Frequently Asked Questions

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Here is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about the Institute for Priestly Formation. To learn more, simply click on a question or scroll down.

What is the Institute for Priestly Formation?

A Public Association of the Faithful, the Institute was founded to assist bishops in the spiritual formation of diocesan seminarians and priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The Institute operates as a Nebraska not-for-profit, responding to the need to foster spiritual formation as the integrating and governing principle of all aspects of priestly formation. Inspired by the biblical-evangelical spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, this spiritual formation has as its goal helping priests and seminarians live in intimate and unceasing union with God. In carrying out its mission, the Institute directly serves diocesan seminarians and priests as well as those who are responsible for diocesan priestly formation.

How did the Institute develop?

In 1992 Father John Horn, S.J., a Jesuit of the Maryland Province, directed Father Richard Gabuzda, a diocesan priest from Scranton, Pennsylvania and Kathy Kanavy, a consecrated laywoman, in a 30-day retreat (the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola). From seeds planted in their hearts through this retreat experience, the idea for a program for diocesan seminarians and priests began to emerge. The three discussed concepts and solicited assistance from Father George Aschenbrenner, S.J., who has written extensively on Ignatian spirituality. These individuals became the Institute’s four founders.

When did the Institute for Priestly Formation begin and why?

The Institute was founded in 1994. Its initial summer program for seminarians, in existence since 1995, began in response to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the 1990 World Synod of Bishops’ call for a more intense period of formation for priesthood candidates. Unlike religious communities, the formation of diocesan priests does not include a “novitiate” experience, time set apart from regular studies which is meant to focus on learning how to pray and to concentrate on the particular characteristics of priestly identity and spirituality. The summer program intends to supply that needed focus. Following that initial program, IPF began offering additional programs for priests as well as those responsible for all aspects of priestly formation (bishops, vocation directors, seminary faculty, etc.).

Where do the seminarians attending the summer session come from?

The seminarians who attend the summer program hail from all over the United States as well as from various foreign countries. Approximately 80% of US dioceses have entrusted seminarians to our summer program. The typical participant has finished his philosophy prerequisite and enters theological study following his summer at IPF. He is typically ordained a priest four years after he attends the summer program.

What is the significance of IPF being designated a “Public Association of the Faithful”?

A “public association of the faithful” is an officially recognized body in the Roman Catholic Church, which receives a Church mission to achieve the purposes of its “charism” (the gift which the Holy Spirit has given to it). IPF received this conferral in March 2008. By this confirmation, the Institute receives worldwide recognition as an official entity of the Roman Catholic Church.

Because associations of the faithful have a common purpose congruent with the mission of the Church, only the local bishop, the Holy See or the Bishops’ Conference have the authority to establish a public association. The Archbishop of Omaha established IPF as a Public Association of the Faithful so that it may carry on its mission to assist bishops in the spiritual formation of diocesan seminarians and priests.

How does the IPF logo illustrate the heart of the mission?

The founding graces of the IPF charism are represented in the Institute’s logo:

  • The blue M. Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, teaches that the most fruitful activity of the human person is to be able to receive God.
  • The dove, gold cross and gold beams. In her Annunciation, Mary’s active receptivity of the Holy Spirit permits Jesus and His saving activity to enter the world, expressed especially in his cross, which radiates the glory of the Father. By way of her “yes,” Divine Love became incarnate in time. Now, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, all have access to the intimate love of the Trinity.
  • Participation in this Trinitarian love is our salvation. Christ wills that we all come to share in the knowledge that He possesses of the Father’s great love, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). By surrendering in faith to the Father’s love for us and leaving sin behind, we can come to share in the intimacy Christ has with the Father as His adopted sons and daughters. This faith, however, cannot remain inert or simply a comforting idea; it carries the power to awaken each heart to live a dynamic interior life. Christ told us that He came to bring us life and life abundant! (John 10:10). This awakening of the heart is ours to know, if we look to Mary.  She is our teacher in how to receive God within, our teacher in how to live the abundant life of Trinitarian love.

Why is Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patroness of IPF?

Our Lady of Guadalupe serves as a patroness of IPF because her traditional image, based on her appearance to Saint Juan Diego, depicts her as a woman with child.  This puts us in mind of the event of the Annunciation when Mary consented to be the mother of God and when she “conceived by the Holy Spirit.”  All of IPF’s programs teach seminarians and priests how to receive the Holy Spirit in imitation of Mary.

Who may share in IPF’s mission and spirituality? Does the Laity have a role?

IPF welcomes the laity to join us in our mission. There are three primary ways you can get involved.

