Seminary Formation – 1998


SEMINARY


Volume 4

Number 3

Winter 1998


CONTENTS

SPECIAL EDITION
International Consultation on Priestly
Formation For Rectors of Major Seminaries

American College
Leuven, Belgium


Rev. James J. Walsh
NECA Seminary Dept.

Introduction

Godfried Cardinal Danneels

Training Candidates for the Priesthood

Rev. Michael Paul Gallagher, SJ

Faith Development of Seminarians

Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez

The Seminary As a Context for Teaching
Theology

Rev. John F. Canary

The Seminary As a Context for Modeling the Integrated Life

Rev. James J. Walsh

Summary Statements on Seminary Life and Formation for Priesthood

Rev. Peter J. Schineler, S.J.

Report on Africa

Rev. Asandas D. Balchand, S.J.

Report on Asia

Rev. Stanislaw Obirek, S.J.

Report on Eastern Europe

Rev. Carlos Rodriguez

Report on Latin America

Rev. Paul Cashen

Report on Australasia and Oceania

Sr. Katarina Schuth

Report on Theology-Level Seminaries
in the United States

Bishop Walter Kasper

Report on Western Europe

 

Programme of Formation

 

 


The programme of formation for seminarians is built on the principles enunciated by the Second Vatican Council and the Post-Conciliar documents. In particular, it is anchored on the four elements of formation outlined in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis.

 

Human Development.

The call to maturity is a lifelong task. Discerning a special vocation to achieve this in priesthood or religious life, some offer themselves to Christ and his Church in a particular way and enter seminary. In so doing, they undertake to follow a programme of formation which, with God’s help, will lead them towards full human maturity and a deep spiritual awareness, as well as provide an intellectual and professional preparation suitable for the work of evangelisation in a new millennium.

Maturity is a complex reality which cannot be easily or fully defined. One can, however, recognise a mature man. He is a person who, having accepted his personal history, explores and recognises the truth of his identity. He constantly attempts to imbue his human development with Christian values and, in particular, with the practice and habit of living the Christian virtues. He consistently tries to acquire and preserve the capacity to act freely. He is a man who has an obvious emotional self-control, one who enjoys community living because of his willingness to give himself in service of others and a person who devotes himself in a steady, consistent and calm way to his vocation and his duties. His conduct is clearly influenced by an informed conscience and he uses his freedom to explore and fully develop his human potential.

“Human maturity and in particular affective maturity requires a clear and strong training in freedom” (PDV, 44). Fostering human development must challenge the seminarian to achieve a convinced and heartfelt obedience to the “truth” of his own being. True freedom asks him to be master of himself and to be ready to open out to others in generous, dedicated service. On his educational journey, the community life of the seminary, the dedicated service of the College staff and their professional collaborators, together with the seminarian’s own family, provide the ambience in which growth and human development take place. The seminary formation programme invests much time and energy in each seminarian and asks of him that he respond to this with total generosity.

The priest of the third millennium will continue the work of the priests who, in the preceding generations, have animated the life of the Church. During the third millennium the priestly vocation will continue to be the call to live the unique and permanent priesthood of Christ. A renewed vision for this new era is required so that the timeless and age old mission of Christ and his Church may be fulfilled. Tomorrow’s priest will be ” the living image” of Christ, the Head and Shepherd (PDV, 43). In his person he must strive for that level of human maturity which Christ reached in his Incarnation and reflect this to the people and culture in which he will offer his service.

 

 

 

Spiritual Development.

The spiritual life has as its continuous goal the development of a person’s relationship with God. This faith relationship is based more on an affective experience of divine love than a cognitive understanding of God. In the seminary the student learns to discern the will of God in his life, and grows more generous in embracing that vocation. Personal holiness helps to form a community and in this way the seminary becomes an example of Christian fraternity.

Among the practices that further spiritual development, the life of personal and liturgical prayer is first and foremost. The communal celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours root the student’s life in Christ and in his Church. A daily time of private meditation is essential to the future priest’s identity with Christ before the Father.

Spiritual Direction facilitates the student’s discernment of God’s will and knowledge of God’s compassion so that he might be free of the obstacles that hinder his faith. In his spiritual director the student finds a trusted anam chara who will accompany him on his inner pilgrimage.

Life in the seminary is characterised by a spirit of reflection. Time for silence and opportunities for solitude form part of the College timetable. Reflection allows the student to be present to the movement of God’s Spirit in his life. The student ought to give time to spiritual reading and acquaint himself with the principles of spiritual theology. In this way he is enabled to understand the meaning of his life and put into practice the faith that he professes.

 

Intellectual development.

A sound philosophical and theological training is essential for all candidates for the priesthood. Seminarians must study and meditate on the Word of God in the light of the tradition and teaching of the Church and learn to express it in a language that can be readily understood in the social and cultural situation of today. To be an effective preacher, teacher and spiritual guide, deacons and priests need to develop a familiarity with the opportunities and challenges posed to Christian faith not only by science and technology but also by contemporary movements in art and literature. All students at the Irish College are offered the opportunity of obtaining a Baccalaureate in Theology. Some students, with the agreement of their Bishop, undertake further specialisation to licentiate or doctoral level. The College programme reserves the central part of every weekday for attendance at lectures, and for personal study and reading. Students are encouraged to make the most of this opportunity by attending their lectures and meeting the requirements which the university may impose for the particular course of study undertaken. Personal reading is an indispensable part of any academic programme. Students should familiarise themselves with the College and university libraries.

Living in Rome provides many opportunities to deepen one’s appreciation of the universality of the Church and to broaden one’s cultural and intellectual horizons. Every effort will be made to facilitate attendance at extra-curricular lectures and courses within and beyond the Irish College. In this context, students are reminded of the importance of attaining a proficiency in the Italian language.

Students will attend the university and course which has been decided by the Rector and the individual’s Bishop. The precise plan of study is to be agreed between the student and his Director of Formation. It is the responsibility of each student to ensure that he is properly registered for all prescribed courses. Extra tuition can be arranged by the Director of Formation for courses which present a particular difficulty to the student. Examinations are to be taken during the normal sessions. A transcript of all results should be presented to the Rector at the end of each semester. Examinations may only be deferred under extraordinary circumstances and with the prior permission of the Director of Formation. Students may progress from one semester/year to the next when they have fulfilled the requirements of the previous one. If the occasion arises, students must re-sit examinations at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

Pastoral Development.

Pastoral formation ensures that the human, spiritual and intellectual formation of the candidate for priesthood is focused on his future life and ministry as a priest. While the Irish College prepares men for ministry in the universal Church, the primary attention for the programme of pastoral formation is given to Ireland. The programme is designed to offer to the student good communication skills, strong and effective leadership qualities, the ability to develop an aptitude for collaborative ministry, as well as to relate well to the culture of the modern world.

Through a programme of pastoral work and reflection, the College attempts to create in each student the compassion of a good shepherd, the ability to assume a conscientious and mature responsibility for the care of souls and an interior strength and perception which will allow him to evaluate pastoral difficulties and opportunities and establish priorities in his life and work.

