From July 3 to 8, 2006, the eleventh international seminar for priests took place in Medjugorje. Two hundred and fifty priests from twenty-five countries participated, with simultaneous translation into ten languages.
The first Seminar for Priests was organised by Fr. Slavko Barbaric in 1996. The goal of these seminars is to familiarise priests who come to Medjugorje, with Our Lady’s messages and with the spirituality that is being developed here. These gatherings are, in effect, retreats for priests which help them to fortify their faith and their vocations in the presence of Our Lady. The first retreat in 1996 gathered together about thirty priests, with numbers increasing throughout the years.
This year’s theme centred on the spirituality of the priesthood. The speakers were Prof. Klaus Berger, Fr. Ivan Dugandzic, Fr. Tomislav Pervan and Fr. Ljubo Kurtovic. each of whom spoke from different points of view about spirituality, priesthood, the Church, the Eucharist, the meaning of Our Lady’s apparitions and messages, as well as about the role and the responsibility of priests in the evangelization of the Church and of the world.
Prof. Berger spoke during the first two days about impediments to the way of faith in Jesus, Jesus and the Eucharist, Jesus and the Church, Jesus and women.
Fr. Ivan Dugandzic spoke about Medjugorje and the new evangelization, underlining the simplicity and strength of Our Lady’s messages that are evangelizing and changing human hearts.
Fr. Tomislav Pervan spoke about Medjugorje as a powerful spiritual movement within the Church, putting it into the context of the historical circumstances in which we live, as well as about Medjugorje as God’s gift to the Church.
Each day began with Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and Morning Prayer, followed by conferences until 12 noon. The afternoon began with numerous priests remaining in silent Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, which was exposed, before the programme continued with conferences and meditations. Each evening, the priests participated in the evening prayer programme in the church: Rosary, Holy Mass, prayers after Mass.
During the Seminar, the priests climbed Apparition Hill where they prayed the Rosary, and Cross Mountain where they prayed the Way of the Cross as a preparation for Confession, hearing each other’s confessions on the top of the mountain.
Before the final Mass, the participants shared their impressions and experiences, as well as their proposals for the next seminar. Many gave a positive feedback about the retreat, saying that here in Medjugorje, as nowhere else in the world, they experienced an atmosphere of prayer.
One of them said, “When pilgrims go to the Holy Land, they speak about nice feelings and positive impressions, but here in Medjugorje they speak about their need to be converted, to change their lives, to walk in holiness.”
Many underlined the kindness of the parishioners who received them freely in their homes during the retreat, and these families were invited to participate in the concluding Mass.
At the end of this Mass, the priests consecrated themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a sign of their gratitude, they gave a special blessing to the families with whom they had stayed, and to this parish, praying for perseverance on the path of giving witness to Our Lady’s presence in this place.