The M.Div. program comprises four areas of formation: intellectual, human, spiritual, and pastoral.The formation program for ordination is a five-year process for those who meet requirements determined for Catholic seminaries by the Decree on Priestly Formation of Vatican II, and the fifth edition of the PPF issued by the USCCB. For those candidates transferring from other formation programs, the seminary requires a minimum of two years in residence before a recommendation for ordination to the diaconate or priesthood can be given.
As a holistic program, this process of formation requires the following of each candidate:
Within the four dimensions of formation, the M.Div. program provides a breadth of exposure to, and deeper understanding of, the theological disciplines throughout the configuration stage.
The area of intellectual formation provides structured opportunities to develop a comprehensive and discriminating understanding of Roman Catholic theology. The Student Learning Outcome forIntellectual Formation indicates that the graduate will
demonstrate a competent understanding of Catholic theology (including Scripture, systematic theology, moral theology, canon law, and historical theology) and the ability to research and develop well-grounded theological arguments (including the ability to conduct research using appropriate resources, synthesize and logically organize
information, evaluate nuanceed perspectives, and connect to one’s own spiritual life and to pastoral practice).(Intellectual Formation: M.Div. SLO-3)
The commitment to study, which takes up no small part of the time of those preparing for
the priesthood, is not in fact an external and secondary dimension of their human, Christian, spiritual and vocational growth. In reality, through study, especially the study of theology, the future priest assents to the word of God, grows in his spiritual life and prepares himself to fulfill his pastoral ministry. (PDV #51)
The academic dimension of the formation program for ordination is fulfilled by the M.Div. plan of studies, which includes between 134 and 138 core credit hours. The courses cover the following fields of theological studies: Scripture, Systematic Theology, Moral Theology, Church History, Canon Law, Pastoral Theology, Pastoral Language, and electives. Details may be found in the Plan of Studies (A.9). Qualified candidates admitted into the formation program are enrolled in the M.Div. plan of studies. Transfer students from other seminaries may enter the M.Div. degree program if they have been in the M.Div. or an equivalent program at the seminary from which they transferred. To qualify for this degree, transfer candidates must enroll for a minimum of four full semesters of academic work at St.Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary. (For full details of the M.Div. Degree academic requirements, transfer credits, etc., cf. the section General Academic Information).
According to the Student Learning Outcome for Human Formation, the graduate will
manifest emotional, moral, and psychological maturity for Christian living, evangelizing witness, and joyful priestly service. (Human Formation: M.Div. SLO-1)
Every Seminary must have a program of human formation appropriate to the stage of the candidates’ preparation, which seeks to prepare men to be bridges for, not obstacles to, the spread of the Gospel. The identity to be fostered in the candidate is that he become a man of communion, that is, someone who makes a gift of himself and is able to receive the gift of others. He needs integrity and self-possession in order to make such gift. The capacity to be fostered is the affective ability to engage in pastoral leadership with Jesus as the model shepherd. (PPF #83)
Each applicant to the formation program of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary is expected to
undergo physical and psychological examinations as part of the entrance requirements. The physical and psychological well-being of the priest is very important since he will be ordained to assist others in human and spiritual growth. The formation program will challenge the candidate to examine and change attitudes and habits that hinder his freedom for ministry. The seminary is prepared, though trained personnel and facilities, to help the candidate in this aspect of formation. Student Learning,Outcomes are measured systematically by a standard rubric by members of the Formation Team.
In addition, the program of human formation provides opportunities that enable seminarians to grow in emotional maturity, moral integrity, and public witness. The program also helps them to develop an understanding of the multicultural realities and structures within which the Catholic Church lives and carries out its mission. Finally, the Board of Trustees has mandated that the seminarians actively participate in annual Chaste Celibacy and Addiction Workshops. The seminary holds these workshops during closed weekends. On closed weekends, all seminarians are required to remain on campus.