 

 

Summary Statements on
Seminary Life and Formation
for Priesthood

(A synthesis of the feedback from the groups
on the last day of the consultation)

Rev. James J. Walsh

A. Important Components Cited:

  • Each seminarian must take responsibility for his own formation and the formation of his brothers.
  • The cultural and ecclesial links between the life of the seminary and the lives of the people of God are important.
  • It is important that there be modeling in the seminary by the rector, faculty, and staff in the areas of authority, joy, listening, vulnerability, a healthy life style, commitment, and faith.
  • The importance of the liturgy as the source and summit of seminary life especially in the sacrificial dimension of the priest’s life and his acting “in persona Christi” should be realized.
  • The importance of human growth and maturity in the seminarian and an appreciation of friendship in the context of celibacy should be noted.
  • Variety and diversity can be enriching within priestly formation.
  • The vision and mission of the Church and priesthood as coming from God should not be lost.
  • The concern for the poor, the insignificant, and the marginalized must be integrated into the formation process.
  • There are marked cultural and ecclesial differences in the various countries in which we are working.
  • There is also a wonderful convergence of blessings and challenges in our various seminaries.
  • It is a good and important work that we have been called to do in and for the Church.
  • Our daily work as rectors enables us to deepen our own priestly service in a way that would not be possible if we were involved in other work. As we are challenged to be models of growth, we are able to grow ourselves.
  • We have learned important values like love for the Church, the use of imagination for the integration of all the components of formation, and moving beyond the practical issues and concerns that can preoccupy us.
  • Formators are essentially catalysts in a conversion experience providing persons with the opportunity and stimulus to deepen their faith.
  • The seminary’s involvement in the local church is facilitated by the seminarian’s personal experience and relationships, like living among the poor and being involved with laity in the formation process.
  • The call and recommendation for ordained priesthood should involve the laity in some way.
  • The spirituality demanded is one that leads us and the seminarians to the generosity of God’s love which provides the enthusiasm and desire for mission.
  • It is important that the formation process be integrated and personalized.
  • The apostolic mission and how it is inculturated in a local church has implications for priestly formation and ministry, for example, the evangelical project of the Latin American church is key for the formation of priests in that region.
  • Ongoing preparation for celibacy is vital, but it is also important to continue discussion of the issue of celibacy in light of the needs of the Church and in light of the needs of the personal development of individuals within formation programs.
  • Discipleship can be the integrating image for intellectual, spiritual, pastoral, and human formation.

B. Major Needs Discerned:

  • Promotion of a sense of belonging and participation within the seminary needs to take place.
  • We need to maintain the standards, have clear criteria, and emphasize quality in the acceptance and promotion of the candidates. There needs to be better coordination of the persons responsible for this.
  • There needs to be training of formation staff and spiritual directors.
  • We need to involve more lay people in the formation of priests.
  • There needs to be a proper discernment of what seminary formation should be today, and what structural and ideological changes need to be made in relation to developments in ecclesiology and the theology of ministry.
  • An exchange of information and theological discussion among the faculty needs to take place. Students need to witness the faculty in dialogue as Christian colleagues.
  • We need to avoid sentimentality in admissions.
  • We need to initiate dialogue with faculty, bishops, students, and the wider Church to help clarify the vision, mission, and needs of the Church and the seminary. The dialogue can reinforce the relational model of formation and can help us discern where we are being called by the Holy Spirit.
  • There needs to be a spirit of dialogue especially in the area of ecclesiology, the theology of priesthood, and the theology of ministry.
  • The consultation and collaboration that goes on within the evaluative and assessment processes needs to be transparent. We need to remove the perceived mysteriousness of the process.
  • There is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of the large free standing model of seminary. We need, perhaps, to look at the apprenticeship model of placing a seminarian with a priest who can be a role model.
  • Structures and processes for post-ordination formation need to be connected with seminary formation.

Reports on Priestly Formation
From the Various Regions of the World


Report on Africa

Peter Schineller, S.J.
Former Dean and Professor of Theology, former Regional
Superior of the Jesuits of Nigeria-Ghana, and future Dean
and Professor of Theology at Hekima College, Nairobi

Introduction

About 12% of the world’s population reside in Africa, second only to Asia. In Africa we are witnessing the fastest growth ever in the 2000 year history of Christianity. Here are a few statistics to illustrate this point:

 

Population
(millions)

Catholics
(millions)

Seminarians

1900

118

2.3

?

1970

320

32

3,470

1997

720

95

19,000

Africa is large, containing 22% of the land of this good earth. Europe, the USA, India, China, and Argentina all fit within Africa. Africa is complex, with over 2000 languages and ethnic groups. For the purpose of this presentation, I am focusing on subSaharan Africa, and thus not speaking of North Africa or Egypt.

What are the significant issues and trends influencing the Church of Africa?

Political: Africa continues to suffer from poor leadership. In many countries there are entrenched leaders, military dictators, or the dangers of military coups. While the desire for democracy suited for Africa is great, the reality is not so present.

Economic: Most of the world’s poorest nations are in Africa. Decline rather than growth is characteristic. International debt robs the children of Africa of their future.

Demographic: The birth rate remains very high, the highest in the world, and at the same time, the epidemic of AIDS ravages the population and leaves homes and villages without parents. In Zambia over the past ten years, life expectancy dropped from 52 to 42 years of age.

Transitions: Modem technology and communications deeply influence Africa. TV presents the western world and its progress and problems to African households, but much of what is seen, such as the material progress, is beyond the reach of most Africans.

Ethnicity: We witness the move and desire to be part of modem, technological culture, yet at the same time, is the increased desire to return to and retain one’s cultural roots, one’s racial identity. Ethnic rivalry, tension, and conflict remain present. As one bishop expressed it at the Assembly of African bishops, “blood is thicker than water” (the water of Baptism).

Religion: Africans are deeply religious. This finds expression in a growing number of indigenous, independent African churches. As Christianity grows, this is matched by the growth of Islam. In many nations there are tensions and conflicts between Christians and Muslims.

Education: The desire for good education is very high, but the quality of education may be decreasing because of population growth, and because of poor political leadership that often resents and fears quality education. When people are converted, they simply add the new faith to what they already believe.

Women: While more women have been receiving education, equal opportunities for women remain distant, in light of the male domination that is present in many of the African traditional cultures.

Urbanization: The move to the cities, the search of the better life, continues, but it all too often results in crowded living, slums, unemployment, increased crime, as well as in weakening of families ties.

What are the challenges in Africa in preparing candidates for priesthood today?

The basic challenge is to prepare young men to meet the immense challenges facing the Church and people of Africa. Under this heading of challenges, I will list “lights and shadows,” positive and negative factors, that present challenges to formation of priests in Africa. In general, each of the positive factors has a negative side to it, as we will see.

Numbers: There are approximately 180 major seminaries in Africa. In Nigeria there are I I major seminaries with an average of 400 students in each. This presents an opportunity, but also the challenge to assure quality in view of the quantity. Vocations for the most part are booming. The challenge is discerning the genuine vocations.

Image of the Priest: Catholics in Africa hold their priests in high regard. Vocations to priesthood are encouraged and supported. On the other hand, the priest can be put on a pedestal and remain above criticism when criticism is due.

Traditional Large Seminaries: The model of seminary for the most part is the large, independent, often rather isolated institutional structure. In general, diocesan seminaries are larger than those for religious. Students may not receive the personal care, guidance, and attention needed. They are not being formed in community living -or in the image of the Church as family, as the Assembly of African Bishops emphasized.

Intellectual Formation: While the academic background of the students may be growing weaker, due to the downturn in the quality of education, the intellectual formation at seminaries remains strong and the students respond well to the challenge of the academic life. A criticism oft repeated is that the seminaries are better at training the head rather than the heart.

Spiritual formation. I believe this is the most serious concern facing seminaries in Africa. While academics may be solid, spiritual formation does not receive the priority it demands. Seminarians have courses in spiritual theology, attend Mass, pray the Rosary, and have common prayer. I have heard that young priests have not developed a prayer life. They are not well prepared to make the transition from the more serene life in the seminary to the active, interrupted life in the parish. Their spirituality has been more monastic than active, apostolic. To improve spiritual formation, many more trained spiritual directors must be present, and this aspect of formation must be seen as a higher priority. There is a great need for trained spiritual directors.

Pastoral Formation: In view of large numbers and the relative isolation of many seminaries, pastoral formation remains inadequate, although it is more and more seen as a serious concern and challenge. Pastoral involvement by the seminarians, such as over the vacation periods, is seen more as a test rather than a supervised apprenticeship.

