Located in Long Khánh, Saint Joseph major seminary of Xuân Lộc is the seventh major seminary of the Catholic Church in Việt Nam. Not only does the seminary have very good facilities but it also enjoys excellent human resources. With clear directives, everyone has been setting their sights on the evangelization of the whole world. The story began decades ago.
Formerly the current major seminary was the seminary of Saint Paul established in 1966 by bishop Joseph Lê Văn Ấn. Nine years later all seminaries were temporarily closed, including this one. In 1986, Saint Joseph major seminary of Hồ Chí Minh City Archdiocese was reopened. Every two year, Xuân Lộc diocese could only send from 15 to 20 seminarians to study there. Due to the needs of a diocese with approximately one million Catholics, 300 parishes and sub-parishes in a community of three million people, in 1995 Bishop Paul Mary Nguyễn Minh Nhật conceived the project of the major seminary of Xuân Lộc. Accepted by the Bishops’ Conference of Việt Nam, it was petitioned to the government. After Bishop Paul Mary retired on September 30th 2004, Bishop Dominic Nguyễn Chu Trinh actively continued the project. Finally, December 14th 2005 saw the government’s official agreement to the establishment of the second branch of Saint Joseph major seminary in Xuân Lộc to train priests for four dioceses: Bà Rịa, Đà Lạt, Phan Thiết, and Xuân Lộc. On October 1st 2006, the second branch started its first training with 66 seminarians. The seminary year of 2008 witnessed the attendance of 215 seminarians, and in the following year, 255 seminarians attended. For the training to get the best results there came the need for appropriate facilities. Therefore, on August 26th 2006, Bishop Dominic laid the cornerstone for the construction of the new major seminary together with the new bishop’s residence. After two years, when the Bishops’ Conference of Việt Nam organized a meeting in Xuân Lộc, the diocese held a thanksgiving mass for the basically finished construction and operation of the bishop’s residence and the major seminary on September 26th 2008. Half a year later, on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the construction finished with the consecration of the major seminary’s chapel. Then the construction of the new building for the Department of Philosophy started on January 3rd 2011. As a result, from the year of 2011-2012 onwards, the seminary would be able to receive 75 new enrolments annually. In the future, the total number of seminarians is projected to be 525. On April 13th 2012, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the Holy See’s Non-resident Representative for Việt Nam, gave the blessings to and presided the thanksgiving mass for the complete construction of the new block of the major seminary. With enthusiasm, Saint Joseph major seminary of Xuân Lộc has been contributing much to priest training of the Catholic Church in Việt Nam. Demonstrating the spirit of evangelization, the seminary receives more seminarians from other dioceses. As an example, this year’s 336 seminarians come from nine dioceses: Bà Rịa, Đà Lạt, Hải Phòng, Hưng Hóa, Lạng Sơn, Phan Thiết, Phát Diệm, Thanh Hóa, and Xuân Lộc. Closely related to that history and new challenges is the steady establishment of its personnel.
Since its beginning, the major seminary was organized and operated by a Board of Directors, of which the first Rector is father Joseph Nguyễn Năng. In July 2009, the Holy See created father Joseph Nguyễn Năng the Bishop of Phát Diệm diocese. At the invitation of the Bishop of Xuân Lộc diocese, Monsignor Joseph Đinh Đức Đạo returned from Rome and has been the Rector from that time till now. To satisfy training demands due to the continuously growing number of seminarians, the major seminary’s Board of Training and Professors has been receiving ongoing reinforcement. In this seminary year, personnel are comprised of 23 resident professor priests, including members of the Board of Directors, and 29 priests together with 3 laypeople as non-resident professors. Devoted to the training of new priests for the Church, everyone tries their best to accomplish the directives for formation.
