Summer Program for Spiritual Formation for Diocesan Seminarians
The Program for Priestly Formation, 5th edition, no. 111 states, “The development of sound and lasting habits and attitudes in the spiritual life is a challenging process. Intensive spiritual formation experiences, for example, a Spirituality Year Program, a thirty-day retreat, a summer program, etc., are valuable means for facilitating this process and should be considered for possible inclusion and integration into the seminary program.”
In response to the US Bishops and The Program for Priestly Formation’s call for a more intense period of formation for priesthood candidates, the Institute for Priestly Formation has created a summer program of spiritual formation for diocesan seminarians.
The beauty of a novitiate is that it anchors a man in the particular history and personal charism of his religious order, while at the same time providing a space for intentional spiritual formation. The 10-week program serves as a novitiate of sorts, helping seminarians fall deeply in love with God while at the same time steeping them in the unique spirituality of diocesan priesthood. IPF has the only summer program in the United States dedicated to such a purpose.
The summer program is rooted in the Tradition of the Church and the many facets of spiritual formation:
Seminarians learn how to pray.
“the students must be taught to pray. They must accept the fact that at first this will be arduous and sometimes disappointing. There should be no fear of issuing rules, of humbly adopting a method, and of putting the method into practice.” (Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis)
Seminarians experience God personally, in a transformational way.
“It is necessary to guide seminarians to a personal experience of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI, September 2008) “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 1)
Seminarians grow in the unique identity and spirituality of diocesan priesthood.
“The spirituality cultivated in the seminary is specifically priestly. … They also aspire to become priests who are configured to Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church, our great high Priest. Therefore, their spirituality draws them into the priestly, self-sacrificial path of Jesus. … He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep … He is the bridegroom who loves his bride, the Church” (Pastores dabo vobis, no. 109)
Seminarians grow in the understanding and integration of chastity and celibacy.
“Since the charism of celibacy, even when it is genuine and has proved itself, leaves man’s affections and his instinctive impulses intact, candidates to the priesthood need an affective maturity which is prudent, able to renounce anything that is a threat to it, vigilant over both body and spirit, and capable of esteem and respect in interpersonal relationships between men and women.” (Pastores dabo vobis, no. 44)
Seminarians grow in affective maturity.
“The human formation of candidates for the priesthood aims to prepare them to be apt instruments of Christ’s grace. It does so by fostering the growth of a man who can be described in these ways: A person of affective maturity: someone whose life of feelings is in balance and integrated into thought and values; in other words, a man of feelings who is not driven by them but freely lives his life enriched by them” (Program for Priestly Formation, 5th edition, no. 76)
Seminarians are equipped with the tools for discernment.
“The human formation of candidates for the priesthood aims to prepare them to be apt instruments of Christ’s grace. It does so by fostering the growth of a man who can be described in these ways: A prudent and discerning man” (Program for Priestly Formation, 5th edition, no. 76)
Seminarians learn to become contemplatives even while in action.
“Pastoral study and action direct one to an inner source, which the work of formation will take care to guard and make good use of: This is the ever-deeper communion with the pastoral charity of Jesus, which …. should constitute the principle driving force of the priestly ministry. It is a question of a type of formation meant not only to ensure practical skill, but also and especially a way of being in communion with the very sentiments and behavior of Christ … And so pastoral formation certainly cannot be reduced to a mere apprenticeship.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, nos. 57-58)