The formation program at St Charles’ Seminary which is overseen by the Archbishop, conforms with the requests by the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference in their Ratio Nationalis, and closely follows the requirements contained in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis. The following are the four main areas of seminary formation:
1. Human Formation
The physical and psychological health of future priests is important and accordingly all seminarians are encouraged to pay attention to their health, dietary intake and physical fitness.
Future priests should cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realisation of self, but also with a view to their ministry (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 43).
The Seminary encourages a balanced and harmonious lifestyle through physical well-being, which should be reflected in all areas of formation.
Ecclesial community life requires an attitude of self-sacrifice for the common good of the community as witnessed in the paschal mystery of Christ.
At the same time, recognising that seminarians come to the Seminary from varied backgrounds and with individual temperaments and talents, community life strives to nurture the personal growth of the individual and develop his God-given gifts.
2. Spiritual Formation
Pastores Dabo Vobis reminds us that, ‘human formation… finds its completion in spiritual formation…(which) should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.’ (PDV 45)
Given that spiritual formation is the core which unifies and vivifies the life and actions of a priest, it is also at the core of the Seminary formation program, and calls seminarians to search for and to live intimately united with Jesus Christ (PDV 46). This is achieved through ‘a faithful meditation on the Word of God, active participation in the Church’s holy mysteries and the service of charity to the little “ones”.’ (PDV 46)
Community Prayer and Spiritual Life
The spiritual formation of the seminarian takes place not only within the formal spiritual exercises of the Seminary formation program, but more importantly in living one’s faith within the Seminary community. Seminarians are therefore called to willingly and actively participate in the spiritual formation program of the Seminary in respect to spiritual conferences and study, attendance at all community liturgical celebrations – (Lectio Divina), personal prayer and meditation.
3. Pastoral Formation
The mission and mandate of St Charles’ Seminary is to prepare priests for the diocesan priesthood. The formation program of the seminary has a fundamentally pastoral orientation which seeks to form seminarians into ‘true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Teacher, Priest and Shepherd’. (PDV57).
Seminarians are trained in the ministry of the Word, the ministry of worship and sanctification, and the ministry of the Shepherd. Pastoral formation is in itself a theological discipline in which the theological theory is put into practical use.
Pastoral formation not only embraces competence in pastoral competence and practical skills but also a reflective component in which the seminarian is encouraged to see his pastoral ministry as a ‘communion with the very sentiments and behaviour of Christ the Good Shepherd’. (PDV 57)
A seminarian might be asked to undertake a pastoral assignment in Australia or abroad for a duration of time. Read here for a seminarian’s experience in the jungles of Borneo.
4. Intellectual Formation
Within the recommended synthesis of formation (human, intellectual, spiritual, pastoral), the Seminary aims to produce priests who are able to teach the faith of the Catholic Church and be spiritual guides for the people entrusted to their care, who are well formed in the pastoral ministry of the Church, and who can take responsibility for their own ongoing formation.
The Seminary aims to provide students with an opportunity to develop a systematic and synthetic vision of the Christian mystery, through a program of intellectual formation in the essential themes of Catholic faith and Christian life.
Academic studies are overseen by the Rector and the Dean of Studies, and are completed at The University of Notre Dame Australia in Fremantle and internally at the seminary.