Fr. Stephen Otvos says his 10 years of pastoral ministry in Montreal gave him the experience and perspective necessary to make the most of his current time of study in Rome.

Ordained in 2003, the 40-year-old priest is preparing to start his second year of the licentiate program in spiritual theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Formerly the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Montreal's English-speaking community, Fr. Otvos has chosen the spirituality of the diocesan priest as the topic of his thesis research.

He said he believes study in Rome is far more enriching for a priest after several years of pastoral ministry.  

"The 10-year interval between studies helped me to understand a lot and gave me perspective on my subject," he said. "It would not have been the same if I had come right out of seminary."  

Years of ministry give a priest a realistic foundation on which to build when learning new or updated theory, he explained. The priest can then discern, based on experience, how this new theory can be applied practically.

Point of convergence

In addition to study, Fr. Otvos said he appreciates his exposure to the universal Church in Rome. The large number of international students offers a universal perspective that shows how the Church is seen all over the world, he said. In addition, he has met different bishops from various pontifical councils and congregations.  

"Rome is a point of convergence," he said. "The world comes to you here."  

He also remarked on "the historical dimension of our (Catholic) spirituality" in Rome, as well as the presence of numerous saints' burial sites, some of which he has visited on his walks in the city.   

"There's a rich tradition of spirituality here that has helped many people to become holy," he commented.  

Fr. Otvos said he is still unsure of his pastoral assignment once he returns definitively to Montreal in June 2015.   

"I imagine I will be teaching at the seminary," he said. "I would like to do something with vocations."  

Regardless of his next pastoral assignment, Fr. Otvos said his time in Rome will exert a positive impact on his ministry, if only to share with others how his love and understanding of the Church as a family has grown. Though he looks forward to applying his newfound knowledge in spirituality to ministry.