While remaining faithful to the Church’s teaching, particularly as expressed in Ratio Fundamentalis, Pastores Dabo Vobis, and Ratio of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Việt Nam, Saint Joseph’s major seminary of Xuân Lộc desires to put forward practical and specific applications with key emphases. Doing so, it goes for the target of nourishing the spiritual life of priests, in a manner that is applicable to different environments in the present era. They are to be priests who are happy in their vocation and enthusiastic in their mission, as emphasized in the following five points: (1) Fervent in love with Jesus who was sent into the world by the Father to redeem humanity through the power of the Spirit. (2) Ready to sacrifice everything for God, according to the requirements and spirit of the three Evangelical counsels, in order to be free in heart to go anywhere and do whatever God wills, as well as capable of using all their talents in the service of God and His Holy People. (3) Full of pastoral as well as missionary enthusiasm: with the heart of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, not only able to love and take care of the faithful but also eager to bring non-Catholics to the Lord. (4) Knowledgeable in different dimensions in order to understand deeply the mystery of God, to recognize the roots of the problems of human beings as well as the contemporary society in the light of faith, and to develop pastoral initiatives to spread the Gospel to the people of our time. (5) Imbued in faith with love of the Church and of the Holy Father; deeply attached to the diocese; ready to revere, to love, and to obey leaders; eager to love and to cooperate zealously with fellow priests as well as all Christians; open-minded to the common good of the universal Church and the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. These directives have been made concrete as much as possible.
To apply the directives into practice, beside making use of the traditional approaches, the seminary pays special attention to certain aspects:
Implementing the mentioned aspects in the four dimensions of the seminary program means focusing especially on spiritual formation which fosters the spirit of consecration and configuration to Christ. In fact, the training program is designed to help seminarians to attain a deep interior life and be close to Jesus in the Eucharist. It also encourages seminarians to have a burning love for God’s Word so as to be transformed deeply in their hearts, standards and lifestyle according to the Lord’s Spirit. To accomplish this purpose, various practices have been taken. For example: – Apart from common prayer time in the seminary’s daily schedule, seminarians are encouraged to find the time to stay with Jesus in the Eucharist and to say prayers in private so as to establish a very close connection with Him. In fact, there are now seven chapels in the seminary with one for each class. – To foster the habit of Lectio Divina, seminarians are to follow the indispensable principles. However, they are also advised to do this in various ways. – Small class groups say the rosary and share the Lectio Divina, which helps them to deepen their spirituality together. – The seminary emphasizes the atmosphere of prayerful silence. There are also other practices. However different, all must be founded on a strong humanity formation.
The Church’s teaching on priest formation, especially Pastores Dabo Vobis (no. 43-44), puts great emphasis on the necessity of humanity formation. This aspect of training helps the seminarian to mature in human sensitivity and to live the grace of celibacy for evangelical, spiritual and pastoral motives. In the cultural and social context of current Việt Nam, the seminary draws its seminarians’ attention to the following points: – Seminarians are to practise necessary humanity values in their daily life, for example, sincerity, spirit of sacrifice and renunciation, modesty, respect for other people, justice, charity, communion spirit, leadership capability, love for the family and the country in the light of faith. One application is that modern means of communication and transport are not usually encouraged, only when absolutely necessary. – They are also to avoid bad habits, such as arrogance, desire for fame, rudeness, eating and drinking indulgence, laziness, etc. Each class has its own coordinator priest in humanity formation to support them, especially by means of monthly private exchanges. Intellectual formation is also equally attended to.
4.3. Intellectual formation
Intellectual study in the seminary is principally carried out with specific attitudes. Firstly, the aim is not to satisfy curiosity or honours, but to prepare for future missions. Secondly, overcoming rote learning, seminarians need to attain the habit of deep learning. For these attitudes to be taken there are various applications, for example: – Seminarians must avoid wasting time having unnecessary chats and reading useless materials. – There is one coordinator priest in intellectual formation for each class. – In the prospect of an affiliation with the Pontifical Institute of Urbaniana and to acquire greater knowledge, the seminary offers its seminarians opportunities to make progress in language skills with support from the Holy Family University (Philadelphia, the United States) and the Diocese of Broken Bay (Australia). Last but not least, pastoral formation is marked with remarkable features.
The idea behind this formation includes various motivations. It helps to generate and nourish a pastoral spirit and preoccupation of evangelization. Furthermore, it encourages seminarians to be aware of the main contemporary pastoral needs. In addition, seminarians can have chances to enjoy real life contact with those needs and acquire practical experience. Some illustrative applications are listed below: – Pastoral activity and service on three Sundays each month enable the seminarian to go to parishes to work with children, young people, students, the elderly, the sick and migrant workers. – During the Holy Week, seminarians go to various parishes to practise necessary pastoral skills.
