What does ‘Propaedeutic’ mean?
The word “Propaedeutic” comes from the Greek Propaideúo and means, “to teach beforehand”.
What is Propaedeutic formation?
Propaideúo, ‘to teach beforehand.’
“The principal objective consists in laying the foundations of the spiritual life and for facilitating a greater self-awareness through personal growth.”
– Ratio Fundamenaltis, No 58
The Propaedeutic stage prepares each individual candidate for the priesthood for the journey ahead. It gives them time and space to develop a grounded spiritual life and helps them to prepare for the prolonged study that the formation journey demands.
The year-long programme recognises that candidates for the priesthood today come from many different backgrounds and all have unique circumstances. As a result, the formation process takes nothing for granted. The programme helps students develop a solid, missionary vision for the priesthood and understanding of the Catholic Church.
At the end of the Propaedeutic stage a candidate should be aware of the challenges that lie ahead and well prepared to give himself fully to his formation for a life of ministry within the Universal Church.
The Propaedeutic stage is the indispensable period of intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral formation of candidates for the priesthood. These are vital areas of growth in developing the skills necessary to enable seminarians to look towards the next stage of formation with greater personal self-awareness and honesty.
It gives the student an opportunity to explore the faith, so that when they move on to the next seminary phase, where the academic element is substantial, this challenge will seem less daunting as they will have constructed more solid foundations.
What does the church say about Propaedeutic formation?
“It is a good thing that there be a period of human, Christian, intellectual and spiritual preparation for the candidates to the major seminary. These candidates should, however, have certain qualities: a right intention, a sufficient degree of human maturity, a sufficiently broad knowledge of the doctrine of the faith, some introduction into the methods of prayer and behaviour in conformity with Christian tradition. They should also have attitudes proper to their regions, through which they can express their effort to find God and the faith.”
– Pastores Dabo Vobis, 62
Since the promulgation of Pope St John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis in 1992, several countries have developed a Propaedeutic stage as an indispensable phase of formation with its own specific character. This time is an ideal opportunity to acquire an initial overall familiarity with Christian doctrine and develop the dynamic of self-giving in the parish setting.
The experience of recent decades has revealed the need to dedicate a period of time to preparation of an introductory nature, in view of the priestly formation to follow. This period is not ordinarily to be less than one year or more than two.
It is fitting that the Propaedeutic stage is lived in a community setting distinct from the major seminary and that it should have its own house with its own formators to provide a solid human and Christian formation and a careful selection of candidates for further studies.