Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - As of early July, Father Brian Kane will be temporarily released from his duties as a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln to serve as Dean of Men in the Theology Division at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.
“These are men who are in their last four years of formation,” Father Kane noted.
The theology division is equivalent to graduate level of studies at a typical college or university. There are 12 dioceses and three religious orders that send seminarians to Saint Charles Borromeo for formation, including the Diocese of Lincoln.
“My goal and the atmosphere that I would like to create is one where the fruits of the Holy Spirit are being lived out in every classroom, activity and conversation,” Father Kane said.
He added, “My main priority is going to be building relationships with the seminarians… to be a resource for them to help them become the best priest they want to be… I will be able to share the knowledge I have collected in my 15 years of being a priest – the joys of the priesthood, the challenges of the priesthood.”
Father Kane will draw heavily on his personal experience as a priest to lead these younger men. His roles have included assistant vocations director, high school teacher, principal and superintendent, pastor of a parish and two tours of duty in Iraq as an Army National Guard Chaplain.
Of course, being dean enables him to assist in the continuing formation of seminarians from the Diocese of Lincoln. Father Kane also plans to be of service to diocesan seminarians who are studying at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md,. a few hours away.
His eagerness to help young men with their priestly formation is palpable. Father Kane noted that in the Theology Division, seminarians are not only shaping their minds, but also refining the personal discipline they need to serve Christ and His Church.
“There are opportunities to learn how to be selfless… to practice being a priest who is on call and has to think about other people before himself,” Father Kane said. “That’s not always an easy thing.”
He continued, “Some of those skills and habits are challenging and tedious, but there could not be a more perfect correlation between seminary and somebody going through basic training in the military,” said Father Kane.
In basic training, soldiers learn small details: cleaning weapons, organizing equipment, and so on.
“They are told where to go and what to do, and all this discipline they learn pays off when there is the pressure of battle and they are ready to respond to whatever the need is,” Father Kane said.
He compared that to seminary life.
“When you are told you need to be in chapel at 7 a.m. and in class on time, and have discipline in studies and exercise, those things are preparing you for the discipline to go from being a pastor in a parish to working in a high school to comforting somebody who has experienced the death of a loved one to celebrating a wedding – maybe all in one day,” he said.
With the Holy Father’s visit for the World Meeting of Families in September, Father Kane will likely have some special responsibilities to accommodate the pope and his entourage, who will be staying at the seminary.
Father Kane is graduate of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He attended the school from 1994 to 2000 while he was working on his degrees in philosophy and theology.
“I have very fond memories of my time there from the spiritual and human formation we received to the brotherhood of seminarians,” he said.
It will also be convenient to be a little closer to family. Father Kane has a brother in New York, and his parents still live in Maryland, where he grew up. (His mother is from St. Edward, Neb., and summer vacations at her family’s farm are what initially drew him to study at the University of Nebraska and eventually become a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln.)
Bishop James D. Conley has released Father Kane to serve in this role for a three-year tenure. However, that term can be renewed if the bishop and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia agree to keep him on.
Father Kane said he intends to stay in touch with all the happenings in the Diocese of Lincoln through the internet and other technology. He’ll also be able to travel back to Nebraska on breaks.
He hopes the people of the diocese will pray for all the seminarians, as well for more young men who will be open to the invitation of Jesus to follow Him as priests.
As eager as Father Kane is to start this new assignment, it is not without some personal cost.
“It really is hard to leave my parish in Mead and all the students and staff at Bishop Neumann High School (in Wahoo) and all the people whom I am friends with and have grown close to in all these years,” Father Kane said. “But it’s one of the parts of the obedience of the priesthood and being able to go where the Church needs us.”