Path to Priesthood-Stages of Priestly Formation
The steps or stages of formation have changed in their titles to then reflect the focus of formation. The first stage in the process is called the Propaedeutic Stage. This is just a fancy term for a preparation year. We have been doing this stage for the last 6 years in our Journey program. It is a chance for men to enter into a small community to deepen their relationship with Christ, to strengthen the basics and foundations of Church teaching, and provide an opportunity for men to enter into a more serious time of discernment without the rigors and pressures of an academic year. The Journey program will continue with some minor adjustments following the instructions from the PPF. The biggest adjustment will be the length of time for the program going from an academic year to a full 12-month program. We are very proud of the program that our diocese has and continue to have a great response from men from our diocese as well as the support of other dioceses.
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The second stage in the formation process is now called the Discipleship Stage. This is what has previously been referred to College seminary or pre-theology. This stage, as the title suggests, focuses on the intentional formation of the men as disciples of Christ. It looks to pair learning in areas of philosophy and an introduction to theology with virtue and formation as a man of character. During this stage, the men will complete their philosophy requirements and if needed, their bachelor’s degree.
The third stage is called the Configuration Stage. This is the stage where there is a shift from philosophy and the human sciences to Theology and a focus on the mysteries of God and teachings of the Church. It is more immediate preparation for ordination ad the men seek to more closely configure themselves after Christ, who is the Good Shepherd and the Servant of all. It is during this period that the men take the step of commitment towards their goal of ordination (Rite of Candidacy) as well as the liturgical steps in preparation to be priests (conferral of ministries of Lector and Acolyte). The completion of this stage marks the completion of formal theological study in the seminary.
The final stage of seminary formation is called Vocational Synthesis. It is meant to be a time marked with putting into practice the lessons and study that they have completed into formal ministry. As a deacon, they will be assigned to a parish and will get a first-hand look and real experience of what priestly ministry is all about in one’s diocese. Whereas in the seminary, you have men from many different parts of the country and sometimes the world, this provides the men who are to be ordained to take part in serving God’s people where they will most likely spend the rest of their priestly ministry. This stage is marked by a deepening care for souls and dedication to serving God and His people.