A seminary is the place where men discerning their vocation undertake discernment and formation. Once a man enters the seminary, the decision to be a priest is by no means final. The discernment process continues as he begins preparation for the priesthood, especially in the first few years. Entering the seminary is the optimum environment for a man to grow deeper in his spirituality and earnestly ask God, ‘Is this really what you are calling me to be?’ Men who enter the seminary undergo a process of formation which has four dimensions:
1. Human formation. This helps seminarians to grow into mature, well-balanced men who are capable of relating to all different kinds of people and displaying good personal qualities such as sensitivity, patience, responsibility and organisational skills.
2. Spiritual formation. This guides the seminarian in cultivating a deep personal relationship with the Blessed Trinity and our mother, Mary, through a committed life of prayer, and in interpreting the movements of the Holy Spirit which should guide his decisions. Each seminarian has a spiritual director to help him grow spiritually.
3. Academic formation. This intellectual component involves studying philosophy, theology, scripture and other humanities, which equips seminarians to preach the Gospel, communicate Church teaching, pass on the truth of our faith and evangelise.
4. Pastoral formation. This helps seminarians learn how to be shepherds with the heart of Jesus, with compassion for all people, especially for the most vulnerable, broken and needy. Seminarians gain experience in pastoral work and ministry in different environments such as parishes, hospitals and schools.
This formation takes place normally over a period of seven years. You might think that this seems like a long time! But the formation of priests is a very important task and can’t be rushed. Seminarians experience life in community, working, studying, praying together and sharing meals and leisure time as brothers in Christ. In their free time they might play sports, work out, read, or visit friends and family. The friendships they share with each other are a great source of joy, support and encouragement as they journey towards the priesthood.
Seminarian: Matthew Hodgson A Sydney Seminarian shares his vocation story