Father Benjamin Sawyer doesn’t miss the food of Rome…yet, but says he thinks he will miss it eventually.
The pastor of Christ the King Parish in Wichita is back from two years of studying for a licentiate in dogmatic theology – the study of the truths of faith concerning God and God’s works – and is happy to be back in the Diocese of Wichita.
After intensive training in Italian that began in June of 2015, he spent most of the next two years studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Father Sawyer returned to the diocese in the summer of 2016 for two months to do pastoral work and to cover for his brother diocesan priests before returning to Rome for his final year of studies. He returned home to the diocese in mid-July and began as pastor of Christ the King on Aug. 1.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said last week. “To be able to study theology again as a priest…at a post-graduate level, you really are in touch with theology from around the world.”
Father Sawyer said while in Rome he came into contact with the church universal and with theologians “who are doing theology today and serious academic research.”
The cultural experience was also a blessing, he said. “To be in Rome, the center of Christendom where the apostles and the Saints have trod; the walls of Rome, the churches of Rome, the catacombs of Rome still speak to us today.”
His studies will impact his priesthood, he said.
“The education that I have received and the cultural experiences that I have had have shaped me and formed me and ultimately I can bring this – this richness of the faith, this beauty of the faith – to the people of God,” he said.
“The whole scope of our study of theology is the salvation of souls. I pray and I hope that my studies will bear fruit in my pastoral ministry, leading people to Jesus Christ and to the saving truths handed down to us through Tradition.”
In addition to missing the food of Rome, Father Sawyer said he will miss the community of priests studying together.
“However, I would say that nothing can compare to the fraternity that we experience in the Diocese of Wichita. So, as much as I will miss the community of priests in Rome, it will never compare how much I missed being a part of the presbyterate here in the diocese.”
Father Jason Borkenhagen, previously pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Parsons, is following Father Sawyer’s footsteps in Rome.
Fr. Borkenhagen left St. Patrick Parish in Parsons for Rome on June 5 and began intensive study of Italian a week later. That ended in late August. Fr. Borkenhagen will begin his academic studies in Rome in a few weeks.
“I have always loved St. Thomas Aquinas,” Fr. Borkenhagen said earlier this summer, recalling several instructors who instilled a love of the church father. “The teachings of St. Thomas have always been a part of my formation as a priest. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to spend two years studying them.”
He will pursue advanced studies in theology and priestly formation at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the Angelicum, and at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, known as Santa Croce. He, as did Father Sawyer, will live at Casa Santa Maria, a residence for graduate priest students of the North American College in Rome.