Interpersonal Relationships: Many comment that seminarians act out of fear rather than love, that is, fear of being dismissed. Their bishops remain distant. In the intensely authoritarian ways of interacting, even faculty and administration can be distant and feared. There is insufficient modeling or training in a more collegial or collaborative model of education or ministry and, thus, after ordination the young priests themselves take on the authoritarian model in exercising leadership. This affects all relationships, especially relationships with women.

Pedagogy: In view of large classes, the lecture method is the norm rather than more creative, involved, library research-oriented pedagogy. Team teaching and interaction among students is minimal.

Clerical Culture: Most of the professors and formation staff are priests. Seminarians rarely are taught and challenged by lay men, and more importantly, by religious or lay women. In a distinction that might be insightful, one person said that in the African seminaries, we are training clerics rather than priests. The cleric is one who falls back upon his privileged position and office. The priest is one who gives his life in service to God’s people.

African or Western Philosophy/Theology: It is questioned whether African seminaries should review, retrieve the history of Western thought and the Western Church or instead launch into the depths of their own culture and tradition and correlate Scripture and tradition with African culture, roots, sources, and riches. For the most part, inculturation remains an ideal, and Western theology and philosophy dominate.

Psycho-sexual Development: Seminarians are young, growing, and maturing. This takes place in the rather isolated milieu of the seminary. More healthy interaction with their peers, including women, would be helpful as well as specific courses or workshops that treat of psycho-sexual development. Celibacy surely will always remain a challenge, in Africa and elsewhere, but ways and means to help face and live it should be available.

Justice and Peace: In the strongly religious culture of Africa, the Christian, hence the priest and the seminarian, most continually strive to see the links between religion and social/political issues, between faith and justice. The social teaching of the Church must not only be studied and known, but also applications to the myriad problems facing Africa must be formulated and tried.

Ecumenism: Seminarians must be given not only theoretical or classroom knowledge of other Christian denominations, African indigenous religions, and Islam, but also the ecumenical attitude and the desire and ability to engage in conversation in order to understand and relate practically to these powerful religious forces in Africa.

Summary Challenge: The existing large, institutional, and often isolated seminary structures must be strongly modified to enable more integrated, personalized, responsible, family-style education and formation. Efforts are being made in this direction, but the structures in place resist radical change. Some would argue that more radical structural changes (rather than program changes, changes within the structure) are needed – new ways, places, and means of forming priests to serve in Africa.

What is the profile of people who are coming to seminary?

Age: For the most part those who enter the major seminaries are aged between 19 and 22. Their experience, especially their experience of work, of earning a living, may be quite limited. They will change and mature greatly during their years of study.

Family Background: Family in Africa refers to the extended, rather than the nuclear family. Most vocations arise from solid Catholic families – perhaps their father was a catechist and the mother is a faithful parish member and member of at least one parish society. Yet some come from polygamous families, or families where one or both of their parents are nonCatholic and adherents to African religion. In general, there is strong family support for vocations to priesthood. On the other hand, the priest is expected to help his extended family in their needs due to his elevated social and economic position.

Religious Background: Many of the major seminarians would have attended minor seminaries which remain prominent in many parts of Africa. Even if they did not attend minor seminary, the spiritual life of most, simple and pious in the good sense, consists of daily Mass/Communion and daily Rosary, sometimes the family Rosary. Many would have been altar servers and a smaller number would have been helpers to their local parish priest, working, and perhaps living in the parish house. They love the Church and being involved in the life of the Church. They have a love of song, dance, and celebration.

Educational Background: All would have completed secondary school. For many, this would have been a minor seminary. In general, they would have the qualifications needed to attend the University in their own country. Education has declined overall rather than improved in many parts of Africa, and, thus too, the educational level of the seminarians, especially those who come from rural areas. Excellent in learning languages, they would know at least one African language and one foreign language.

Motivation: Most candidates are drawn by religious motivation, the desire to serve as priests. At the same time, it is clear that priesthood and even the life of the seminarian results in upward mobility. The priest normally has a car, educational opportunities, ability to travel, including overseas travel and room and board to an extent that the vast majority of Africans do not have.

This brief survey does not do justice to the diversity, the complexity, the riches of formation for priesthood in Africa. My hope is that setting forth these points under general categories may enable us to focus on more salient points, lead to clarification and, indeed, to action proposals that will begin to address the challenges facing the formation of priests in Africa and elsewhere.

Reports on Priestly Formation
From the Various Regions of the World


Report on Asia

Rev. Asandas D. Balchand, S.J.
Loyola House of Studies
Ateneo de Manila University
Quezon City, Philippines

For my presentation I will give a brief introduction on Asia and then some remarks under each of the themes given to us. I will base my remarks on material related to the Bishops’ Synod on Asia last April 19-May 14, 1998, on documents of the FABC, articles in journals, and interviews with some experts on the topics.

Asia is that vast area which extends from Israel and Lebanon in the west to Japan in the East, Mongolia in the north and Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in the south. Seventy-five percent of the world’s population lives in Asia, a large number of whom are young people. Asia is a land of vast multiplicity and conflicts: multiplicity of races, religions, languages and cultures, contrasts in political organizations, social life, the economy and standards of living. There is much plurality of life even within the same urban neighborhood or village.

In general, there is tremendous growth and transformation in Asia. There is an increasing desire for greater freedom on the political, social, economic levels, and advancing industrialization and modernization of life. Education, science and technology are making significant impacts in many places, giving rise to levels of literacy, to specialists, researchers, inventors, skilled workers. There is a growing awareness of human rights, respect for the individual, communal and regional cooperation.

The Church has been planted and is making steady progress in Asia. There is a rise in vocations over the past twenty-five years. New local religious congregations have been organized. The Church has been known for many notable projects, such as improving literacy rates and skills through education and vocational training.

I. The Significant Issues and Trends in Asia

The key issues and challenges I see facing the Church in Asia with all the religious, socio-political and cultural ferment are the following:

1) greater effort at inculturation;

2) inter-religious dialogue and more attention to contemplation and prayer;

3) greater involvement in action for justice, alleviation of poverty and suffering;

4) greater attention to the role and the formation of the laity, the family, women, and the youth;

5) better use of the mass media for evangelization;

6) globalization and the free market; and

7) the Fundamentalism coming from Hinduism and Islam

Let me briefly explain each.

Over the past twenty-five years the Church in Asia has been engaged in a triple dialogue with the Asian cultures, with the poor, and with the other religions. While there has been considerable progress since the 1970s, all the literature I have consulted indicates that much more needs to be done. The first challenge to the Church is that of inculturation of greater interaction between the faith and the local culture. Many writers and documents say that the Gospel must take on an Asian character, that the Church must be incarnated in Asian cultures. There is need to understand the Asian mentality, to appreciate Asian religions with their strength and values, and their influence on the people. There were efforts by Beschi and de Nobili in India, Xavier and Valignano in Japan, Ricci in China in the past but these did not receive continued encouragement. Today many in Asia feel that the Church is still too western, as seen from her theology, architecture, art, association with colonialism, etc.

It is important especially to have inculturation in Christian theology and spirituality. Theologians can use theological expressions from the local culture, and use aspects of the Asian philosophical systems to explain the message of Christ. Christian spirituality can also draw from the vast riches of Asian spiritual traditions to make the mystery of Christ understood. The challenge to inculturate the Faith remains the key issue in Asia today.

A second challenge, intimately related to inculturation, is interreligious dialogue. Asia is the cradle of the main religions of the world, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism. One can add to these a good number of popular religious movements and primal religions. The Spirit of God is present in these religious cultures and they have a salvific role to play in God’s plan. With Vatican 11 the Church has strongly encouraged respect for and dialogue with these religions. The Church is asked to see and appreciate the signs of God’s presence in them and to understand herself better in the light of these religions. The impact of the religions on the life, history and culture of the people has to be appreciated. The religions have given meaning to the lives of Asians for centuries and continue to permeate the individual and communal lives of Asians.

