Father Joseph Gatto, president-rector of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, said students can expect to see a blend of several new faces and a few familiar ones in expanded roles heading into the 2015-16 academic year this fall. It's all part of the story of resurgence taking place at the seminary.
"I am pleased to announce the addition of Father F. Patrick Melfi as a member of the formation faculty and associate director of Formation," Father Gatto said. "Father Melfi brings with him a breadth of pastoral experience and a deep appreciation for parish life and ministry. I am also very happy to welcome Father Andrew Lauricella, a priest who has served as parochial vicar at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls. He was recently named director of Vocations for the Diocese of Buffalo and will reside on our campus as he serves the diocese."
Father Gatto said three new faces can also be found among recently appointed faculty members.
"Father Robert Wozniak brings a profound appreciation of priesthood and the Church to his new role as director of Formation," Father Gatto said. "Eileen Warner's love of teaching and her pastoral experience will edify her in the role of director of Mission and Pastoral Outreach, and assist her as she works to expand our identity and presence in the diocese and at the parish level. Father Michael Monshau, of the Dominican order, brings extensive academic and preaching experience to his position as professor of Homiletics.
"Michael Sherry, a familiar face with a long history at the seminary, has accepted the position of academic dean. This move allows Dr. Dennis Castillo, former dean and current professor of Church History, to devote more time to teaching and research. Father John Mack, who recently completed his studies in Sacred Theology, will serve as director of Pre-Theology, and continue teaching in the area of Pastoral Theology."
Father Gatto said Father John Staak, OMI, who brings teaching and missionary experiences as well as a background in engineering, has taken on additional responsibilities as vice president of Administration and Facilities, while continuing to teach Systematic Theology. He also noted that Susan Lankes has assumed the expanded role as director of Institutional Advancement.
"Growing our already talented, devoted and experienced faculty and staff, with an influx of new priests and qualified lay ministers, was one of my goals when I assumed my new role in June 2014," Father Gatto said.
"Such diversity allows us to build upon the momentum we are currently blessed to be experiencing at the seminary. It will help us represent and address the evolving needs of Church and ministry which are instrumental to our faith and efforts of the New Evangelization, which is a priority of our spiritual leader, Bishop (Richard J.) Malone."
Father Gatto said it is currently an exciting chapter for the seminary. He said it is a graced time where more and more individuals are discovering Christ the King to be a place where faith comes alive and the Lord's calling becomes clear.
"Incorporating team members with varied skill sets and different ways of thinking adds to the energy and progress we are making here as we serve the greater Church of Buffalo and beyond," Father Gatto said.
"I am incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support, generosity and prayers of so many in the diocese, in particular the level of commitment from my fellow priests and parishioners. It has been heartwarming so many want to see us succeed, and want to support us in animating the life and ministry of our diocese."
Sherry, a 1998 seminary graduate and former law enforcement official who joined Christ the King as assistant academic dean in 2006, echoes Father Gatto's sentiments.
"The Church is incarnate and exists within history, but it is also subject to change," Sherry said. "While ever faithful to the Gospel and traditions of our faith, we must evolve in order to provide instruction in a way that helps our students succeed."
Sherry said the seminary is introducing new technologies in the classroom, arranging courses to accommodate diverse schedules and offering students the skills necessary to help form new servants for the Church and community.
"The tremendous enthusiasm for the seminary exhibited by Bishop Malone - who has called it the 'beating heart' of the Diocese of Buffalo - and Father Gatto, is both contagious and invigorating," Sherry said. "We understand and embrace this institution's mission and fully realize its continued success is vital to our diocese. It is exciting to be a part of it."
Sherry said the seminary will have many new faces in the classrooms as well. There will be close to 40 seminarians, more than 20 candidates for the Permanent Diaconate, 50 lay graduate students and 80 participants in the continuing education program will be enrolled at Christ the King, along with numerous individuals attending retreats, lectures and other activities.
"We look forward to welcoming more new faces to the campus and encourage all Western New Yorkers to utilize our nearly 200,000-volume philosophy and theology research library, or simply enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of our 132-acre campus adjacent to the Knox Farm State Park," Sherry said. "It's a great place to contemplate and get in touch with God and one's self."