Why do we train future priests in seminary?
Before the 16th century, the training of priests was uncontrolled and highly dependent on the local bishop, cathedrals, monasteries and places of learning. By the 16th century, the way of training priests in some countries had become a major concern for the Church.
Responding to the Reformation, the Fathers of the Ecumenical Council of Trent legislated on priestly formation. Well-trained priests had to be a priority if the Church was to face up to the challenges of the day and beyond. The seminary system became widespread and over the years adopted what still remains the traditional combination of three years of Philosophy and three of Theology, or close variants.
Since then much has changed. The Industrial Revolution and more recent technological development have had a significant influence on our lifestyles and attitudes, which, in turn, have affected our spiritual and human outlook on life. There is so much “noise” in our daily lives and the seminary system works hard to help seminarians tune into the call of the Lord.
The Propaedeutic year provides a healthy formation atmosphere where a call to priesthood can then be heard all the clearer before committing oneself to the demands of the full seminary programme.
Pastoral work and work with the poor is central to the diocesan priesthood. The Propaedeutic stage aims to promote this, especially in a one-month “Pastoral Placement”, working with the poor and disadvantaged.
An important and underpinning aspect of the year is human formation based on an initial assessment of each student.
Individual, personal and group work will be part of the development programme. The purpose is to enable the student to mould his personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ.