I pray that…you will be signs of a Church that goes forth, bearing witness to and sharing the merciful love of Jesus…Indeed, the good shepherd walks with the flock: sometimes ahead, to mark the way; sometimes in the midst to encourage them, and sometimes behind, to accompany those who may be struggling. Always remember how important it is to walk with the flock, never apart from it.
Pope Francis to Saint Mary Seminary, March, 2023
Seminarian Life and Priestly Formation
The seminary and its programs foster the formation of future priests by attending specifically to their human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation–the four pillars of priestly formation developed in Pastores dabo vobis. These pillars of formation and their finality give specificity to formation in seminaries as well as a sense of the integrated wholeness of the different dimensions of formation” (#70 – Program of Priestly Formation, 5th edition)
Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology’s primary commitment is the formation of candidates for priestly ministry. With a theology track that includes parish internship components, the Seminary strives to meet the needs and expectations of the Church today in providing both depth and breadth in the scope of theological education, spiritual formation, and pastoral skills within a focused integrative process for the candidates. Formation components include field education experiences each semester that enhance academic course work. Students are assigned a formation advisor and choose a spiritual director.
The basic principle of human formation is found in Pastores Dabo Vobis: the human personality of the priest is to b a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the human race….So that the seminarian might act with interior freedom rather than simply demonstrating a “veneer of virtuous habits,” human formation seeks to help the seminarians grow in interior maturity. As Pastores Dabo Vobis emphasizes, human formation is the “necessary foundation” of priestly formation. (PPF 6th ed, #182)
“Spiritual formation is directed at nourishing and sustaining communion with God and with our brothers and sisters, in the friendship of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and with an attitude of docility to the Holy Spirit. This intimate relationship forms the heart of the seminarians in that generous and sacrificial love that marks the beginning of pastoral charity.” (PPF 6th ed. #226, quoting Ratio Fundamentalis, no. 101.)
The first task of intellectual formation is to acquire a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the fullnessand completion of God’s Revelation and the one Teacher,….In the seminary program, intellectual formation culminates in a deepened understanding of the mysteries of faith that is pastorally oriented toward effective priestly ministry, especially preaching… (PPF 6th ed. #263, 264.)
Pastoral formation is the culmination of the entire formation process. “The whole formation imparted to the candidates for the priesthood aims at preparing them to enter into communion with the charity of Christ the good shepherd; therefore “priestly formation must be permeated by a pastoral spirit.” (PPF 6th ed. #366.)