Four key aspects of formation
The Formation programme at Maynooth College is based on the Programme for the Formation of Priests in Irish Seminaries (2005) issued by the Irish Episcopal Conference, and follows the principles of the Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis ( I will give you Shepherds) (1992).
To live in the seminary, which is a school of the gospel, means to follow Christ as the apostles did. The seminary can be seen as a place and period of life. But it is above all an educational community in progress: it is a community established by the bishops to offer to those called by the Lord to serve as apostles the possibility of re-living the experience of formation which Our Lord provided for the Twelve. (PDV 60).
The programme is an integrated approach, based on four key aspects of formation: academic, spiritual, human and pastoral. Each of these areas of formation are addressed in the seminary programme and individually with each seminarian.
The seminary is preparing men for priesthood in modern Ireland. Seminarians are called to be aware of the realities, challenges and possibilities of pastoral life in the Ireland of the twenty first century.
Priests are to be mature men. The whole work of seminary formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation. (IBC)
It is important that the priest mould his personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle in their meeting with Jesus Christ. (PDV43)
The formation process is conscious that the priest of today is called upon to be a man of many interpersonal skills: an ability to relate and to engage with young and old, to be able to build and lead community.
He also needs to have an emotional maturity, aware of his own gifts and his own needs.
The formation process seeks to help the seminarian to live the celibate life in a healthy and life giving manner.
In the search for Jesus, and the demand to live intimately with Jesus, there is a triple path to be covered:
- A faithful meditation on the Word
- Active participation in the Church’s mysteries
- Service of charity
The daily life of the seminarian centres on the eucharist and daily prayer at morning and evening. Each student meets regularly with a Spiritual Director. There are a number of Days of Recollection throughout the year, extended Retreats at the beginning of the year and at Easter, and an opportunity during formation to partake in directed retreats. There are also regular conferences on prayer and the diocesan priest.
Spiritual direction is provided in the College by trained full-time spiritual directors. This service is part of the College programme for those preparing for ordination, and is open to all students of St.Patrick’s. Its main benefits are growth in the life of prayer and the spiritual life generally, as well as in human development. It is entirely confidential.
The entire seminary programme must have a fundamentally pastoral character. IBC
The seminary must seek really and truly to initiate the candidate into the sensitivity of being a shepherd. PDV 58.
Each year every seminarian is assigned a pastoral placement. These have included work with elderly, with youth groups, on teaching assignments, with organisations that minister to homeless and disadvantaged, prison chaplaincy and parish placement.
Students reflect on their experience in a pastoral reflection process.
Every seminarian undertakes the Diploma in Pastoral Studies or the Masters in Pastoral Studies, which includes a year long placement in a parish. This course also includes a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
To be pastorally effective, intellectual formation is to be integrated with a spirituality marked by a personal experience of God. In this way a purely abstract approach to knowledge is overcome in favour of that intelligence of heart which knows to look beyond, and then is able to communicate the mystery of God to people.
Seminarians undertake studies in philosophy and theology.
Students either take philosophy as part of their Degree programme in the University or study the Diploma in Philosophy at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
For details of courses available at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, please see the NUI Maynooth website.
Seminarians study theology at the Pontifical University of Sain Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
The academic education of seminarians is an essential component of their formation. Students are encouraged to have an intellectual curiosity in their lives and to integrate this spirit into their lives as priests.