AUGSBURG, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) seminary in Europe — having been hit hard by COVID-19, with all priests and half the seminarians having been infected — is now reporting "significant improvement."
"Deo gratias!" the Seminary of St. Peter wrote in a March 23 update. "Significant improvement today at the seminary since the number of seriously ill patients is less than 10."
The seminary is located in Wigratzbad, in southern Germany, 90 miles from Augsburg.
A priest at the seminary told Church Militant that one priest and one seminarian are in the hospital but under "under good care and not in danger right now." More than 20 others who were ill last week have no more symptoms — except coughing a little, he said.
On March 19 the seminary reported that "The virus did its work in the seminary and now most of the priests and half of the seminarians are sick. But all are abandoned to the providence of God. With the mighty help of faith, hope and charity, we are not let down."
In the same update, the seminary indicated that "in a few days, the first to heal will be able to take over from the newly sick to maintain the spiritual and material life of the house."
"At the time of the so unexpected trial, each one measures the grace which is made to us to live these difficult times as true Christians. As the Lord only allows evil for greater good, we trust that there will be many returns to God, the only one capable of giving meaning to our ephemeral existence on this earth," the update continued.
The German seminary had hosted a guest priest from Italy who brought the virus to the community, according to its website. On March 14 it indicated that the whole seminary has been in strict confinement for a week because the disease is spreading quickly, adding:
The quarantine of Lent is therefore doubled by a sanitary quarantine, and since "everything is thanks" we see in it the opportunity for a salutary meditation on the meaning of life. Life is short and fragile, and if one is worried about one's health, one must be even more concerned with one's salvation.
While the seminary has had to reorganize and do everything themselves, "Everyone is generous and adapts without difficulty," it reported.
"The invisible threat of illness stimulates us to have more confidence in God and to further increase our prayers and penances," adding, "In union with all the sick throughout the world, and in solidarity with general anxiety, we confide very calmly in divine providence and in the maternal protection of Our Lady, help for sinners and comforter for the afflicted."
A priest at the Wigratzbad seminary told Church Militant that despite the improvements, "We are still in quarantine and try to organize our seminary life as well as possible, not being too close from one another, cooking without our cook and giving classes with very few teachers (some priests of the house being sick, and some "guest teachers" unable to come and teach)."
According to the FSSP website, St. Peter Seminary was founded in 1988, the first seminary founded by FSSP, and houses over 60 seminarians.
The FSSP is officially recognized by the Holy See and its priests celebrate the Tridentine Mass in locations in 124 worldwide dioceses.
Fr. Bernhard Gerstle, superior of the fraternity's German-speaking district, wrote in a March 18 message that "the 'corona crisis' shows us how fragile our lives are and how even our highly developed medicine is facing an enormous challenge. In this difficult situation, you should know that we are particularly close to you and your families."
Fr. Gerstle added that all the district's priests, health permitting, are saying Mass in private and offering the graces to the people. "We are, of course, also available to you in pastoral matters, whereby all participants (especially our priests) are required carefully to observe the hygienic precautionary measures."
"We hope and pray that as far as possible none of our confrères and believers will be permanently harmed and that the painful limitations of church life will not last long," he said. "Let us also see the current test as an opportunity to set the right priorities in our lives even more than before and to strengthen and deepen our relationship with God."
The seminary thanked the faithful for their "precious prayers" for this "good trend," adding, "May God keep us all united in fervor." One of the priests added: "We confide ourselves to your prayers and wish you a Blessed Lent!"
3/23/2020: This article has been updated with recent news from the seminary in Wigratzbad.