  • Prayer. Each summer, we ask for Spiritual Moms/Spiritual Dads to adopt a seminarian, priest, or faculty member that they pray for throughout our summer programs. These prayers create a “dome of grace” which has led to amazing transformations for our program participants. For those who pray during the rest of the year, the Institute deeply desires to surround itself with an army of intercessors. Join us in prayer! Click here if you would like to learn more about how women may help as spiritual moms. Click here if you would like to learn more about how men may help as spiritual dads.
  • Volunteer. If you have a special gift or a special heart that desires to give to the mission of IPF, we would love your help. If you are close to our offices in Omaha, you can volunteer an hour or two of your time assisting our year-round office staff. If you feel called to volunteer but do not live close to our offices, you can assist with special projects. Let us know if God is calling you to serve your future priests! Click here to learn more.
  • Donate. IPF is a self-sustaining entity that finances its programs and staff from tuition and fees for its programs, private philanthropy, foundation grants, and the generous support of the laity. Like so many education entities, IPF cannot cover all the expenses of its ministry though tuition and fees. Your donations help to keep our programs running and let us know how important our mission of solid spiritual formation of priests and seminarians is for the laity. We need your help. Click here to learn more.

Is IPF part of the Archdiocese of Omaha?

The Institute for Priestly Formation is a separately incorporated entity organized under the laws of the State of Nebraska. Although, as a Public Association of the Faithful, it is under the guidance of the local Archbishop, it receives no financial support from nor does it have financial obligations to the Archdiocese of Omaha.

Do Vatican officials know about IPF?

The Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican department that oversees seminaries and priestly formation, is aware of the Institute’s existence and activities. The Congregation Secretary visited with IPF staff members during his visit to Creighton University in 2007. A team, sponsored by the Congregation, conducted an “apostolic visitation” when it visited all U.S. Seminaries in 2006.

How does IPF fund its programs?

IPF is a self-sustaining entity that finances its programs and staff from tuition and fees for its programs, private philanthropy, foundation grants, and the generous support of the laity.

What programs compare to IPF?

IPF is a one-of-a-kind organization in the United States. IPF is the only institute focusing on spiritual formation of diocesan seminarians and priests. Omaha is our international headquarters.

Where does IPF operate?

The founders located the Institute in Omaha, Nebraska because of the city’s rich Catholic traditions. Though it is not part of Creighton University, the Institute’s administrative offices are located on the Creighton campus. Since the beginning, the University has hosted the summer seminarian program. In addition, Creighton allows the Institute to use its facilities for the summer programs and provides temporary office space. Participants in the summer seminarian program receive nine academic credits from Creighton University.

The Institute has plans which call for an eventual move to the Saint Cecilia Cathedral campus and will continue its vibrant relationship with Creighton. In an ongoing agreement, the Creighton campus will host the summer seminarian and other programs and will provide certain logistical support to the Institute, including its residence halls, classrooms, dining facilities, and Saint John’s Church. Both IPF and Creighton intend to maintain a long-term relationship. However, the current office space at Creighton is temporary. IPF is in need of larger, permanent space and, under the Creighton master plan, there is not sufficient space to construct the Center.

IPF’s new building, the Center for Priestly Spirituality, will allow IPF programs to grow and provide a venue for programs during the academic year when the Creighton campus is congested.

What programs does IPF offer in addition to the Summer program for Diocesan Seminarians?

  • Spiritual Exercises – The Identity of the Diocesan Priesthood Deepened Through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola: The full Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola is offered in the traditional 30-day retreat format in light of the Institute’s charism to serve and strengthen the identity of the diocesan priest. Diocesan seminarians, priests, and bishops participate in this program.
  • Seminar for Seminary Theologians: This annual academic conference invites workshop participants to ponder and respond to the call of the church to integrate spirituality and academic theology, as well as other points of integration; human and spiritual formation; psychology and spiritual formation; spiritual direction and theology.
  • Seminar for Seminary Spiritual Directors: This three-week seminar provides new and experienced spiritual directors with an opportunity to grow in their experience and understanding of the art of spiritual direction as practiced in a seminary setting.
  • Training Program in Spiritual Direction: The diocesan priests who participate in this program gain theoretical and practical instruction in the art of spiritual direction within a context which promotes the spirituality and identity of diocesan priesthood. This three-year program takes place on the campus of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary (suburban Chicago).
  • Retreat for Seminary Theologians: This retreat leads those who teach in seminaries into a greater appreciation of their vital vocation and assists them in recovering the spiritual core of seminary academics and drawing it out for seminarians to contemplate and then articulate.
  • Symposium on the Integration of Human and Spiritual Formation: Held in February 2015, the symposium will be an opportunity to share the result of dialogue between seminary formators around the topic of integration between human and spiritual formation.  The dialogue will be shared with the broader community of bishops, rectors, mentors/formation advisors, faculty, psychologists, vocation directors and others associated with priestly formation.