by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It just got a lot harder for Father Steven P. Beseau to squeeze in a game of golf or visit his parents and old friends in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
That’s because Father Beseau has been appointed the new rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, the most prestigious seminary in the United States.
Apostolic nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe Pierre made the announcement on March 19 by means of a decree from Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy in Rome.
Father Beseau was present when the announcement was made at the Josephinum. He becomes the 17th rector/president in the history of the seminary, succeeding current rector Msgr. Christopher J. Schreck, on July 1.
At the time of his appointment, Father Beseau was an assistant professor of moral theology at The Athenaeum of Ohio, in Cincinnati.
“Right now, there is a sense of joy and excitement with a tinge of sadness because I have to leave the great community at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati,” said Father Beseau.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was pleased, but not surprised.
“Father Beseau is a very gifted priest,” said Archbishop Naumann, “and we need great priests to help with the formation of future priests.
“I know his work in Cincinnati has been very appreciated. It wasn’t surprising to me. I’m happy for the seminary and I’m happy for Father Beseau, because I think it will be a good use of his gifts and talents.”
The archbishop said Father Beseau has many great qualities, including a very deep interior spiritual life.
“He’s very intelligent and bright, and a good communicator of the faith,” said Archbishop Naumann. “He has a love for the priesthood and therefore is very committed to helping young men discern priestly vocations. He has good leadership skills and will be a good leader for the Josephinum.”
The invitation to apply for the position was unexpected.
“In late October last year, I received a letter from the bishop of Columbus informing me that I had been recommended to apply,” said Father Beseau. “After speaking with Archbishop Naumann and my spiritual director, I decided to accept the invitation to apply.”
Although he wasn’t told why he was appointed, Father Beseau thinks it was, in part, because of his experience.
“I have been a pastor of a rural parish and a suburban parish, a chaplain of two high schools and also the director of a large chaplaincy to higher education at the University of Kansas,” he said. “I have development experience, a doctorate in theology and experience in formation and teaching in a seminary.”
Father Beseau spoke of three challenges he will face as rector of the Josephinum.
The first challenge is one faced by every seminary: forming men to be priests when the church is experiencing the scandal of abuse.
“This awareness has led seminary formators and seminarians to recommit themselves to prayer and mortification for the sins of those who have harmed the young,” said Father Beseau. “Seminarians are rightly focused on the future, putting their faith and hope in God to be men of generous fidelity and service.”
The second challenge is that the problems of the culture — which include wounds caused by divorce, pornography and more — are also the seminarians’ problems.
“A seminary has an essential task in helping seminarians mature . . . so that they can then take on the role of supernatural fathers,” said Father Beseau. “Culture challenges make that task more difficult.”
The third challenge is forming priests to serve the different generations in the church.
“Today’s young adults never lived in the modern world,” said Father Beseau. “They only know a postmodern world. Their problems are not the problems of previous generations.
“My challenge will be to help older priests and parishioners to understand the postmodern world that young adults live in, but primarily to guide seminarians to make transitions to parishes where many of the people are still thinking in modern terms.”
Father Beseau, himself a member of “Generation X,” is very impressed with today’s seminarians.
“When I entered the seminary in the early 1990s, there was almost complete positive response to my decision,” he said. “This is no longer the case.
“Both the abuse crisis and this postmodern culture young adults live in have weakened — and in some cases — eliminated any external support. Seminarians today have to overcome opposition and parental discouragement more than they did when I entered the seminary.”