Bishop Kemme tells seminarians to hone their listening skills

Bishop Carl A. Kemme and Father Chad Arnold pose with the seminarians who attended the Rite for the Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders Friday, July 30, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. Fr. Arnold is director of the Vocations Office. (Advance photo)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme urged four seminarians attending a special Mass on July 30 to hone their listening skills.

“I have come to believe that all the skills and abilities that are so important for priests to offer a fruitful ministry in the church have their foundation in the skill or ability to listen,” he told the men. “A good presider at the liturgy is one who can listen so that he knows the community and its needs in order to lead them in prayer.”

The bishop explained to Paul Brungardt, Grant Huslig, Joseph Mick, and Nicholas Samsel that a good confessor not only dispenses the grace of the sacrament but lovingly listens to the penitent.

Bishop Kemme spoke to the four men at a Rite for the Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. All the seminarians of the diocese attended.

The skill of listening can also be applied to homilies, he said.

A good homilist is a good listener

“An effective homilist is one who first listens to the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word of God but also listening, if you will, to the signs of the times so that he will know the message of transforming love which is first directed to him and the audience to whom he is preaching.”

The art of listening applies to all areas of a priest’s life, Bishop Kemme said. “A good administrator of God’s temporal goods will have the docility and humility to listen to wise counsel and to follow that counsel prudently so that all things proceed as they should according to God’s plan of building up the Kingdom.”

All of the responsibilities of a priest are based on a desire and an ability and willingness to listen, he said. “The spiritual life will never be what it needs to be without the ability to listen.”

Bishop Kemme related how the first reading of the day’s Mass, a story about Samual and Eli, reminds readers of that truth. God repeatedly calls Samuel, and Eli finally instructs Samuel to answer, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

Focus on listening

“My brothers in formation – and especially the newest candidates for Holy Orders, Paul, Grant, Joseph and Nicholas – few, if any, doubt your ability to pursue philosophical and theological studies. Few, if any, doubt your ability to develop good skills as would be homilists and eventually administrators, entrusted with governance in the church.”

Those skills will come with proper training, experience, and practice, he said.

“What we most need from you now is your willingness to hone the important and rare skill of listening, but not just listening with the ears, but more so listening with the heart and an open mind: to listen to your instructors, not just for facts, but for wisdom.”

Bishop Kemme urged them to listen to their vocation directors, to listen to those responsible for their formation, to listen to their spiritual directors, and to parents, grandparents, and other family members from whom they continue to progress in the first seminary they attended, the family.

“I might also include here bishops,” he said, “for we must also listen to one another, I to you and you to me, so that our relationship even now is founded on mutual respect and fraternity.

“In these relationships, so important in the life of a seminarian, you will hear God’s voice calling you as he did young Samuel. I pray that you will respond as he did with faith and enthusiasm: Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”