by Julius Medrano
With the MA in Biblical Theology ending in Summer 2019, Chaldean Catholic seminarians depart from John Paul the Great Catholic University to finish their graduate studies at the Augustinian Institute. Father Andrew Younan, professor at JPCatholic, said, “The Master’s program for the seminary would have been a lot of extra work for both the school and the Diocese. In the end, both were relieved that it’s not happening anymore. It was just logical for everyone.”
Peter Petros and Dany Shaba, Chaldean seminarians close to ordination, were both heavily affected by the changes. Dany Shaba said, “Since the establishment of the seminary, the intellectual formation has always been at JPCatholic. When we were approached with this hurdle [the end of the Master’s program] in front of us, we saw hope in it, but we were still on the edge.”
The original solution was to send Dany and Peter to Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Chaldean Bishop Emmanuel, who took over the diocese Fall 2017, made an executive decision to keep them in El Cajon. “He stopped it with knowledge that JPCatholic [MA program] would continue with Dr. Kincaid. We had hope with Dr. Kincaid…we were ready to finish and hope that this [MA in Biblical Theology] stays here,” said Peter. Unfortunately, the departure of Dr. John Kincaid was unforeseeable by both sides.
While JPCatholic and the Chaldean Diocese were working on an alternative solution, Peter and Dany’s ordination was unexpectedly expedited because of a lack of priests in the Chaldean Rite. A solution needed to be found immediately, and the Chaldean bishops and priests offered to teach the Master’s program at St. Peter’s Cathedral. Dany said, “It was a mutual understanding that both parties needed to agree to in the next couple of weeks that, before anything was substantial, they needed to take into consideration that the Master’s program will still be there, be alive, but the Chaldean Bishops and priests will teach the seminarians in San Diego at St. Peter’s.”
Ultimately, the Chaldeans decided to send Peter and Dany to the Augustine Institute. “The whole option of doing at St. Peter’s it seems like it was really forced, and we were just trying to force it to do something. As much of a good idea it was, it just wasn’t something as practical as we thought,” said Dany. Peter added, “It seemed pretty unrealistic because, I guess, there was a lack of professors and a lot of other things. There was just so much that it didn’t seem realistic in the long term for the seminarians.”
Dr. Connolly said, “The reality was that they loved the idea that they would provide a faculty to us. But when the rubber hit the road, the commitment was, I think, too much for them. In principle…it’s a really nice idea.” He believes that the Chaldean Diocese made a wise decision. “There’s two sides on my perspective. There’s my emotional side and my rational side. So, from an emotional perspective, I’m really sad. But from rational perspective, you have all of these professors who can deliver this stuff online. The guys can live in El Cajon and they can accomplish the same thing,” said Dr. Connolly. He continued, “The only sad thing is that we won’t have a Master’s Program in Theology here.”