Dialogue with the adherents of these religions must be genuine and open, humble and frank, seeking to learn and share. There is much to learn from the deep religiosity of the people and from their Scriptures, their teachings, their religious and ascetical practices, their philosophies. At the same time there is much to share, such as the values of reconciliation and peace, service of the neighbor, the dignity of persons, the value of suffering, etc. Authors also stress that this dialogue must go beyond discussions on doctrines and belief systems, to being in touch with the persons of other faiths out of a spirit of love and service. The exercise of spiritual and corporal works of mercy is very helpful for dialogue because this creates a sense of community, peace, harmony values very important in Asia.

An important aspect of interreligious dialogue is the need for the Church to give more attention to the life of the spirit, to prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Many Asians value religious experience more than doctrine. Christians in Asia are expected to witness to a deep union with Christ, to be contemplatives in action. Many times this silent witness to a deep God experience will be more convincing than verbal, theoretical explanations about the mysteries of Christianity.

The third part of the triple dialogue needed in Asia is dialogue with the poor. This means preferential option for and solidarity with the poor, recognizing their human dignity, working for social justice for the victims of exploitation and oppression – tribals, children, migrant workers, refugees, women. It means caring for those who are suffering from physical, mental or spiritual ills. Many hold that effective social service and concern by the Church, following the example of Jesus, is the most important contribution of the Church in Asia. The highly positive regard for the work of Mother Teresa is proof of this.

If the life of Jesus was marked by deeds of love and service, the Church can do no better than to imitate this by specific activities of love and service for the poor, the marginalized and suffering, the many victims of injustice and discrimination based on race, religion, culture, gender.

In its efforts towards social justice and preferential love for the poor, the Church can very effectively cooperate with the followers of other religions, a good number of whom are also very concerned about building better and more just societies in Asia, and fighting abuses and injustices.

A fourth important issue in the Church in Asia is the role of the laity in the Church and the Church’s concern for the laity. The Church in Asia is perceived as being too clerical in its administration, liturgy, and needs to involve the laity, especially the youth, much more in its life and activities. The young especially are eager to participate in the mission of the Church. The interest and enthusiasm of the laity is seen in the growth of Basic Ecclesial Communities and charismatic movements. Lay institutes have been established in Japan and the Philippines. Formation for the laity in theology and spirituality is present in many places in Asia.

Special attention needs to be given to the youth, the family, and women. The youth make up a very large number of Asians. While they are idealistic and generous, they are also caught up in tensions arising from rapid changes and modernization in Asia. In several countries, they are effective evangelizers bringing the Gospel message to their peers and families. The apostolate of the family is very important for the future of the Church because the family is the center of Asian culture and society. Family values are highly prized in Asia but are now being threatened by mass migration, working parents, forced resettlement, etc. Good family lives contribute much to vocations in Asia. The Church’s work towards the emancipation of women through education and legislation needs to be commended and continued. The increase in vocation among women has led to noteworthy social change and care for the poor.

A fifth issue that affects the Church in Asia is the mass media. While it brings many benefits, it also has disturbing effects. The individualism, materialism, and violence portrayed in the media is seriously affecting traditional familial and communal religious values. The Church needs to educate people in the use and effects of the media. The Church needs to address the culture that is being formed by the media and other means of social communication. Finally, the Church needs to better use the media and other forms of social communication such as the Internet to proclaim the Gospel message today.

A sixth issue that affects the Church in Asia is the need to respond to globalization and the free market.

Finally, the Church in Asia needs to address the Fundamentalism coming from Hinduism and Islam.

II. Challenges in Asia in Preparing Candidates for the Priesthood Today

Many of the challenges to formation in Asia today flow from the issues and challenges facing the Church in Asia. There is need to train the seminarians to understand these trends, participate in them, and respond to the challenges they present as effectively as they can. Let me briefly indicate a few key challenges presented by formators and Asian bishops in the recent past.

The first challenge is to make the formation inculturated and to train the young men to be inculturated in their life and service as priests. It will mean that the young seminarian is trained to be open to different cultures from his own and to try to adopt himself to these, making himself one with the people. The young seminarian must go beyond knowledge of the local language, history and traditions of the people and get into “the inner genius of a community”. For this it is important that there be considerable exposure and apprenticeship during formation. When the young priest exercises his ministry, it must be contextual because the priest is called to be a man of the people, especially the poor and suffering.

The Instrumentum Laboris of the Bishops’ Synod on Asia last April 19-May 14, 1998, stresses the need for inculturation in theology and theological research, that the formators and seminaries should use elements from the different philosophical systems in Asia to make the message of Christ meaningful for Asians. Seminarians also need to know the spiritual traditions in Asia to incarnate Christian spirituality.

An important part of inculturation involves the liturgy. There is need for liturgical renewal in Asia to make it more suitable to the culture of the people of a particular region so that the people there can really experience the mystery of Christ in their lives.

The second challenge is that the formation process train the seminarians for dialogue with religions and cultures. Rectors of Asian seminaries who met outside Manila in 1988 stressed that interfaith dialogue should have an important part in the formation and spirituality of the priest. At their meeting outside Manila in 1991 the Asian formators pointed out that formators must develop in seminary communities “respect for the genius and genuine spiritual values enshrined in the religio-cultural traditions of the people.” (Hundredfold Harvest, p.28) and that the priest must be a man who can dialogue “with the faiths and cultures of all the people, without any distinction of caste, creed or race.” (Hundredfold Harvest, p. 17)

The Asian Bishops and formators stress that formation in Asia must have a strong missionary and pastoral dimension to it, including formation in missionary spirituality. Seminaries need to provide courses in missiology and in other religions and cultures. Seminarians are to have concrete missionary and apostolic experiences and engage in activities such as teaching, preaching, organizing people for a sharing of their faith. Seminary formation must have a strong pastoral dimension that breaks down divisions of race, social class, and religion.

The third challenge for candidates to the priesthood in Asia is formation in social justice and for a preferential option for the poor. Meetings of the Asian Bishops and of the seminary formators have stressed this. They point out that “seminarians should be helped progressively to develop this love for the poor,” without any condescension. Seminarians must have experience in working with the poor and reflect on that experience. The 1991 Statement of Asian seminary formators says that the priest must be a prophetic leader for human rights, human dignity, peace and justice, and that the seminarians must be made aware of the socio-political and economic situation of the people. As early as 1974, the FABC meeting in Taipei asked that the social teaching of the Church, especially of the 1971 Synod of Bishops, be part of theological and pastoral formation of priests.

A fourth challenge in the formation of seminarians is formation in social communication. The two meetings of Asian seminary formators in 1988 and 1991 outside Manila mention the need to train seminarians to use the media positively, but to use it critically, too. Seminary formators are asked to give the seminarians information and experience so that they can use the media to proclaim God’s message and they can evangelize the media. Since very few people are reached from the pulpit, media education is essential for the seminarians.

A fifth challenge in seminary formation in Asia today is having truly human formation that will produce a priest who is emotionally mature, psychologically well-balanced, well-integrated in personality. This is especially important because a number enter the seminary wounded and in need of healing. An essential part of this integrated formation is formation in celibacy and sexuality. After careful screening of candidates, they must be challenged to grow in celibacy. Researches indicate a significant degree of immaturity among priests and religious. The immaturity is often linked with sexual difficulties.

A sixth challenge to priestly formation in Asia today is spiritual formation. The Asian Bishops and formators insist on the centrality of the God-experience and the primacy of the spiritual formation of seminarians, especially since Asia is so deeply religious. Formation in the spirit and the ability to lead others to God is often neglected at the expense of intellectual, social and psychological formation.

A final need in Asia is good formation and ongoing formation of the formators themselves. If the seminarians are to be well-trained to meet the challenges of the 21st century, intensive and extensive training must be given to formators, especially the spiritual directors. Faculty development programs have to be sought. Teachers have to get specialized training in such areas as missiology, interfaith dialogue, inculturation, the social sciences. The skilled formation of spiritual directors deserves top priority.