The Student Learning Outcome for Spiritual Formation indicates that graduates will
evidence a theologically informed, developing priestly spirituality that embraces prayer, simplicity of life, obedience, pastoral service, attentiveness to the marginalized and social justice, a commitment to spiritual direction, a regular practice of the use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a valuing of community, and chaste celibacy. (Spiritual Formation: M.Div. SLO-2)
The spiritual formation program is at the center of the whole formation program of the seminary.
Since spiritual formation is the core that unifies the life of a priest, it stands at the heart of seminary life and is the center around which all other aspects are integrated. Human, intellectual, and pastoral formation are indispensable in developing the seminarian’s relationship and communion with God and his ability to communicate God’s truth and love to others in the likeness of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd and eternal High Priest. (PPF #115)
The seminarian gradually learns how to deepen his intimacy with Christ and develop an orientation to pastoral ministry. Both human development and spiritual progress are closely intertwined in this process of growth to priestly maturity. The seminarian needs a high degree of emotional maturity and personal holiness to enable him to accept priestly challenges and to exercise pastoral responsibility.
The seminary offers a variety of opportunities and activities to help the seminarian discern his vocation and grow in his relationship with Christ. The expansive grounds and chapels provide an atmosphere for reflection and quiet meditation. Seminarians are expected to attend and participate in the daily Eucharist, Morning and Evening Prayer, days and weekends of recollection, conferences, retreats, and devotions. All these spiritual activities touch on the many themes of spiritual, communal, and pastoral life. Central to spiritual formation is the ongoing opportunity for personal and spiritual direction. The spiritual director is a companion and guide who assists the seminarian in listening and responding to God’s self-communication in the seminarian’s life. The seminarian is presented with issues of priestly identity and service, such as sacrificial love, mature obedience, chaste celibacy, flexibility, simplicity in lifestyle, and commitment to social justice.
The Dean of Spiritual Formation, in consultation with the Rector, coordinates the spiritual life of the seminary. He coordinates the activities of all the spiritual directors of the seminary and ensures that each seminarian has a spiritual director. It is the responsibility of the Dean of Spiritual Formation to ensure that each seminarian is actively participating regularly in spiritual direction sessions with his individual director and for the systematic evaluation of student learning goals in this area.
The Student Learning Outcome most directly connected to Pastoral Formation indicates that the M.Div. graduate will
exhibit a substantive capacity for priestly ministry and pastoral leadership to the People of God as developed through field education placements and responsibilities. (Pastoral Formation: M.Div. SLO-4)
Graduates must also heed the call of Pope Francis for the Church to be “a community of missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium #24), and thus will
express evangelical zeal and competency for pastoral outreach to all, with particular attention to the poor and marginalized, through the acquisition of pastoral language skills, awareness of cultural context, the application of theological material to pastoral situations, and well-developed preaching and teaching skills. (Missionary Discipleship: M.Div. SLO-5)
The pastoral formation program provides education, field placements, supervision, and theological reflection in the practice of ministry to help priesthood candidates to develop the attitudes and skills needed to fulfill these learning outcomes. Pastoral formation provides an opportunity for the seminarian to exercise various forms of leadership in the Church and to learn and integrate the uniquely priestly dimensions of pastoral ministry. Supervision is provided by seminary pastoral staff, on-site supervisors, and trained volunteers. In addition, parish priests serve as valuable role models and teachers by their integration of a healthy prayer life, ongoing personal growth, and constant theological development within active priestly ministry.
In offering the seminarian various supervised experiences of pastoral ministry, the seminary seeks to help him to develop a zeal for the mission of the church, a love for pastoral care of God’s people, and a pastoral acumen that reflects his readiness for ordained ministry. The Dean of Pastoral Formation and the Director of Field Ministry are responsible for coordinating the pastoral formation program. Systematic assessments are achieved by means of a standard rubric to measure identified areas of growth in the Student Learning Outcomes.