Formation in the School of Theology

Human Formation

In priestly formation, the entirety of a man’s life should be “marked, molded, and characterized by the way of thinking and acting proper to Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church, as summed up in his pastoral charity” (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 21). In other words, formation is the transformation of the entire person. Human formation calls each man to prepare himself for service as a priest by examining his priorities, his time-management skills, how he relates to men and women, his physical, psychological, and emotional health, his friendships and leisure pursuits, and his ability to exercise and accept authority. Particular attention is focused on developing the attitudes and behaviors compatible with a celibate life.

Spiritual Formation

Theology spiritual formation is designed to help the seminarian strive for that degree of priestly charity, virtue, and intimacy with God that will enable him to serve as a living sacrament of Christ in ministering to the people of God. Spiritual formation contributes to an integration of the various aspects of the seminarian’s life for the formation of a truly holy, apostolic priest. Students of the School of Theology will focus on discerning and developing their vocation, and demonstrating progressive development in the evangelical counsels: celibate chastity, simplicity of life (for religious: poverty), and obedience.

Intellectual Formation

Theology has been described as fides quaerens intellectum — “faith seeking understanding.” Since the work of the priest is in proclaiming the Word of God, explaining the teaching of the Church, handing on her heritage, counseling her faithful, celebrating her sacred mysteries, and conducting her rites, it is vitally important that priests have a deep knowledge of theology. “The doctrinal, educational, catechetical, and apologetical aspects of a candidate’s training are to prepare the seminarian to be a faithful, loyal, and authentic teacher of the Gospel…. As a man of the Church, the priest preaches and teaches in fidelity to the magisterium, particularly the Holy Father and the diocesan bishop.” (PPF, 5th ed., 2005). Graduates of the School of Theology demonstrate the ability to teach the authentic Catholic tradition and give evidence of the knowledge and culture one would expect of a well-educated Christian.

Degrees & Certificates

The Church requires a minimum of four full years of theological study to prepare for the priesthood. Specific requirements for the degree programs may be fulfilled in fewer than four years, but candidates for the priesthood must meet the four-year requirement for comprehensive formation.

The School of Theology offers: Required of candidates for priestly ordination, the Master of Divinity is a first level professional ministerial degree program. The degree requires participation in human and spiritual formation programs, annual student evaluation, theological reflection and pastoral formation programs, and ministry workshops. The Ordination Program is a more extensive program of preparation, which consists of the M.Div. program and various practica. Coursework in the M.Div. program centers on biblical studies, systematic theology, moral theology, church history, pastoral theology, liturgy, and canon law.

The Master of Arts in Theology is a first-level graduate degree. It is optional and is intended to prepare the candidate, either lay or clerical, for teaching and for higher studies in the sacred sciences. It may be pursued concurrently with the M.Div. degree, and it is designed to give a sound initiation in graduate theological studies and a concentration in biblical studies, dogmatic theology, or moral theology. Students in the Master of Arts program take courses in foundations of theology, the Trinity, Christology, ecclesiology, theological anthropology, and fundamental moral theology. The program culminates in a thesis and comprehensive examinations. An affiliation with the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome enables the Josephinum to offer the Bachelor of Sacred Theology, which prepares students for advanced work in pontifical degree programs at universities in Europe. Students striving for the S.T.B. must complete additional requirements within the course framework of the M.Div. program.

Pastoral Formation

“The aim of pastoral formation [is] the formation of a true shepherd who teaches, sanctifies, and governs or leads…. The grace to be a shepherd comes with ordination. That grace, however, calls for the priest’s personal commitment to develop the knowledge and skills to teach and preach well, to celebrate the sacraments both properly and prayerfully, and to respond to people’s needs” (PPF, 5th ed., 2005). The pastoral pillar of the School of Theology enriches the understanding of theology by giving an added experiential element to theological reflection, and it brings the seminarian to the realization that effective pastoral activity requires a profound understanding of one’s faith and an evergrowing spiritual life. First-year seminarians are placed primarily in adult religious education settings. Second-year theologians generally learn about ministering to the sick in a hospital placement, and third-year students focus on family life issues. Of paramount importance in the fourth-year program is the aim of helping individuals make the transition from the role of student to that of pastoral leader. To this end, fourth-year students are asked to plan and carry out significant programs of ministry in which their particular gifts can be best utilized and developed, usually within the context of a parish as ordained deacons.

From time to time, Theology students may take part in the Josephinum’s Pastoral Year Program, either on the recommendation of the faculty or as a requirement of his diocese. Those who engage in this program, with the approval of their bishop and director of vocations or religious superior, will devote a full year to various forms of well-supervised, full-time pastoral ministry in their own diocese or religious community. Participation in this program not only enables the student to test and develop his pastoral skills, but it also provides an opportunity for him to achieve the level of personal growth and spiritual maturity that is essential for a priest in the Church today.

Pastoral formation ensures that graduates of the School of Theology will give evidence of the capacity and skills to minister to the diversity of people and cultures reflected in the universal Church; engage in theological reflection as a means to integrate pastoral ministry experiences with the spiritual and intellectual elements of priestly life; and understand and appreciate the complementary roles of the bishop, priest, deacon, and laity in the Church today.