III.  The Profile of People Coming to Seminary

It is difficult to make general statements regarding those coming to seminary in the different Asian countries beyond these:

1) They tend to come from the middle class or poorer, rural places.

2) They tend to be highly motivated to and are strongly desirous of serving God and Christ.

3) Intellectually many are above average but not brilliant.

Beyond these I notice considerable variety and diversity.

In Indonesia and Malaysia they tend to come from deeply religious Catholic families that send their children to Catholic schools for a good education. Many come from minor seminaries. Among religious, a good number are brighter intellectually. They also tend to be professionals with work experience before they enter, attracted by vocation promoters and desirous of doing something about the social issues of the country.

In Sri Lanka too they tend to come from poorer and middle class families, some of whom send their boys to the minor seminary to learn English. Some join the seminary to avoid the military conflict between the Tamils and the Singhalese only to find tension between the two groups in the seminary. Many have difficulty in communicating in English.

Seminarians tend to be older in Korea and Singapore. Many enter with a professional background and two years of military service. While vocations are doing well in Korea and Myanmar, they are low in Thailand (where Buddhism is very strong), Taiwan and Hongkong, perhaps because of the increasing secularization in the last two places.

The only information I have about China indicates that they come from traditional Catholic families. Most are recommended by their pastors who expect them to return after four to six years of theological education. The seminarians themselves feel that the training is insufficient and outmoded for their work, that their teachers are too old and strict, and that their textbooks are pre Vatican 11, published in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the Philippines many seminarians come from rural areas and lower income families. Their academic background is weak and they tend to be slightly above average intellectually. They have poor knowledge of the faith, but they are highly motivated, eager to learn more. They are also very generous, sociable and closely attached to the family. Interestingly, although there is an increase in the number of priests, it has not kept up with the growth in population. There is one priest for over ten thousand people.

In India economically, the seminarians tend to come from lower middle class families; academically, they are average to above average; spiritually, many come from devout, traditionally-oriented families; culturally, they come from very diverse backgrounds and very different languages. At the Papal Seminary in Pune, the students come from 15 different states, 51 dioceses, and three rites -Latin, SyroMalabar and Syro-Malankara.


Reports on Priestly Formation
From the Various Regions of the World


Report on Eastern Europe

Rev. Stanislaw Obirek, S.J.
Krakow, Poland

The Significant Issues and Trends Influencing the Church in Eastern Europe

1. One of the most important issues of the Church in Eastern Europe is the rediscovery and return to the   tradition over many centuries of tolerance and peaceful coexistence with different confessions and religions. It was Eastern Europe which accepted the Jews expelled from Spain and other Western countries in the 15th century. It was here that different groups of Protestants expelled from the West found a home in the 16th century. In this part of Europe Christians and Muslims lived in harmony in the Middle Ages.

2. The totalitarianism of communism in Soviet Russia since 1918 and in other parts of Eastern Europe since 1945 destroyed a cultural heritage and fought against religion and the spiritual.

Hitler’s ideology also darkens the past and present of our history. It not only destroyed the rich Jewish heritage but also contributed to the hostility which still exists between neighboring countries.

3. The decrease in the authority of the Catholic Church in Poland after 1989 is proportional to the decrease of direct commitment of priests and bishops to politics. This is an important indication that a certain epoch in the history and significance of the Church in social life is finished.

4.      The new challenge for the Church in society is the increase of impoverished social groups, unemployment, and increased social tension.

Trends in the Seminaries:

1.     In 1987 there were 9038 seminarians. In 1994 there were 7180 seminarians.

2.     The greatest need for seminaries is the formation of professors to do the spiritual, human, and intellectual formation of the seminarians.

3.     There is a new type of seminarian entering the seminary after 1989, the convert from atheism to Catholicism. Prior to 1989 the seminarians came from the rural areas and there was a significant political motivation to be a priest.

4.     The intellectual preparation for seminary is weak.

5.     Entering the seminary in Poland is still a social step upwards.


Reports on Priestly Formation
From the Various Regions of the World


Report on Latin America

Rev. Carlos Rodriguez
Caracas, Venezuela

Negative Influences on the Church in Latin America:

1. Globalization of the economy has had some negative influence on patterns of behaviour. There is racism and nationalism growing in some countries which seek to exclude certain social groups.

2. There is a gradual increase in secularism and individualism.

3. Urbanization is leading to a loss of traditional values and the breakdown of the family. This can make for difficulties in the human formation of the seminarians and challenges the priest to have the maturity to stand up for the traditional values in the face the culture.

4. Corruption in social and political areas is creating a mentality for easy and fast money in drugs from transport to consumption sales.

5. The South American continent is, moreover, no longer an exclusively Catholic continent. There are different religious movements reaching the poor people that the Catholic Church used to reach. Current trends are leading to a polarized world, a polarized Church, and the exclusion of people.

The Seminary Situation

1. We have a lot of young formators. In some cases we see a lack of stability in the educational teams as often the seminary formators do not work full-time in the seminary.

2. Our bishops are often not sufficiently present in our formation programs and seminaries.

3. There has been a drop in the educational level in many countries which has affected the intellectual capacity of the seminarians. We are trying to strategize how to meet this problem.

4. There are movements that have developed their own seminaries and they are not following the standards for priestly formation. This is breaking up the communion of priestly formation around the classical model.

5. Most of the vocations are coming from the rural areas and from the middle and lower middle classes. There has been an increase in the number of seminarians from broken families.

6. In general we see an increase in the number of seminarians and the number that gets ordained is a greater percentage than it was.

7. Most of the seminarians come with a sincere desire to allow themselves to be guided and to accept the challenge of formation.

8. In the seminaries there is dialogue and many seminarians are taking personal responsibilty for their formation.


                      

Reports on Priestly Formation
From the Various Regions of the World


Report on Australasia and Oceania:
The Present Situation
and Future Prospects

Rev. Paul Cashen

 

I. Consequences for Seminary Formation

a) Increase in seminarians, but lack of qualified formators, particularly nationals.

b) Changes in seminary structures. Change from large central seminary to smaller regional ones. Smaller regional seminaries provide better personal and spiritual assistance, and more in keeping with local customs. Cost in some seminaries are a problem.

c) Changes to seminary programs

  • Each diocese has their own screening and selection policies. Common guidelines are being established.
  • Academic standards not as good as before, reflecting the National Education System.
  • French speaking seminarians find it difficult in Fiji and PNG – lack of lecturers.
  • Tension between the academic and the spiritual and personal formation is a common problem.

II. Consequences for Pastoral Leadership

a) The increase in the number of vocations reflects the faith of the people, accepting their responsibility to take charge of the Church as the number of overseas missionaries declines.

b)For seminarians and priests:

  • Considerable personal and social adjustment is required of seminarians who mostly come from villages without a wide experience of the world around them.
  • The cultural diversity among seminarians is enriching and creates tension.

c) For seminarians:

  • Pressure from families and relatives
  • Constant doubts concerning their vocation
  • Difficulties and failure with celibacy obligations

d) For young priests:

  • serious problems with alcohol and celibacy
  • serious sense of insecurity
  • overwork because of many vacant parishes
  • expectation to be like overseas missionaries

e) One of the major contributing factors to these personal difficulties is a deficient formation system.

III. Conclusion

There is a great need for suitable and adequate formators and theology lecturers. Steps have been taken. Nationals are now going through training to become well-qualified in these areas in the seminaries of Oceania.

The Australasian Seminaries

I. Pressures and Consequences of Fewer Seminaries:

a) Significant adjustment to the life-style and structures of seminaries, e.g., the movement towards formation houses separate from the Theology College.

b) The fewer applicants situation has brought pressure to lower or change entrance standards.

c)     At the same time concern for appropriate professional standards for priests require more personnel and programs to assess and assist the personal integration of all areas of formation.

d)    The document, Pastores Dabo Vobis, gives new directions and standards for the formation and training of seminarians, but fewer priests are available to be prepared as formators.

e)    The pressure on Formation and Professional staff to be of service to the wider church:

  • To staff both the houses of formation and theology colleges.
  • To be involved in the vocation programs of dioceses.
  • To accept responsibility for the ongoing formation of the clergy, especially in early years.
  • To be involved in the formation of lay people for leadership in the Church.