However, doing pastoral work both now and in the future, seminarians are in the danger of misusing many modern devices.
There is a wide range of modern devices, some of which are motorcycles, mobile phones, computers, TVs, the Internet, 3G devices, MP4 players, iPods, iPhones, iPads, etc. Media devices can help add salt to life and many a time they are useful for apostolic work. Nevertheless, they can also lead to harmful desires weakening the mind. Instead of using them for building and serving, many have become slaves to them and thus, their lives are exhausted and emptied. For that reason, seminarians are given formation for their hearts to be free and independent; thus, they can use them positively as means of serving the Lord and offering benefits to others: – Ideal: the formation is to help the seminarian to take full control of himself, so that when there is no community’s disciplines or no one beside, they can still decide to use modern devices only in need. They can even possess them in the spirit of the Evangelical counsel of poverty. – Self-training: the core of the training process is self-training, that means, each seminarian must be aware of the importance of self-control over the relationship with these modern devices and try their best. – Discipline: to assist the seminarian during times of difficulty, there comes the need of disciplines. Beside common ones, each seminarian must “know himself”, in order that he can bring out his own disciplines after discussion with the spiritual director.
Such applications take place in different locations, of which the most important one is the seminary itself.
Saint Joseph Major Seminary of Xuân Lộc is comprised of various facilities.
The newest building of the seminary, the Philosophy Department block consists of a three-storey building and lawns. It is divided into specific parts for particular purposes. On the ground floor, there are rooms for physical exercises and a language laboratory. People can find classrooms, a reading room and music rooms on the first floor. At the right end of the building is the hall. The two other floors are for self-study and rest. There all rooms are arranged with a study room in the middle of two dormitories. Each class has its own chapel. The bigger one is on the top floor to the right of the building while the smaller one is on the second floor. On the second floor, there is also the statue of a Vietnamese martyr, Vincent Phạm Hiếu Liêm. As regards his biography, he was a Dominican priest, born in 1732 in Bùi Chu. Made of plastic, the statue is about three metres high. Far below situated in the yard is the statue of a seminarian martyr, Saint Thomas Trần Văn Thiện. He was born in 1820 in Quảng Bình. Next to this statue is the statue of Archangel Michael killing a devil. Next to that building is the building of the Philosophy Department.
Constructed in a U-shape, the building is a complex of various facilities. On the ground are classrooms, private rooms for priests and guests, and two small chapels. Situated on the other floors are common rooms for first and second year theology seminarians. To practise self-control capability, third year and fourth year theology seminarians stay in private rooms. All are well-equipped. Besides, there is also a clothes line at the other end over a big kitchen. One can exaggerate that this building is both internally and externally covered with the spirit of piety and God’s presence. That’s because in total there are five chapels in one single block, of which the main one is the Grand Chapel. This chapel is built in the shape of three rice buds indicating the impending rich harvest of the Church. There are also facilities:
These are for recreation and research: – The library with more than 10,000 resources on different areas such as philosophy, theology, spirituality, literature and arts, psychology, sociology, etc. – The gymnastic fields including soccer fields, volleyball, basketball and badminton courts, table tennis and gym room.
– The lab rooms for doing research and studying English online.
– The medical room.
– The musical instrument room
– The newspaper corners.
All of the given information can only offer a general view. More can be found in the seminary’s Directives for Training Seminarians.
“Oh Father Eternal God, we give thanks to you for letting us to participate in Jesus Christ’s mission. Please grant us fidelity to follow Your Son so as to devote our whole life to the mission of evangelization ...” That prayer is recited before the end of every Sunday’s mass when the seminarians of Saint Joseph Major Seminary of Xuân Lộc go out for pastoral training and service. With such a spirit and concrete actions, the Major Seminary always bears in mind the mandate of Jesus the Priest: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15, Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition)
* Number of professors: 55
* Number of seminarians: 337 from 9 dioceses:
– Philosophy: 141
– Theology: 196
Đại Chủng viện thánh Giuse Xuân Lộc – Saint Joseph Major Seminary of Xuân Lộc
210 Hùng Vương, Xuân Bình, Long Khánh, Đồng Nai, Việt Nam
* Website: www.dcvxuanloc.net