St. Mary's Seminary » Pastoral Formation

Pastoral Formation

The program of pastoral formation is organized to develop within each seminarian the ability and heart 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 to take initiatives in the community that holy leadership requires.” (PPF #238) The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has written:

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. (As One Who Serves, Chapter III)


A carefully designed and supervised active pastoral involvement is an integral part of the total program 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. This preparatory program provides many practical experiences that form the basis of a seminarian’s future ministry. With these experiences, the field education program will:

  • 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 a priest ministers;
    • alert a seminarian 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 a seminarian to become a collaborative leader by working in a shared ministry.


Each seminarian will participate in programs that are designed to assist him in becoming a competent and effective leader in ministry.

  • First Theology & Pre-Theology

    During First Theology and in Pre-Theology each seminarian participates in experiences of working with the poor and helpless in our society. For example these experiences could be working with a shelter providing food for the homeless or working with the undocumented.
  • Spanish Immersion Summer

    During the summer after First Theology, many seminarians take the opportunity to learn Spanish in an intensive program in a Spanish-speaking country or area of the US. Recently we have had seminarians study Spanish in Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia.
  • Second Theology

    During Second Theology, each seminarian teaches the faith in a parish setting. Working with our Field Education Director the seminarian has the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of possible programs. Catechetical programs include RCIA, sacramental preparation, youth catechesis, adult education, and programs teaching in both English and Spanish.
  • CPE Summer

    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 a seminarian’s home diocese after he has completed Second Theology.
  • Pastoral Year

    The Pastoral Year is a one-year program of supervised ministry in a parish which normally takes place for students between the second and third years of academic studies at St. Mary’s Seminary.
  • Third Theology

    During Third Theology each seminarian has the opportunity to work in an organized social service ministry. This ministry offers opportunities for work in disadvantaged areas with marginalized groups: immigrants, migrants, refugees, the sick, the aged, abused women, adult and juvenile prisoners and the poor.
  • Fourth Theology

    Most of our seminarians are ordained deacons before Fourth Theology, and their ministry during the Fourth Year is as a deacon in a parish.

The various programs utilized during the academic year, the pastoral year and summer parish assignments on the parish level introduce the seminarian to the experience of working with all who share responsibility for parish ministry. The seminarian learns to appreciate and participate in the shared responsibility and cooperative effort that builds up the parish community. As a result, he comes to appreciate his own leadership role in relationship to those with whom he will collaborate in ministry.


In field education the seminarian experiences challenges to develop his talents and skills effectively.

Field education requirements include the following:

  1. meeting with a member of the field education personnel to discuss options for placement;
  2. meeting with the on-site supervisor to write a Learning Agreement that states the mutual expectations and commitments;
  3. being responsible and accountable to the assigned ministry by participating in the program for the entire academic year and fulfilling all requirements;
  4. having your pastoral experiences evaluated twice a year;
  5. engaging in theological reflection; and
  6. being mutually supportive of co-ministers.

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.