II. Consequences of More Yet Smaller Seminaries

a) Costs increase per seminarian and also with the trend towards localization meaning, more, newer and smaller structures.

b) Smaller seminaries mean less specialization and more generalization for staff.

c)    Replacing the older monastic structures specialized formation houses can replace the separate and controlled environment of the former with a protected and safe house that is as removed and ministry.

d)    The lack of national policies and planning for seminary formation.

III. Consequences for Ordained Leadership

          Consequences of Fewer Seminarians and Priests
      a)       As priests are not being replaced by younger men:

  • There is a lowering of morale causing some to leave the ministry or in others to withdraw into themselves and become impossible to work with in any parish context.
  • Some respond by taking on more work often replacing the opportunity for personal growth and reflection and cause the possibility of alienation from other priests and the people themselves.
  • Few young people are attracted to the life portrayed to them.

b) Unless the future generations are attracted, the Church will lose the enthusiasm and generosity that youth brings to the community.

c)    The ability of older men to resolve the shortage is tempered by the need to spend more time and assets to discern their appropriateness and suitability to serve the Church with creativity and commitment. This pool is also shrinking.

d)    The shortage puts pressure on the traditional appreciation and understanding of the Sacrament of Ordination as the expression of the pastoral leadership of Christ.

e)    The pressure to educate the local church in the pastoral role of the priest, to supplement for the absence of priests and provide the needed pastoral skills.

f)    The personal lapses and immoral conduct of a few priests in their exercise of pastoral care has affected the selection, discernment, and preparation of candidates.

g) The widening gap between priests and people:

  • the numbers of persons per priest,
  • the aging of priests
  • the difficulties of the priest to respond to change

Reports on Priestly Formation
From the Various Regions of the World


Report on Theology-Level Seminaries
in the United States

Sister Katarina Schuth, O.S.F.
The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity
at the University of St. Thomas St. Paul, MN

1. Ownership and Operation of Seminaries and Theologates

        42 theology-level seminaries: 4 or 5 years of study

            18         owned by (Arch)dioceses

              6         owned and conducted by bishops or corporations

              9         owned by (Arch)dioceses and conducted by religious orders mainly for diocesan seminarians

              9         owned and conducted by religious orders for religious order seminarians

                        (Also, 25 of the 42 have two-year pretheology programs.)

II. Governance

Some 885 board members including cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters, and laymen and laywomen participate in the governance of the schools.

III.  Formation Programs – Integration of Four Components

A. Human Formation – focuses on psychological and emotional development and well-being: vocational discernment and commitment, personal and relational growth, and formation for celibacy.

B. Spiritual Formation focuses on development of prayer life centered on Jesus Christ and related to the sacramental life of the Church and the community of believers; involves spiritual direction, conferences, and courses.

C Intellectual Formation focuses on a thorough understanding of the Faith according to the tradition and the Magisterium; attentive to the relationship between faith and reason and to the requirements of the social and cultural situation today.

D. Pastoral Formation focuses on both the theoretical understanding of pastoral theology and the practical application of pastoral principles in supervised internships in parishes and other ministry settings.

IV. Faculty Degrees and Vocational Status

A. 741 faculty members:
        66% priests
        13% women religious
        21% laymen and laywomen
        There has been a 10% decline in the number of priest faculty over the past ten         years.)

 

B. Sources of academic degrees:
        33% in Europe
        46% in American Catholic Universities
        21 % in American Non-Catholic Universities

C. Level of academic degrees:
        75% doctoral or S.S.L.
        25% masters or licentiate

V. Student Enrollment and Profiles

A. Enrollment:
      3,085 seminarians; 3,100 lay students
        31 % of seminarians are enrolled in programs for seminarians only.
        69% of seminarians are enrolled in programs for both seminarians and lay                  students.

B. Profiles:

                  1. Religious profiles:
                 a. Those deeply rooted in their faith

  • raised in families where they practiced their faith consistently in a local parish;
  • studying for the diocese or religious congregation that was part of their earlier faith experience;
  • highly motivated and have done the discernment necessary to make an informed choice about priesthood;
  • moderately good grasp of the Catholic tradition, some sense of the Church as universal, an adequate religious education, and a longstanding commitment to their Faith.

                       b. Those recently converted or reconverted

  • may be converts from a different Christian denomination, but more typically the phenomenon is one of reconversion; of those baptized Catholics at birth, many have been away from the Church for a number of years; vocational call often came from a significant prayer experience or pilgrimage or relationship with a charismatic person.

                        c. Those with a minimal connection to the Church

  • may have been formally identified as Catholic for a long time but have not practiced their faith consistently; many did not attend Catholic schools, so seminary may represent first formal religious education; lack of regular practice of faith means they may have little sense of liturgy or experience in prayer.

     d. Those with a rigid understanding of their Faith

  • many came of age after Vatican Il concluded and have no lived memory of the Church before 1970; most have had the experience of living to date during one single pontificate, so they have unswerving devotion to the Pope; they have been greatly affected by American cultural forms, especially the media technology, and communications, and they now want to withdraw and condemn this world; enormous fear is involved, fear of change and fear of the world; they regard seminaries as the last bastions of security; often unhappy in appearance, downcast eyes, tight body, and no sense of humor; dissatisfied with the seminary because of lack of devotion/orthodoxy.

2. Intellectual profiles:

      a.  Those highly qualified: have benefitted from a first-rate classical education during which they studied philosophy along with some Scripture and theology over at least three or four years; determined to keep growing intellectually, they understand the relationship between learning and the capacity to minister with integrity.

          b.   Those relatively qualified: typical of most students, they have reasonably good college degrees and adequate intellectual abilities; they want to learn what the Church teaches, and they are also looking for insights into the tradition; yet these students have some deficits in their backgrounds-many come with degrees in business, science, or technology, so they have had less exposure to the humanities. Even the brighter ones tend not to be readers, and they lack the broad cultural foundation afforded by study of the classics.

       c.  Those insufficiently qualified: due to weak educational backgrounds, learning disabilities, lack of English language proficiency, or because of being far-removed from formal study, these students need special tutoring if they are to succeed.

VI. Conclusion

A. Accomplishments: Those shared by most schools

1. improved management, including the presence of more effective board members, more stable and qualified administrators, and more knowledgeable partners in theological associations;

2. programmatic developments, including human formation for seminarians, multicultural programs, and pastoral field education, as well as new programs, in particular in pre-theology;

3. improvements in campus facilities and technological resources.

B. Critical concensus: Those shared by most schools

1.     curricular issues, especially those relating to multicultural studies, ecumenism, and collaboration;

2.     students: need for recruitment of more students with an aptitude for ministry, scholarships to attract lay students, and human and spiritual formation programs for lay students;

3.   faculty development that is designed to help faculty improve their teaching methods and course content on the one hand and to build and maintain faculty unity on the other;

4. planning and evaluation across all aspects of institutional life are critical, especially as these processes relate to personnel and students, and to technology and finances.

