The purpose of pastoral formation is to prepare you for the priesthood. Thus, the program is organized to develop within you the guidelines of a “true shepherd of souls.” This development “calls for the priest’s personal commitment to develop the knowledge and skills to teach and preach well, to celebrate the sacraments both properly and prayerfully, and to respond to people’s needs as well as take initiative in the community that holy leadership requires.” (PPF #238) The document of the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled As One Who Serves states:
“Ministry is the task and responsibility of all baptized members, and not the sole possession of one part of the Church. The reality, the tensions, and the opportunities of the “one and many,” operate also in the mystery of the Church and her life and mission. The Church expresses its one ministry in a multiplicity of ministries. In that context, a primary responsibility of the priest is to call forth leadership from that community. The priest encourages, enables, and supports the laity in offering their gifts or charisms in service to others.” (Chapter III, p. 34, “Relationship with Laity”)
A carefully designed and supervised active pastoral involvement is an integral part of the total program here at St. Mary’s Seminary. Field education consists of a combination of the ministerial, academic, and spiritual aspects of formation through the diverse ministries that the apostolate requires. Let these experiences help prepare you for the duties of your vocation.
This preparatory program provides many practical experiences that form the basis of your future ministry. For example, the field education program will:
PROGRAMS IN FIELD EDUCATION AND PASTORAL FORMATION
- afford opportunities to test your vocation within the context of the actual pastoral mission of the Church;
- assist to establish a rhythm of life that provides an appropriate balance of service, study, exercise, and leisure;
- help to develop a heightened awareness of the diverse nationalities and cultures to whom you will minister;
- alert you to the social justice issues that challenge the Church today;
- enhance an ecumenical consciousness and sensitivity;
- develop the habit of theological reflection in combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience;
- prepare you to become a collaborative leader by working in a shared ministry.
Specifically, you will participate in the following programs which are designed to assist you in becoming a competent and effective leader in ministry.
Work with the Poor
During First Theology, seminarians will participate in experiences of working with the poor.
Spanish Immersion Program
During the summer after First Theology, seminarians in dialogue with their Vocation Director will choose to live in a Latin American country for 6-10 weeks in order to learn Spanish and experience the Latin American culture.
During Second Theology, seminarians are asked to work with diverse age groups in a parish setting. Programs in this area include RCIA, sacramental programs, youth catechesis, adult education, and other related activities.
Clinical Pastoral Education
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in a hospital setting is an important experience in gaining pastoral identity and competence. Usually, this program takes place during the summer in a CPE center in your home diocese.
Pastoral Year is a one-year program of supervised ministry in a parish which normally takes place for seminarians after the second year of academic studies at St. Mary’s Seminary. A diocese has the option to decide whether it will participate in the Pastoral Year. “In a parish internship experience, the seminarian draws on the experience before him in the parish and asks how his human, spiritual, and intellectual formation makes a difference." (PPF, no. 239)
During third theology, social justice ministry offers opportunities for work in disadvantaged areas with marginalized groups—immigrants, migrants, refugees, the sick, the aged, abused women, and the poor.
Seminarians who complete the third year of theology are ordained to the diaconate by their Bishop, in their home diocese at the end of the academic year in May or June. During the academic year of fourth theology, the deacons minister in parishes two weekends in the month.
The various programs utilized during the year, the pastoral year and summer parish assignments on the parish level introduce seminarians to the experience of working with all who share responsibility for parish ministry. Students learn to appreciate and participate in the shared responsibility and cooperative effort that builds up the parish community. As a result, you will come to appreciate your own leadership role in relationship to those with whom you will collaborate in ministry.
The liturgical life of the Seminary will enable you to participate in fulfilling various ministerial roles such as reader, acolyte, and server. You will be expected to participate in the liturgical preparations which lend significance to the seminary community.
The Master of Ceremonies will be responsible for scheduling the various liturgical ministers. He will likewise be responsible, with the guidance of the Director of Liturgy, for the training of seminarians who will be involved with ceremonies for various liturgical celebrations which occur, both in the Seminary and in the larger diocesan church.
Several times in a semester you are to participate in preparations for Sunday and daily liturgies of the Eucharist and of the Hours.
Practice and study of the various rites and liturgies are incorporated into each year of theology to prepare you to celebrate prayerfully and to minister effectively. (See Ministries, Candidacy and Orders)
The Seminary recommends continued summer studies in New Orleans and in San Antonio for further cross-cultural experiences. (See Cultural Formation)
* Credit given through School of Theology
REQUIREMENTS, COMMITMENT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
In field education, you will meet new programs which will present challenges to develop your talents and skills effectively.
Field education requirements include the following:
- meeting with a member of the field education personnel to discuss options for placement;
- meeting with the onsite supervisor to write a Learning Agreement that states the mutual expectations and commitments;
- being responsible and accountable to the assigned ministry by participating in the program for the entire academic year and fulfilling all requirements;
- having your pastoral experiences evaluated twice a year;
- engaging in theological reflection;
- being mutually supportive of co-ministers; and
- attend Virtus Program.
The actual hours of involvement and commitment at the parish or agency will vary according to each program.
The director of the program in collaboration with the Rector of the Seminary and the Dean of the Graduate School will approve your placement selection, whether in parishes, agencies, or institutions.
In field education ministry, seminarians receive no fees nor stipends. In some instances however a parish may be asked to assist with travel expenses you may incur.