new position focused on mentoring priests for the first five years after ordination.

Archbishop Cordileone appointed longtime Immaculate Heart of Mary pastor and former Junipero Serra High School president Father Stephen H. Howell as part-time director of Ongoing Formation for Newly Ordained Priests, effective July 1. Father Howell was also appointed to a new post as pastor of St. Philip the Apostle in Noe Valley.

“I just thought we needed to do more about bringing them together, praying together, sharing concerns, reflecting together,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a conversation with Catholic San Francisco. It is also a way to formalize his relationship with the new priests, whom he spent a great deal of time with during their formation in the seminary.

The archdiocese already has a director of ongoing priestly formation for all priests, Father William McCain, and each new priest also picks a mentor as recommended by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops document on the formation of priests. This position complements those existing supports.

“Studies and experience show that how those first few years are lived out will have a major impact on a priest’s life,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

Not only is the new priest adjusting to life in the parish, with its demands, and its relationships with parishioners, pastor and staff, but “on a deeper level there is a transition into a priestly identity. This is a whole another part of the journey. Our theology teaches that with priestly ordination, there is an ontological change, one’s being is changed. But that carries with it a psychological adjustment that has to go along with it,” Archbishop Cordileone said. The new priest is also now part of the presbyterate, the body of local clergy.

Leaving the seminary is similar in some ways to leaving home because the seminarian was with his peers, and received a lot of support in a “unique environment,” the archbishop noted.

“There’s a lot of … discernment that needs to go on. I think they need much support and assistance to guide them through these learning experiences,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

In the fifth and latest edition of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Program of Priestly Formation, approved by the U.S. bishops in their general meeting in 2005, the section on ongoing formation of priests states: “The process and the journey of the ongoing formation of priests is both necessary and lifelong. Its purpose is not only the spiritual growth of the priest himself but also the continued effectiveness of his mission and ministry.”

Father Howell was the archbishop’s choice for “a lot of reasons,” he said. “He’s a longtime proven experienced pastor, respected pastor, successful pastor in the archdiocese. He has a very in depth background in Catholic education. He has mentored a lot of priests and seminarians, and he has a great rapport with them. He works really well with them,” Archbishop Cordileone said.

The position was created for Father Howell, rather than finding Father Howell for the position, the archbishop said. Father Howell’s term was finishing, after 16 years, at Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“In addition to a pastoral assignment in the setting of a parish, what more could he do to use his gifts to assist the archdiocese? And so the thought really came from reflecting upon that rather than thinking of the job and then going out and looking for someone to fulfill it,” said Archbishop Cordileone.

From May 26, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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