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IPF Executive Director Receives Sheehan Award

Fr. Richard GabuzdaThe Creighton community is most aware of the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF) during the summer, when visiting seminarians can be observed on campus. They are polite and friendly, and usually have a book or other reading material in hand. They can be seen in St. John’s Church or encountered on the mall, walking together or sometimes sitting quietly on a bench, focused in thought, prayer or reflection. They come from dioceses all over the country and fill Swanson Hall.

Last night, at Creighton’s annual Priests and Brothers Dinner and Basketball Game event, the University honored one of the founders of the IPF, the Rev. Richard Gabuzda. He received the Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan Award from Creighton’s president, the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD.

“The institute, under the capable leadership of Fr. Gabuzda and the other founders, is a true gift to the Church, not just here locally, but across the U.S. and in other countries,” Fr. Hendrickson said at the presentation.

Fr. Gabuzda has served as executive director since the institute began in 1994, and has overseen its growth. From an initial summer program with six seminarians to a year-round mission to priests and seminarians who number some 4,000 alumni, the IPF has flourished in breadth and depth. Its mission is fostering a deepening of priests and seminarians’ interior lives in communion with Christ.

In 1992, the Rev. John Horn, a Jesuit of the Maryland Province, directed Fr. Gabuzda, originally a diocesan priest from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Kathy Kanavy, a consecrated laywoman, in a 30-day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

From seeds planted through this retreat experience, the idea for a program for diocesan seminarians and priests emerged. The three solicited assistance from the Rev. George Aschenbrenner, SJ, who has written extensively on Ignatian spirituality.

The IPF, which is based at Creighton, now includes, in addition to the summer program for 175 seminarians: A three-year spiritual direction training program for diocesan priests; the IPF Foundation, created in 2007 to provide long-term financial stability; the Seminar for Seminary Spiritual Directors; a retreat for seminary faculty and a retreat for vocation directors; alumni retreats; a seminar for seminary theologians; a Spiritual Exercises 30-day retreat; publications and more.

Over the past quarter century, the institute has served more than 3,000 seminarians and more than 1,000 priests, representing 165 U.S. dioceses and 55 international dioceses.

“The impact of the Institute for Priestly Formation in the lives of bishops, priests, and seminarians over the last 25 years cannot be overstated,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “It is truly a testament to the work of the Holy Spirit. The world desperately needs shepherds with Christ’s own heart for His people, and IPF is helping meet that need.”

He thanked Fr. Gabuzda for his “steadfast, faithful dedication to this most sacred work,” and presented him with the Sheehan Award, which is given in the name of Omaha’s archbishop from 1969 until 1993, the late Archbishop Daniel Sheehan.

The award recognizes a priest or brother who has distinguished himself for service to society, to the Church and to education; beginning in 1981, it was known as the Presidential Citation but was renamed to honor Archbishop Sheehan in 2001. Creighton annually hosts the priests and brothers from the archdiocese and surrounding dioceses for the dinner, a men’s basketball game and the award presentation.


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