In a time when education is so often associated with the pragmatic learning of skills for a specific task, Catholic education nobly continues a deeper tradition. In Catholic education, there is “no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom.” Thus, Catholic Education, which understands education as formation and as more than simply a gathering or collection of information, places its educational focus on the growth and identity of each human person in light of Jesus Christ. It imparts a rich cultural heritage that fosters a capacity for wisdom in the midst of the world and the ability to respond more fully to one’s calling as a follower of Christ.
All the more, in priestly formation the challenge is to minister to young men discerning the ministerial priesthood in ways that will open them to the identity that will become theirs through sacred orders. It is a journey of deep and continued conversion to Christ. Formation must challenge them to be open to receive the wisdom that comes from above – and be transformed by it.
Human formation is the foundation of priestly formation. Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine. For a man in the ministerial priesthood to be another Christ, he must first grow in humanity. Human formation seeks to help men become healthy and mature adults in the faith who can serve as bridges to others seeking Christ. This growth includes the issue of effective maturity and the preparation to embrace a life of chaste celibacy. Our human formation finds its completion in our intimate union with the Holy Trinity.
Spiritual formation directs our hearts to God. In the context of the seminary, it is specifically directed toward developing a priestly spirituality open to living the pastoral charity of the heart of Jesus Christ. This pastoral charity directs us to love the Church with Christ’s spousal love.
Pastoral formation directs young men to be men for others, through lives dedicated to works of mercy.
Intellectual formation in the seminary tradition seeks to open young minds and hearts to the wisdom found in the bringing together of faith and reason. Catholic education has always been committed to a strong liberal arts foundation, and seminaries continue that tradition. In a free-standing college seminary, all academics, be they general education, humanities, theology, or philosophy, have as their specific goal the formation of priests.
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