Discovering the Path: The Catholic Propaedeutic Year

1. What is the Propaedeutic Year?
● The Propaedeutic year is a dedicated period of discernment and spiritual formation designed for men considering the priesthood. It serves as a preliminary step before entering the seminary. During this year, participants engage in discernment activities, spiritual formation, along with human and intellectual development. They have the opportunity to explore their vocational calling through prayer, retreats, spiritual direction, and the sacraments. The program also includes academic courses in disciplines of the Catholic Faith to provide a solid foundation before entering seminary. Participants gain practical experience through pastoral ministry and service, and they are supported by a formation community and experienced mentors. The Propaedeutic year at Mater Redemptoris offers a valuable opportunity for individuals to discern their vocation, develop their faith, and prepare for further seminary formation, if called, or to become a well formed man of faith.

2. Discernment and Spiritual Formation:
● Spiritual Foundation is the most important foundation within the Propaedeutic year. A stable and strong prayer life will allow men to hear and discern God’s calling for them within the Church more clearly. This also allows for men, if they discern married or single life, to have a life steeped in prayer and become solid men of God. According to the PPF, “sufficient spiritual thresholds include a person who prays regularly, is active in parish life, participates in the Sunday Eucharist and regularly in the Sacrament of Penance, and is drawn to explore and deepen his spiritual life and share it with other” (PPF 61, B). Within the Journey Program men learn to pray lectio divina, the Liturgy of the Hours, attend daily Mass, observe a Holy Hour, enter into retreat, and have dedicated times set aside for Spiritual reading (PPF 123). In addition, men take a Liturgy course, with liturgist Christopher Carstens, to develop an appreciation for the celebration of the liturgy.

● The Journey Program was a huge blessing in my spiritual growth. It is structured around Mass and adoration, which are the bedrock of any formation. Personally, I grew through bi-monthly spiritual direction, being able to chat with a priest about obstacles and blessings encountered in my prayer life. The silent retreat in the Spring was a highlight where we were able to escape the noise of the world and enter fully into prayer with God. Through the year, I was able to lay the foundation for a well-formed spiritual life so I can continue to strengthen and build it through seminary and beyond.- John Francis

3. Intellectual and Academic Development:
● Over the course of the year, seminarians will be taking a variety of accredited courses within Mater Redemptoris. While academically rigorous, these courses fulfill the PPF guidelines for intellection formation while not exceeding nor becoming a solely academic program. “Sufficient intellectual thresholds include proven capacities for critical thinking, an ability to understand both abstract and practical questions, and the capacity to understand other persons and to communicate effectively with them in both oral and written form” (PPF 61, C). These courses are accredited through Viterbo University, for a fraction of the cost to attend a college seminary propaedeutic year. Courses include:
Catechism and Evangelization (3 credits)
Biblical Foundations I, II (3 Credits)
Foundations in Theological Literature
Liturgy (3 Credits will be recognized if attend Viterbo after program)
● Faculty include:
Andrew Brueggen, MA Catechesis and Evangelization
Chris Carstens (Insert credentials)

4. Pastoral and Human Formation:
● The PPF expresses a desire in “gaining a greater understanding of the local Church and an awareness of the pastoral situations present in one’s ecclesiastical entity” (PPF 121). The propaedeutic stage should also offer an opportunity to develop “the dynamic of self-giving through experiences in the parish setting and charitable works”(Ratio Fundamentalis, no. 59). In the Journey Program our men are matched up with priests in their home parishes, as well as local priests, to navigate the ins and outs of parish life from a pastoral perspective. This also allows for community to begin being fostered if, God-willing, they are assigned to one of these parishes in the future. These weekend immersion opportunities allow for an understanding of the local Church and allow our men to discern where/how they can minister to the Church based on those experiences. “Sufficient pastoral thresholds include having a fundamental sense of the Church’s mission and a generous willingness and enthusiasm to promote it, having a sensitivity to the needs of others and a desire to respond to them, and having a willingness to initiate action for the good of individuals and communities” (PPF 61, D).

● Human formation is vital to the success of the Propaedeutic year. The world tells us what it believes it means to be a man, but that picture of manhood is often inept and incomplete. To be a well-formed man of God, one must be able to root himself in discipline and awareness of himself. He must also be able to “function competently in ordinary human situations without a need for extensive therapeutic or remedial work to be fully functioning, a psychosexual maturity commensurate with chronological age, a genuine empathy that enables the applicant to connect well and personally with others, a demonstrated ability to initiate and sustain friendships, and a capacity for growth or conversion” (PPF 61, A).

● Within the Journey program, we offer professional counseling with Dr. Cassellman, a Catholic psychologist. Dr. Cassellman meets with the men every other week (weekly if needed) to allow for healing and forgiveness of past traumas and insight into their strengths and weaknesses as a beloved son of God. The awareness this counseling provides allows our men to connect with others beyond a superficial level, and enter into relationships with those they serve wholly.

● We also offer weekly formation. Formation nights allow for the men to learn about a topic to help them become a well formed man. Topics include, Ignatian Discernment, Leadership, Fatherhood, Beloved Son of God, Temperaments, etc.

5. Community Life and Support:
● The Journey program is run within the walls of Mater Redemptoris. As stated in the PPF, “It is fitting that the propaedeutic stage be lived in a community distinct from the Major Seminary and, where at all possible, that it should have its own house.”(Ratio Fundamentalis, no. 60.) Men have their own dorm-style bedroom with a private bathroom. The house has a large communal kitchen area, classroom, living room, recreational room, gym, chapel, instrument practice rooms, and more. The house shares a backyard with the Bishop’s Residence and men will often find themselves in candid conversation with the Bishop.

● Community life helps the human dimension bear maximum fruit during the propaedeutic stage (PPF 127). Weekly community nights and In-House weekends offer time of recreation and experiences as brothers. Group activities, outside the realm of class or prayer, allow for the men to learn healthy competition, to learn the passions of others, and to just have fun. Community service elements allow for the men to serve those in the greater La Crosse area in solidarity.
6. Next Steps and Integration:
● Men having gone through the program find themselves prepared for the rigors of seminary life. The transition from the Propaedeutic year to Discipleship stage within the seminary becomes seamless. As the year is dedicated to human and spiritual formation, these men are eager to grow in knowledge of the Lord and his Church, which we know can only stem from an authentic prayer life knowing one’s identity as a beloved son of God.

● For more information on how to join or, if you are a Vocation Director, to send men to the program, please use the QR code provided, or email Fr. Nathaniel Kuhn at