Accompanying seminarians in their journey towards becoming “men who live out the values of the Sermon on the Mount” is how De La Salle Brother Mark McKeon describes his new role as the director for human formation at Holy Cross Seminary in Ponsonby.
A De La Salle brother for 35 years, Br Mark had taught in Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. In 2017, he was appointed as pastoral director at Holy Cross Seminary.
“A lot of my time as a De La Salle brother has been in the area of formation,” said Br Mark, who was vice-president for human resources at Bethlehem University for three years before taking up his previous seminary role.
“While I haven’t been involved in priestly formation, I’ve been involved in the formation and the accompaniment of young brothers, from the time they initially started journey as a brother through to, and after, they make their vows as brothers,” he said. “That has been my background. I’ve studied in Rome for 12 months looking at this area of human formation and human development, to prepare me for formation work with the brothers particularly.”
He said the purpose of human formation is to assist the seminarian in “becoming a man of integrity, with the personality necessary for priestly ministry in the Church”.
“Human formation cultivates the seminarians’ personal and emotional maturity to ensure they are capable of establishing healthy and nurturing relationships, relating with others in a respectful way.”
“We want to form men who are willing to serve, and to take up the challenge of Pope Francis to show the joy of having answered the Lord’s call, and who live the Beatitudes expressed in the Sermon on the Mount,” he added.
Br Mark said the key to their formation is becoming “self-aware”. He said they should be “aware of their strengths and aware of their weaknesses as humans”.
“The seminarian’s personal growth is examined in the areas of human, spiritual, intellectual, pastoral, physical, social, apostolic, and emotional development. This process ensures that the seminarian will grow in the virtues that will enable him to be a priest of the highest personal integrity, men who are humble and willing to listen and work collaboratively with others,” he added.
Br Mark said it is important that men preparing for priesthood know that formation of others is not one way only. Others, especially the communities they will minister to, will form them as well.
“We need to love the gift of celibacy, too, so that they can really witness to the fruitfulness of that gift in their lives,” he said.
Br Mark said he is enjoying his role at the seminary.
“They are a great group of young men to work with. What makes them a good group to work with is their openness to being formed,” he said.
Br Mark said he hopes that, when they become priests, they live the message of the Gospel.
“I hope that, through having lived with me, listened to me, walked alongside me, they’d have a love for Jesus, a love for people, and be passionate about being men of the Gospel,” he said. “I hope I’m witnessing to that at the moment in my own life.”