5.   Seminaries should not enhance polarization, but should ease it.

Significant Issues and Trends
Influencing the Church in the United States

1. Continuing increase in the number of Catholics: from 49 million in 1975 to 61 million in 1998;recent growth of 700,000 per year

2. Heterogeneity of the Catholic population – cultural, racial, and ethnic, as well as economic, educational, and attitudinal; variations due in large part to recent immigration and also to influences of the secular society religious

3. Extreme ideological diversity and an attitude of intolerance among many Church members, based mainly on differing views of how the teachings of the Second Vatican Council should be implemented and on how the Church should regard the culture – to engage with it or to withdraw from it

4. Acute ministerial needs, especially for evangelization, adult formation, religious education of youth, enhancement of family life, support for the poor, and spiritual development

5. Evolving Church structures brought on by increased involvement of laity and permanent deacons in Church ministry and by fewer priests and, resulting in the need for closecollaboration

Numbers

Priests
Sisters
Brothers
Permanent Deacons
Full-time Lay Ministers

1975

59,000
135,000
12,000
900
10,000
(estimated)

1997

48,000
88,000
6,000
12,000
100,000

                      

       Report on Western Europe

Most Rev. Walter Kasper
Rottenburg-Stuttgart
, Germany

Europe is characterized by a great cultural variety and great cultural richness, but Europe is not just a varied entity. It is also a cultural unity that is growing closer together. The intellectual situation of this new Europe is still unclear. The present intellectual and spiritual situation “can be compared to a pendulum swinging between Babylon and Pentecost.” (quote from Cardinal Martini of Milan)

This comparison can also be applicable to the situation of the training of priests in seminaries, although it is very difficult to make general statements about the overall situation.

1. In almost all Western European countries the numbers of people coming forward to be ordained as priests are very low, and they decreased dramatically in the recent past. Between 1978 and 1994 in Germany, the number went down 27%. Great Britain was down 16%. Ireland, a Catholic country, was down 41%. In France the figures remained stable during this time period, and the same for the Netherlands and Belgium, but the figures are still very low even in these countries. The situation is quite different in Italy. There is an increase there of 15%. Spain increased 16% and Portugal was up 39% during those years. But if you look at how our clergy are increasing in age, you can see that the situation in many dioceses is critical.

2. Seminarians have very individual paths to the seminary. It sometimes takes them a long time to get there. There is no longer a normal path. Everyone has his own vocation path and system of beliefs. In our dioceses many still come from very Christianoriented families, but in many other situations the seminarians come from families that are not intensely religious. Quite often the seminarians’ families do not understand why anyone would want to enter a seminary or they try to prevent their children from entering a seminary. Many people come into our seminaries with very little church experience. They have little religious knowledge.

In some countries where new church movements are very strong, candidates for the priesthood are very modern in their orientation and quite often they come out of an experience of spiritual community or the religious experience of youth groups.

3. The number of late vocations is increasing. Many have been in other studies or have been in other careers. Many people have to learn the language of the Church before they can start to study theology. This leads to an older average age for ordination.

4. The profile of candidates for priesthood has changed considerably. They are children of their own time. The present generation has little to do with the generation of the ’60s. Fewer are committed to social issues. There is a great emphasis on the individual. They are very concerned with their own feelings and fulfillment. They are fearful of making any final decisions about their lives. This is also the case with the decision to marry. They do not have much of a problem with their faith. They are, sometimes, rather fundamentalist in their belief. They have a problem with obedience and Church authority. They are frightened of being overburdened or taken for granted in the future. They have less psychological capacity for taking risks. The trend toward individual self determination and self fulfillment is often in conflict with their wish for community. This is a generation that has a lot of opportunities and this leads them to be very demanding about what they want out of life. Yet, we should not generalize. It would be wrong to write off today’s young people and conclude that we have no good candidates for priesthood. In many cases we are dealing with extremely promising candidates. They know what they want, are self assured, are ready to get involved and commit themselves to the Church, and their sense of piety is very healthy and joyous.

5. The background to this change in the quantity and quality of candidates can be looked at from many points of view.

There is dramatic change happening in western society and, therefore, a sense of insecurity. There is a postmodem pluralism, relativism and a general trend toward individualism. There is a general decline in the quality of institutions and an increasing secularization of public life. There is a public loss of respect for the Church and a negative demographic development. There are fewer children. Priests in the past came from families where there were many children. Now families only have one or two children. There is also some in-church conflict. Many communities are no longer practicing church traditions properly. There is a lack of joy. There is fundamentalism. People are unsure what the priests should be doing. People are questioning the nature of celibacy and the reason for it. Priests get little support from their environment. Yet, in the midst of all this there is still an interest in religious and spiritual issues.

6. Formation within seminaries has tried to keep up with these new developments. The importance of the seminary setting for priestly formation is increasingly recognized. The Tridentine model of seminary exists only in a few cases. There is a new post-Vatican 11 seminary which gives seminarians room for individual determination within the seminary.

There are three elements within the seminary which have become important: human maturity, spiritual life, and theological study toward the goal of working practically and pastorally.

Human maturity, given the profiles of the candidates, necessitates an individual growth path with accompaniment by formators. This takes a lot of time and dialogue.

The need for priests to be practical and pastoral has led to the introduction of a pastoral year before ordination.

One of the dangers in this new way of training priests is an overemphasis on the professionalism of the priesthood. We cannot forget that we are forming people to be spiritual persons, that is, someone working and living in intimate union with Jesus Christ and the Church. We need to pay particular attention to this.

7. Normally the course of study of theology takes five years. In addition to these five years of studying theology there is one or two years of “pastoral seminars.” In most cases the theological teaching is very solid and church-based. The time of great theological arguments and conflict seems to be past. Most candidates for the priesthood today are interested in being very practical and pastoral. In very few cases are they specifically concerned with theological and intellectual issues. The significance of theology for the priesthood has been reduced. Unfortunately, theology today seems to be learned haphazardly and it is very difficult for candidates to acquire a systematic synthesis of their Faith. Thus, we need to make sure that theology and spirituality are more closely linked and coherent.

8. In view of the present situation, the issue of vocation is becoming more and more urgent. Many dioceses are making great efforts. There are opportunities for individual dialogue about vocation. There are vocation weekends and special days. There are sermons and catechetical aids. We are trying to reach the young people and help them discover whether they have a vocation. We have a vocational year with vocational centers. We have information campaigns in youth groups and schools and we have prayer groups for priestly vocations. Christians need to pass on their Christianity as a gift to others and witness to their own personal vocations. We are trying to provide an atmosphere for our young people that is open to vocations.

The crisis that we are facing with vocations reflects a crisis in the Church and in European society. The problem can not be dealt with in isolation. We need to pray, to be more evangelical, and to renew the life of our Church. Renewal is extremely important. We should not be afraid of the freedom of our modem age. We should use this to our advantage. I am convinced that our many efforts will bear fruit someday. We will see the pendulum swinging more toward Pentecost than toward Babylon.


       Personal and Spiritual Formation Program
Assumptions and Objectives

NES has invested heavily in the development of an innovative and integrative Personal and Spiritual Formation curriculum.  Students are exposed to and involved in a variety of classic models of Christian spiritual disciplines throughout the curriculum.  From its inception the fundamental objectives of NES have included the spiritual as well as the academic preparation of candidates for pastoral and lay ministry in Christ’s Church.  Though not limited to this list, the spiritual formation objectives are implemented in the following concrete ways:

  • A spiritual retreat is held at the entry point of each new cohort;
  • An All Seminary Retreat once each year.
  • Each seminarian is assigned to a Faith-Sharing Group that meets every other week during the Core curriculum.  Each group is assigned a trained non-faculty spiritual facilitator who mentors a group of 6-8 students;
  • Textbooks and Scripture study focus on personal and spiritual development during each evening’s course of study in the Core;
  • Monthly chapel programming;
  • Each seminarian prepares a written Personal Growth Contract;
  • Seminarians take two required courses spanning the second year of study covering spiritual and pastoral formation plus other elective courses;
  • Faith-sharing group experiences are incorporated into the field education curriculum during the second and third year of study; and

Personal and Spiritual Formation is an integral part of everything we do at Northeastern Seminary.

