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The three-month long 2012 Dei Verbum Biblical Pastoral Course, which was held at our Centro Ad Gentes in Nemi, formally commenced on Wednesday, September 5. The short opening ceremony, in the presence of all the confreres of the Nemi community, was held in the evening with a meaningful celebration centred on the Word of God. It began with a Service of the Word in the Chapel of the Holy Cross (second floor), which was assigned for the use of the participants of the course. From there the Bible was then carried in candlelit procession to the ‘Josef Freinademetz Sala’, the lecture hall assigned for the program, where it was solemnly enthroned. And the evocative ceremony, then, concluded with everyone present paying homage to the Word of God in gestures most meaningful to each of them. The enthroned Bible was kept in the classroom for the entire duration of the course.

“Come and See!”, the words of invitation of Jesus to the first two disciples, according to the Evangelist John (1:39), was the Word that was chosen as the theme for the entire course. At the opening ceremony the director in a special way pointed out that the Word of Jesus, “Come and see!”, is an invitation for a personal encounter with the Incarnate Word. Moved by the profound experience of this encounter, the first believers and disciples share with others their personal experience and invite them to come to Jesus in the very same words “come and see” (see Jn 1:46, Philip to Nathanael; 4:29, the Samaritan woman to the town folk). It is the very same invitation that Jesus and the Spirit extend to each participant as they commence their journey of earnest dialogue with the Word of God in the Scriptures, a journey that hopefully leads to a personal encounter with Jesus, the Word sent by the Father, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

The group of 14 participants, one of the smallest to date, belonged to seven diverse nationalities and work in some ten different countries around the world. The composition of the group could be described in the following categories: priests 10 & women religious 4; diocesan priests 5; SSpS 2 & SVD 4.

The formation of leaders and animators in biblical pastoral ministry, the ministers of the Word, is very much the principal aim of the Dei Verbum Course. Keeping this aim fully in focus, the dynamics of the program is directed towards three major areas, namely, the interiorization of the Word of God, the communication of the Word, and the study of the Scriptures for better understanding. Serious effort, therefore, is made in maintaining a healthy balance between the need to acquire necessary pastoral skills and the importance of deepening one’s personal encounter with the Word and of moving daily towards a deeper understanding of the sacred writings.

The 2012 biblical pastoral course formally concluded, as scheduled, on November 30. The occasion was specially graced by the presence of Fr. Heinz Küluke SVD, the new Superior General of the Society, and accompanied most appropriately by Fr. Lukas Jua SVD, the Generalate Biblical Coordinator. In his homily Father General, recalling the advice he himself had received from Brother Roger Schütz of Taizé, emphasized the greater importance of living a particular biblical passage that has truly touched the person than he or she trying to study the entire Bible. It was a message which many of the participants found very inspiring and also really down to earth. The day concluded with the special closing dinner, enhanced with aperitifs, desserts and digestifs. While the two SSpS participants took leave of Nemi right after the meal and went off to their generalate house, the others left in the following days for their respective destinations, with hearts full of good memories of Nemi days and bags bulging with certain amount of course materials and plenty of religious articles and souvenirs.

Even though the group of participants has been rather small, it had been a very dynamic one. Everyone contributed very actively to the program and they have been profoundly appreciative of the overall experience and what each one was able to gain from the program. The collaboration and support from the confreres in the community and every staff member of the Centro Ad Gentes had been excellent throughout the course. The participants of the course have been very happy with the facilities and the excellent spirit of hospitality of the centre. Finally, I sincere thank God for all the divine blessings for the course, the confreres and the staff of Nemi for all their generous collaboration, and the various people in the Generalate and in the Collegio in Rome for their wholehearted support and encouragement. May God bless them all!

James Uravil SVD