1) The latter half of your suggestion is already the case in the GOA. While there are obviously some exceptions, most graduates who intend to serve the Archdiocese as clergy leave Holy Cross and (a) are ordained and then assigned as an assistant pastor at a larger, established parish with a senior priest who mentors them for 1 to 4 years, or (b) they work as youth directors, lay assistants, etc. for a number of years -- thus gaining plenty of practical parish ministry experience -- until they and their Bishop feel they are ready for ordination (or until they get married).
I don't know if this is exactly what I was barking at with my suggestion: there is a difference between a seminarian being assigned to be mentored at a parish and an assistant priest. What I was hoping for with my suggestion was a situation where one could be in a full-time mentoring situation before
they are ordained, as I only partially agree to the idea that one should get ordained to learn the ropes, so to say. What it is in response to is my observation that far too many of our seminarians have come here with little to no knowledge of what really
goes on in the ministry, and certainly with severely deficient liturgical knowledge/experience.
It says something that I, in my first month in seminary
(!!!) had to give instructions to a newly-ordained deacon in his first solo Liturgy - nerves are one thing, but what happened there was inexcusable and, sadly, wasn't the only time I've had to do it. While there are some of our mutual friends who think
that they are liturgically inept, they don't even put a dent in some of these other jokers that I've had to serve with.
What makes it worse is that I don't have any special calling in this field, or some sort of secret instruction - what I know comes from going to liturgy... Lots. (Didn't have a choice when I was younger, but made the choice once I had decided that Seminary was in my future).
I bet that if we asked Fr. Chris about it, he would state that his time in the Arlington and Watertown parishes helped tremendously with his liturgical knowledge, and smoothed the transition from layman to deacon to priest. (Personally, without sugarcoating anything, I think Fr Chris' ordination to the priesthood was one of the best I've been to - although Metropolitan ALEXIOS has become legendary for his patience with the newly-ordained in his metropolis, very little of this patience was even necessary on Fr Chris' big day.)
As to the rest of your post: I agree wholeheartedly. I don't even know if the best approach is to cut a full two years off the seminary experience (I personally wouldn't trade them out, and I know of a close friend who laments having a year cut by necessity), but I do know that having guys living in a parish for 6months-1year-2years before
ordination is a must. The same routine of guys being Seniors in the grad school while not knowing even the most basic of liturgical or pastoral tasks tires me.