Operating Assumptions:  The spiritual formation program curriculum at NES are developed around these basic assumptions (Adapted from Forster Freeman, Readiness for Ministry through Spiritual Direction. The Alban Institute, 1986.):

  • It is God’s desire to be in intimate relationship with each of God’s children.
  • The basis for all Christian life and ministry is the lived experience of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; a nurtured and continuing experience of direct communication with God is of major importance for those who engage in Christian ministry.
  • There are spiritual practices that help a person notice and respond to God’s overtures for relationship.  These include, but are not limited to, contemplative prayer, meditation on Scripture, worship, sacraments, fasting, retreat, interpersonal relationships, and guided reflection on everyday living.
  • Healthy spiritual formation does not automatically occur in the context of a seminary education.  The seminary that takes responsibility for providing appropriate structures for its students’ spiritual development meets their needs more completely and does a better job of accomplishing its own goal of preparing people for Christian ministry.
  • Healthy spiritual formation best occurs in the context of Christian community.

Objectives:  NES seeks to nurture in each of its students an ongoing personal relationship with the triune God that manifests itself in certain specific behaviors or personal characteristics.  While not limited to any given list,  these personal attribute, or characteristic, include (as adapted from Freeman):

In relationship to God:

  1. A personal awareness of being loved by God,
  2. A deepening acceptance and love of God,
  3. A growing confidence in God’s active presence in the world and one’s own life.

In relationship to others:

  1. A deepening acceptance and love of others,
  2. A capacity and propensity for compassion,
  3. A freedom to receive and give love,
  4. Concern for and ability to relate openly with other people, especially in reference to one’s Christian faith and life.

In relationship to one self:

  1. A capacity to allow God the freedom to be God,
  2. A recognition of how the Bible addresses one’s own life and the lives of other persons and groups,
  3. An ability to be in touch with one’s feelings and to identify and express them appropriately,
  4. A creativity, imagination, humor and freedom of spirit, as characteristics of one’s ministerial style,
  5. A sense of confidence and courage in taking stands for convictions, in both religious and secular communities, and even in the face of opposition,
  6. Progress in the development of a disciplined prayer and worship life that provides personal nourishment and ministry with others.

In relationship to the Christian Ministry:

  1. A sense of conviction of one’s call by God to Christian ministry, and a sense of the arena of one’s specific form of ministry,
  2. An ability to hold things loosely and invest oneself passionately.

The educational programs offered by Northeastern Seminary are based on three underlying convictions.

1.    Graduate studies in theology and ministry should be rooted in classical Christian faith.

This includes a commitment to…

  1. a.The primacy and authority of the Bible for Christian faith and practice;
  2. b.The confessional role of the historic creeds in identifying and affirming the essentials of Christian faith;
  3. c.The global study of “the faith once delivered” in its diverse expressions, not only Western and European but also Eastern and African, across generations and in various communities of faith;
  4. d.The value of historical studies in preserving the theological heritage and perpetuating the spiritual resources of the Christian church;
  5. e.The importance of personal and spiritual formation in the preparation for ministry;
  6. f.The modeling of Christian respect for all persons in a diverse community of faith, as part of the seminary experience.


 

2.    Christian ministries in the 21st century must be relevant to contemporary culture.

This includes a concern for…

  1. a.The ongoing, continuous application of biblical, historical, and theological studies to ministry in the 21st century;
  2. b.The importance of personal and spiritual formation in the practice of ministry to a postmodern world;
  3. c.The understanding of Scripture, and its application to the church and society in the 21st century;
  4. d.The development of methods for exegeting and engaging diverse cultural situations of ministry;
  5. e.The participation in seminars on topics of particular relevance to contemporary ministries;
  6. f.The development of professional skills for ministerial and public leadership;
  7. g.The offering of significant opportunities, both in local parishes and also in other social settings, for supervised internship experiences in ministry.

 

3.    Seminary communities will benefit by making creative use of educational methods.

This includes an interest in…

  1. The deployment of a more integrated holistic approach to the traditional core curriculum of seminary studies;
  2. The revival of the classical spiritual disciplines of the Christian church for the personal and pastoral formation of seminarians and ministers;
  3. The creative re-presentation, proclamation, and use of Scripture in contemporary ministry;
  4. The deployment of non-traditional as well as traditional modes of program design and course offerings;
  5. The utilization of multiple patterns of scheduling, in accord with what best fits the course and the convenience of students;
  6. The offering of diverse and expanded opportunities for elective courses intended for ministry enhancement;
  7. The use of technology to enhance and enlarge both the student’s education and professional competence;
  8. The development of competent, godly servant-leaders for the Christian church in the 21st century.

Personal and Spiritual Formation Program
Assumptions and Objectives

NES has invested heavily in the development of an innovative and integrative Personal and Spiritual Formation curriculum.  Students are exposed to and involved in a variety of classic models of Christian spiritual disciplines throughout the curriculum.  From its inception the fundamental objectives of NES have included the spiritual as well as the academic preparation of candidates for pastoral and lay ministry in Christ’s Church.  Though not limited to this list, the spiritual formation objectives are implemented in the following concrete ways:

  • A spiritual retreat is held at the entry point of each new cohort;
  • An All Seminary Retreat once each year.
  • Each seminarian is assigned to a Faith-Sharing Group that meets every other week during the Core curriculum.  Each group is assigned a trained non-faculty spiritual facilitator who mentors a group of 6-8 students;
  • Textbooks and Scripture study focus on personal and spiritual development during each evening’s course of study in the Core;
  • Monthly chapel programming;
  • Each seminarian prepares a written Personal Growth Contract;
  • Seminarians take two required courses spanning the second year of study covering spiritual and pastoral formation plus other elective courses;
  • Faith-sharing group experiences are incorporated into the field education curriculum during the second and third year of study; and

Personal and Spiritual Formation is an integral part of everything we do at Northeastern Seminary.

Operating Assumptions:  The spiritual formation program curriculum at NES are developed around these basic assumptions (Adapted from Forster Freeman, Readiness for Ministry through Spiritual Direction. The Alban Institute, 1986.):

  • It is God’s desire to be in intimate relationship with each of God’s children.
  • The basis for all Christian life and ministry is the lived experience of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; a nurtured and continuing experience of direct communication with God is of major importance for those who engage in Christian ministry.
  • There are spiritual practices that help a person notice and respond to God’s overtures for relationship.  These include, but are not limited to, contemplative prayer, meditation on Scripture, worship, sacraments, fasting, retreat, interpersonal relationships, and guided reflection on everyday living.
  • Healthy spiritual formation does not automatically occur in the context of a seminary education.  The seminary that takes responsibility for providing appropriate structures for its students’ spiritual development meets their needs more completely and does a better job of accomplishing its own goal of preparing people for Christian ministry.
  • Healthy spiritual formation best occurs in the context of Christian community.

Objectives:  NES seeks to nurture in each of its students an ongoing personal relationship with the triune God that manifests itself in certain specific behaviors or personal characteristics.  While not limited to any given list,  these personal attribute, or characteristic, include (as adapted from Freeman):

In relationship to God:

  1. A personal awareness of being loved by God,
  2. A deepening acceptance and love of God,
  3. A growing confidence in God’s active presence in the world and one’s own life.

In relationship to others:

  1. A deepening acceptance and love of others,
  2. A capacity and propensity for compassion,
  3. A freedom to receive and give love,
  4. Concern for and ability to relate openly with other people, especially in reference to one’s Christian faith and life.

In relationship to one self:

  1. A capacity to allow God the freedom to be God,
  2. A recognition of how the Bible addresses one’s own life and the lives of other persons and groups,
  3. An ability to be in touch with one’s feelings and to identify and express them appropriately,
  4. A creativity, imagination, humor and freedom of spirit, as characteristics of one’s ministerial style,
  5. A sense of confidence and courage in taking stands for convictions, in both religious and secular communities, and even in the face of opposition,
  6. Progress in the development of a disciplined prayer and worship life that provides personal nourishment and ministry with others.

In relationship to the Christian Ministry:

  1. A sense of conviction of one’s call by God to Christian ministry, and a sense of the arena of one’s specific form of ministry,
  2. An ability to hold things loosely and invest oneself passionately.

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