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Spiritual Director in the Only Catholic Seminary in Russia
A priest who spent his seminary years at the International Maria Mater Ecclesiae Pontifical College, run by the Legionaries of Christ in Rome, is embarking on a new mission

P. McLean Cummings, ex alumno del Pontificio Colegio Internacional Maria Mater Ecclesiae.
Fr. McLean Cummings with two seminarians in front of the grotto of the St. Petersburg seminary

St. Petersburg, November 8, 2005.  Fr. McLean Cummings is an American diocesan priest from the archdiocese of Baltimore who has been carrying our pastoral work in Russia for the past three and a half years.

After studying philosophy at Harvard, in 1991 he became part of the first generation of seminary students at the International Maria Mater Ecclesiae Pontifical College, directed by the Legionaries of Christ.  While he has two nephews who are Legionary novices and a niece who is consecrated in the Regnum Christi Movement, Fr. McLean is a diocesan priest; all students at the Maria Mater Ecclesiae seminaries in Rome and Brazil are on the path to diocesan priesthood.

Fr. McLean has a philosophy degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.  He was ordained a priest in 1998, and in January of 2002, he left for Russia to help the Catholic faithful in this country where, after decades of persecution, there are few native priests.  Beginning this semester, his bishop has named him spiritual director of the seminary in St. Petersburg.  The following is a translation of the interview that Fr. McLean granted to the French edition of

Fr. McLean, how can an American priest become the spiritual director of the only Catholic seminary in Russia?

When I arrived at the International Maria Mater Ecclesiae Pontifical College, I had no intention of going to Russia.  I did not even want to become a missionary!  I valued tremendously the diversity of nationalities that I found there.  When I was there (in 1991), there were already students from 22 countries.  Seminarians from Central and Eastern Europe studied there, and I got to know many of their bishops, who came to visit.  That is how I became aware of the urgency of the Church’s situation in those countries, and the desire began to grow within me to help wherever I could.

Father, what in particular about the formation offered at Maria Mater Ecclesiae College prepares you to form priests?

The specific goal of Maria Mater Ecclesiae College is to prepare priests who will become formators.  Every diocese needs priests who are especially well formed and have a clear understanding of their priestly identity, zeal for their mission and the capacity to carry it out.  It is essential that there be priests with both the desire and the capacity to take charge of forming the future generation.  The formation team at Maria Mater Ecclesiae does everything possible to teach this to us.  We receive our formation through their example and through special courses and conferences.  It is easy to learn how to direct a seminary simply by observing how they do it because they are very transparent, and they constantly invite us to participate.

Father, could you describe the nature of your work in the seminary?

I have been entrusted with the spiritual formation of the seminarians.  This entails helping the seminarians to develop their habits of prayer, offering them spiritual direction, and instilling in them a great love for the sacraments, confession in
P. McLean Cummings, ex alumno del Mater Ecclesiae de Roma
Fr. McLean Cummings in the Chaple
particular.  I will frequently be giving conferences and homilies, and I will do what I can to help them to progress in their spiritual life.  I should say that the more I advance, the more grateful I am to Maria Mater Ecclesiae College for having offered me such a solid, complete formation.  I have done no more than follow the excellent example that was set for me.  Not only did I receive an excellent formation, but I am going to be able to transmit it to the seminarians under my care here as well.

I have the immense privilege of working in a seminary, but I am aware that bishops need priests to fill their areas of work.  Nowadays the Church urgently needs priests who are prepared, especially to form other priests.  It is a vital necessity, not only for Russia, but for the entire universal Church.  The Church will always need priests, holy priests, and therefore it will always need formators: that is to say, priests who are capable of providing the Church with “workers for the harvest.”

To learn more about Fr. McLean Cummings’ work in Russia during the past years, we recommend a testimony found at the following link.



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