The seminary is more than a material space; it is first of all a spiritual place. “The seminary … should be a spiritual place, a way of life, an atmosphere that fosters and ensures a process of formation, so that the person who is called to the priesthood by God may become, with the Sacrament of Orders, a living image of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church” (Pastores dabo vobis).
After calling his disciples and before sending them out, indeed in order to be able to send them out to preach the Gospel, Jesus asks them to set aside a certain time to be with him (cf. Mark 3:13-15). “In its deepest identity, the seminary is called to be in its own way a continuation of the Church of the Apostolic Community gathered about Jesus” (Pastores dabo vobis).
First and foremost, the mission of the seminary is to help seminarians to live in the company of Jesus, as the Apostles did, developing a close intimate relationship with him, so that they will be able to act and speak in his name, in persona Christi. 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 a 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” (Pastores dabo vobis).
In the seminary, each member of the community is called to live a way of life that is balanced, healthy, prayerful, hard-working and collaborative. It is a way of life that is designed to help the seminarian to prepare in the best way possible for the life of a diocesan priest, lived in service of God and his people in such a way that the priest finds joy and fulfilment.
The daily rhythm of prayer, study, recreation and rest helps the seminarian to achieve balance in living out the four dimensions of formation: human (getting to know oneself better; looking after one’s physical and psychological health; spending time in the company of others; enjoying recreational pursuits); spiritual (getting to know God better; looking after one’s spiritual health; spending time in the company of God in prayer and joining with the community for the daily moments of community prayer, especially the Eucharist); intellectual (actively engaging with the academic learning process, especially in Philosophy and Theology; acquiring the skills and expertise necessary to be able to proclaim the word of God and celebrate the sacraments with and for God’s people); pastoral (engaging in a different pastoral placement each year in a different setting. For example, Capuchin Day Centre, Peter McVerry Trust, St Vincent de Paul, Primary and Secondary Schools, Hospitals, Prisons, etc. All of this helps the seminarian to integrate and make his own the learnings that happen in the other areas of formation).
The experience of living in the seminary is meant to be an experience of being supported, accompanied and occasionally challenged as the members of the community travel together on the journey of priestly formation, all the while allowing the Holy Spirit to guide, direct and enliven us with his gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgement, fortitude, knowledge, piety and awe in God’s presence, so that we may bear fruit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
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