Story by Reagan Scott
SEWARD (SNR) — This fall Father Matthew Rolling will begin his tenure as philosophy instructor and academic dean at Saint Gregory the Great Seminary in Seward, after studying in Rome the past five years.
When the seminary was looking to add a professor to the philosophy faculty, Bishop James Conley asked Father Rolling if he would be willing to study philosophy in Rome, and Father Rolling agreed.
Having completed his dissertation to obtain a doctorate in philosophy, Father Rolling is now returning to the seminary. In addition to his role as academic dean, he will teach two upper-level classes as part of the seminary’s philosophy curriculum: Ethics and History of Modern Philosophy.
While in Rome, Father Rolling wrote his dissertation on the factors influencing a person’s moral character, which touches on the core of human formation.
Father Rolling said that human formation aims at helping men grow in natural goodness, which is the necessary foundation for being good priests. He said, “It’s meant to foster human goodness in all of its aspects.”
Saint John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation “I Will Give You Shepherds,” touched on the importance of human formation as a part of seminarian education: “In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity.”
Saint John Paul II also wrote that future priests should cultivate human qualities for proper realization of self as well as with a view to the ministry.
Father Rolling noted that by developing virtues and a full array of good qualities, men are in a better position to become good priests. Human formation is meant to foster human goodness, so that grace can build on a solid foundation.
“For the grace of the Sacraments to be more effective in the life of a priest, he must first be prepared in his nature or humanity so that grace can enhance and perfect the natural goodness already present,” he said. “Grace may not be as effective where natural goodness is lacking.”
Father Rolling’s role as academic dean will require him to focus on the intellectual formation of the seminarians at Saint Gregory the Great Seminary, but he is looking forward to incorporating what he learned in Rome in the classroom.
He said, “My hope is to bring in many of the things I’ve learned in the last five years to my students’ intellectual development through the content of my classes and the way I present that material.”
Father Jeffrey Eickhoff, the rector and assistant professor of philosophy at the seminary, said Father Rolling is the second SGGS graduate to teach at the school. Father Rafael Rodriguez, the dean of men and Spanish teacher, was the first.
Father Eickhoff studied in Rome 20 years ago and worked on a doctorate in the Philosophy of Education. He has been teaching Ethics for the past 17 years, and even had Father Rolling in his class. Now he will pass the class on to Father Rolling and teach Philosophy of Education.
“It’s inspiring to see our seminarians come back and teach here,” Father Eickhoff said. “It’s refreshing to see that. It shows that we’re all students and we bring that full circle.”
He said he is excited to see what Father Rolling will bring to the classroom, and knows that he will be able to have his own unique impact on seminarian education.
“Being a young priest, Father Rolling can speak in a more proximate way to his formation and share his own personality and gifts with his students,” Father Eickhoff said.
As the school year gets underway, Father Rolling is excited to be able to have a hand in promoting human and intellectual formation at the seminary.
He said, “I’m excited to share the wisdom I’ve been given with the seminarians. To have men living in the world in a way that is pleasing to God and fitting to who we are as human beings is very needed in a time when people are longing for answers to the most important questions in life.”