There are four dimensions or areas of priestly formation for the priesthood. While each is distinct, it does not stand alone, but rather is linked to and forms an integral part of the overall process of formation. Formation, therefore, is a gradual and integrated process in which the seminarian moves through four stages, beginning with the Propaedeutic Stage, onto the Discipleship Stage (Philosophical Studies), then the Configuration Stage (Theological Studies) and, finally, into the Vocational Synthesis Stage, immediately prior to ordination as a priest.
According to Saint John Paul II in Pastores dabo vobis, there are four dimensions that interact simultaneously in the journey of formation and in the life of ordained ministers: the human dimension, which represents the “necessary and dynamic foundation” of all priestly life; the spiritual dimension, which helps to shape the quality of priestly ministry; the intellectual dimension, which provides the rational tools needed in order to understand the values that belong to being a priest, to make them incarnate in daily life, and to transmit the content of the faith appropriately; the pastoral dimension, which makes possible a responsible and fruitful ecclesial service.
Thus, the goal of initial formation is to strive to become a priest after the heart of Christ. Each of the dimensions of formation is aimed at ‘transforming’ or ‘assimilating’ the heart in the image of the heart of Christ, who was sent by the Father to fulfil his loving plan. He was moved when faced with human suffering (cf. Matt 9:35-36), he went to seek out the lost sheep (cf. Matt 18:12-14), even to offering his life for them (cf. John 10:11). He came not to be served but to serve (cf. Matt 20:24-28). The entire process of formation in preparation for priestly ministry, in fact, has as its aim the preparation of seminarians to “enter into communion with the charity of Christ the Good Shepherd” (Pastores dabo vobis; see also, The Gift of the Priestly Vocation).
There are, then, four dynamically-interrelated areas of initial formation which are essential to the task of acquiring an integrated, healthy and solid priestly identity.
Since our foundation in 1795 the Gospel’s invitation to 'go and make disciples of all the world' has been central our mission. While founded to train priests for the Irish Church, St. Patrick’s College has trained men for service in parishes throughout the world.
Two missionary orders, the Columban Fathers and the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society germinated and sprouting from the soil of this College. In its 225 years as a seminary Maynooth has formed and sent out on mission over 11,000 priests.
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