St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology’s primary commitment is the formation of candidates for priestly ministry. With a two year pre-theology program and 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 a spiritual intensive in the first year of theology and field education elective each semester that enhance academic course work. Students are assigned a formation advisor and choose a spiritual director.
“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 PriestlyFormation, 5th edition)
The human pillar of formation aims to prepare a candidate to be free and develop a moral conscience open to and capable of conversion. In essence, it seeks to help the man who has a real and deep relational capacity, a man of communion. “The man of communion is capable of making a gift of himself, and receiving the gift of others.” (PPF #76)
The intellectual domain at the seminary strives to reflect a coherent unity (PPF# 194) in its theological curriculum. Core theological courses are arraigned to build on foundational courses in order to achieve a systematic integration. Courses also provide a pastoral perspective through a theological reflection and spiritual focus. In some instances practica follow core sacramental courses to provide seminarians with skills in pastoral and liturgical leadership.
“For every priest, spiritual formation is the core that unifies and gives life to his being a priest and his acting as a priest.” (Pastores dabo vobis #45). The seminary identifies those characteristics and practices that foster spiritual growth: daily holy Eucharist, frequent celebration of the sacrament of Penance, Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual direction, personal meditation, devotions, retreats and days of recollection. Seminarians are encouraged to live with evangelical simplicity in order to exercise responsible stewardship and in solidarity with the Church and the world. Spiritual formation and celibacy cultivates the evangelical motivations for embracing this commitment.
The basic principle of pastoral formation is the training of students “to make them true shepherds after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (PDV #238). Pastoral formation includes a number of essential elements: proclamation of the Word, celebration of the sacraments, a missionary dimension including experiences with CRS, the study of Spanish in Nicaragua and a mission trip to El Salvador, a community dimension learned from parish life, skills for effective public ministry, practica for liturgical leadership , an initiation to pastoral experiences that are linked to theological reflection in the classrooms, through field education with supervision and evaluation, cultural sensitivity, appreciation of religious pluralism, and formation for the particular presbyterate of the local Church. (PPF #239)