The focus of human formation is a lifelong commitment to personal growth
“The human formation of the priest shows its special importance when related to the receivers of the mission: in order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mould his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ….”
[Pope John Paul II, Pastores dabo vobis. On the Formation of Priests #43]
Priestly Formation is not simply about proposing an ideal image of priestly ministry for a seminarian to appropriate. The vocational journey can be seen as the unfolding of a better understanding by the seminarian of the tension that exists within him between the person he is and the person he wishes to become (cf. Rom 6:14-25). In Pastores dabo vobis there is a fundamental insistence on human formation as the basis of all priestly formation. Priests are to be mature men. “The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation.” Moreover, “the candidate himself is a necessary and irreplaceable agent in his own formation: all formation, priestly formation included, is ultimately a self-formation.” For seminarians to become fully functioning, they must assume full responsibility for their lives, becoming the primary agents of their own formation in order to achieve human maturity and spiritual wholeness. The divine call engages and involves the ‘concrete’ human person. Formation for the priesthood must necessarily provide adequate means to allow for maturation in view of an authentic exercise of the priestly ministry. To that end, the seminarian is called upon to develop his personality, having Christ, the perfect man, as his model and source (see The Gift of the Priestly Vocation).
The human formation programme is a foundation for and an essential constituent of the overall formation programme and is closely inter linked with academic, pastoral and spiritual formation. Its overall aim is to enable the student to grow in inner freedom, so that he is more able to give himself to the love and service of God and his people.
The programme strives to cultivate human qualities that enable the student to be a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ. In practice this means fostering development in a number of areas, including the following:
• self-identity: self-understanding, self-acceptance and a healthy self-esteem make for greater generosity in love and service of others
• the capacity to relate in a mature and warm way
• integration of one’s emotional needs and desires
• mature attitudes to one’s sexuality and a willingness to embrace a healthy celibate lifestyle
• the capacity to take initiatives and assume leadership roles in a confident and assured way, avoiding
rigidity of attitudes
• the capacity for self-transcendence and renunciation and the ability to embrace the sacrifices and self-
denial that a life of service entails.
Elements of the Human Formation Programme
• The human formation programme assumes “the absolute primacy of grace in vocation” [PDV #34,36].
• The programme endeavours to take account of the particular life experience of each student so as to serve his best interest and enable him to build upon his strengths while acknowledging his weaknesses.
• Personal responsibility for growth to Christian maturity is the bedrock of the programme, requiring the student to be an active agent in his own formation. Encouragement and challenge are offered through the community life he lives and through his frequent interactions with his Director of Formation, his Spiritual Director and his Pastoral Director.
Regular meetings between the student and his Director of Formation provide an opportunity for periodic evaluation of a student’s formation journey while in seminary.
• In order to address with greater objectivity his own strengths and weaknesses, each student is encouraged to meet with the Vocational Growth Counsellor, a full-time position in the College. Many students take vocational growth counselling of their own choice, while some may be encouraged to do so by those involved in other areas of their formation. In all cases, these meetings require the consent of the student and are treated confidentially. Vocational growth counselling offers the student a unique opportunity to ensure that he is humanly as prepared as possible for the work to which he is called.
• Psychological assessments can make a positive contribution to a student’s growth in his formation journey, especially when development appears to be at a standstill. Many students profit through this type of assessment as it can help locate emotional blockages and indicate ways forward. Psychological assessments are intended as a help to the student and an opportunity for growth. Many dioceses require a psychological assessment of those who apply for entry into the seminary. In all cases the psychological assessment takes its place alongside the assessments of other people concerned with the student or prospective student.
• As holistic development is emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical and aesthetic, the student is encouraged to participate in the various facets of life on campus – debating, music, student literary productions, film and theatre, conferences and lectures, sporting and leisure facilities, societies, etc.
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