Paris Foreign Missions seminarian Will Conquer (yes, that's his real name!) stopped by Maryknoll yesterday to take the pulse of the church in the northeast U.S.
Will is a second year philosophy student for the Missions Etrangères de Paris. When his superior, Fr. George Colomb, heard of Will's planned trip to the States, he encouraged him to visit Maryknoll and other places in the Northeast US in order to "take the pulse" of the Church here.
Will spoke with Maryknoll Father Frank McGourn and Brothers John Blazo and Kevin Dargan. My two cents was that the church in the US is on life supports (i.e. the influx of immigrants from Latin America, the Philippines, Haiti, Vietnam and Korea).
Luckily, one of our younger priests, Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa was in town, as Will was particularly interested in hearing from our men who work in Asia, as this is where the MEP concentrates all their mission efforts and men.
Will said for about 15 years, MEP had NO vocation candidates; now they have 25 (compared to our ten). That being said, Will claims we have had far more vocations in our 100-year history than MEP has had in their 350+ years.
Today they number about 300 men.
Their recruitment and formation is very different than ours. Men interested in mission with MEP pay their own way overseas (to Asia) for at least one or two years where they live and work with Missioners at various apostolates. Will, for example, worked in Vietnam for a year.
This pre-OTP (in Maryknoll jargon) gives the Missioner and the prospect an in-depth opportunity to evaluate one another. According to Will, most decide not to apply. UnIike Maryknoll and all seminaries in the US, they have no psychological testing or screening.
Will said the MEP seminarians take great pride in their reputation as "Hooligans" compared to the more sophisticated and refined French clergy. I suppose this is comparable to our reputation in the past as "Lone Rangers."
Once they begin formal studies, they may be in Paris, Rome or someplace around the world, depending on their area of concentration.
Will left today for the City, from where he hopes to visit various Franciscan communities as well as the Legionaires. It will be interesting after his trip to learn just what his impressions are of the state of the church in the US. He warmly invites Maryknollers to stop by MEP headquarters should they find themselves in Paris.
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