Fr Jack Green, from Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, has recently completed his Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology (STB) from the Catholic Institute of Sydney (CIS), a course that took him five years to complete.
According to its president, Sr Professor Isabell Naumann issm, The Catholic Institute of Sydney is one of the oldest tertiary educational places in Australia and has a unique place in theological education in Australia.
“Students come from a diversity of cultures and of backgrounds and include seminarians, teachers, pastoral workers, and many others keen to deepen their understanding of the faith and to explore the way it is lived in contemporary Australia.
“A large number of full-time students are studying for ordination to priesthood in the Catholic Church. They come from a variety of dioceses and religious communities both locally and internationally. Other students are currently, or will eventually, be engaged in some form of ministry in the Church,” Professor Naumann explained in her President’s Welcome on the CIS website.
“All seminarians in the world are required to complete studies in both philosophy and theology (with associated subjects like Scripture, Canon Law), but what that looks like in concrete differs from place to place,” Fr Jack told Catholic Outlook.
“In our seminary [Holy Spirit Seminary], this has generally taken the form of two bachelor degrees, one in philosophy, one in theology.
“The STB is a little longer than a normal bachelor degree in theology and so is not required for every seminarian, but for those who can do the extra units, they are encouraged to do so.”
A small cohort of half a dozen people joined Fr Jack in graduating from the course. “All who did the STB were either ordained or had been in the seminary for some time, left, but completed their degree after leaving,” he explained.
One of the most interesting things Fr Jack learnt whilst completing his STB was contemporary philosophical and theological critiques of secularism.
“We all feel the effects of secularism in this country and in the West generally, but I think most of us are not aware that there are really sophisticated and robust responses to secularism by serious and well-respected scholars,” he said.
“As a result, university students, particularly, but so many who work in the secular sphere can feel swamped by the ideas and politics around them and are not sure how to respond on an intellectual level that is in harmony with their faith.
“Looking at these contemporary critiques really opened my eyes and has given me confidence in addressing the ever-growing creep of the secular sphere while trying to maintain the integrity of our faith.”
In 2014, whilst in the seminary, Fr Jack was awarded an undergraduate medal for the highest marks achieved in the areas of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame. In 2016, he graduated from Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours).
“Of course there were difficulties juggling both [degrees], but nothing insurmountable. Most of the problems were logistical things like trying to be faithful to the seminary schedule while relying on Sydney trains to get to and from uni. But on the whole, things were not too difficult. In fact, getting to experience different tertiary institutions helps broaden one’s experience, so I thought it was quite beneficial,” Fr Jack said.
Following his ordination in November 2018, Fr Jack said that the completion of his STB has assisted him in his ministry.
“[It helps] in so many different ways.
“Unfortunately, some people subscribe to a kind of anti-intellectualism that downplays the importance of studies and even sometimes promote the idea that studies are unnecessary for ministry. In doing so, people can get themselves into all sorts of problems because they operate without knowledge, without proper formation.
“Moreover, they forget that if you really absorb the theology and philosophy, the teaching and wisdom of the Church, make it part of your mind, then it can help immensely in so many areas of one’s ministry, even the most practical of ministries.
“Of course, it helps in the preparation of homilies, in advice, in confession, but it also helps in day to day issues in the parish where one needs to think through a problem or make a decision and if one wants to be faithful to Christ even in these little things, then having formed your mind according to his really helps.
“I ‘use’ what I have learnt every day in the parish; not one day goes by where I do not draw on this formation,” Fr Jack said.
Fr Jack expressed that he has a desire to continue studying in the future, but it would depend on the needs of the diocese.
“I would love to place my mind at the service of the Church in terms of studying and teaching, but having taken a promise of obedience, a lot of that depends on the bishop and his plans for the diocese.
“There is definitely a need there and a desire in my heart for it, but only God knows what the future holds,” he said.