Priestly Formation

Stain Glass Ordination Window

The Roman Catholic priest is a man configured to Christ as Head and Shepherd to become “another Christ” and act “in the person of Christ.” The candidates for the priesthood at St. Augustine's Seminary are prepared for this vocation, specifically, to be ministers of God's Word (prophet), ministers of the Eucharist and the Sacraments (priest), and servant-leaders to God's people (king). The Formation Program is a SIX-YEAR (or more) course of study encompassing four elements: intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual formation, and communal life. Any introduction to what St. Augustine's is and seeks to be for its students is best undertaken by considering the Seminary as, at one and the same time, a House of Prayer, a House of Study, and a House of Community Living.

Priestly Formation Program

Admission Procedures

*Note: St. Augustine's Seminary accepts candidates from the U.S.A. and Canada. 

Admission

The candidate for Seminary contacts his Vocation Director or Bishop of the diocese of sponsorship. A candidate will not be reviewed for admission by St. Augustine’s Seminary without being approved by a diocese. Those wishing to pursue their vocation through a religious order will only be admitted to the Seminary after being approved and sponsored by the Order. Each candidate will be evaluated by a professional psychologist selected by the Seminary or by the local Ordinary. This assessment is among many instruments available to help discern the psychological and other factors that can strengthen or hinder a candidate’s vocation to the priesthood.

At all stages of formation men are encouraged (especially in Spiritual Direction and at various Year Group Meetings), to discern their own suitability for priestly ministry so as to make a free and conscious decision regarding their readiness for Holy Orders.

The Roman Catholic priest is a man configured to Christ as Head and Shepherd to become “another Christ” and act “in the person of Christ.” The candidates for the priesthood at St. Augustine's Seminary are prepared for this vocation, specifically, to be ministers of God's Word (prophet), ministers of the Eucharist and the Sacraments (priest), and servant-leaders to God's people (king). The Formation Program is a SIX-YEAR (or more) course of study encompassing four elements: intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual formation, and communal life. Any introduction to what St. Augustine's is and seeks to be for its students is best undertaken by considering the Seminary as, at one and the same time, a House of Prayer, a House of Study, and a House of Community Living.

 

Formation at St Augustine’s Seminary

Stages of Formation

The Seminary follows the Ratio Fundamentalis that envisions priestly formation as a journey in four stages: the Propaedeutic Stage, the Discipleship Stage (Philosophical Studies), the Configuration Stage (Theological Studies) and the Pastoral Stage. For candidates from the Archdiocese of Toronto, these stages are book-ended by two important periods of formation, a Pre-Seminary Phase of formation (that lasts one to two years) and a Post-Seminary Phase of formation (that lasts five years).

Pre-Seminary Phase

Opportunities are provided to help the candidate discern his vocation in the Church.  There is regular contact with the Vocation Director who works closely with a Vocation Council (made up of priests chosen by the Archbishop). When a candidate applies to the Seminary, the Formation Faculty has a degree of confidence that the candidate is ready to begin priestly formation.

Propaedeutic Stage

This stage is focused on the seminarian seeking God’s will, exploring and deepening his faith and his relationship with Christ and reflecting on the vocation to the diocesan priesthood. It is for this reason that this stage at St. Augustine’s is often called the “Spiritual Year”.  Human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of formation in this stage guide the seminarian to grow in self-awareness, become better acquainted with the life of the Church, and develop his leadership skills. At St. Augustine’s, the seminarian enters the Propaedeutic Stage after completing the necessary prerequisites for theological studies, which includes an undergraduate degree and the requisite Vatican requirements for philosophy. In some instances, depending on the background of the seminarian, it has been fruitful for the Propaedeutic Stage to take place before the study of Philosophy. This stage of formation usually lasts one year.

Please contact the Seminary to obtain a detailed prospectus outlining the Spiritual (Propaedeutic) Year program.

Discipleship Stage (Philosophical Studies)

In this stage, the seminarian is strengthened in his discipleship of Christ.  He learns self-awareness and self-acceptance through being more open to the Holy Spirit. The seminarian demonstrates growth in charity, justice and fidelity to Christ and the Church. He is faithful to the horarium and reaches out by sharing his time and talent.  The Discipleship Stage at St. Augustine’s Seminary usually lasts for a period of two to four years depending on the background of the seminarian. The Discipleship Stage is at the Serra House Pre-Theology Residence, located in downtown Toronto. It opened in the fall of 1983 as a house of discernment in 2015, reflecting the new vision for Serra House, it was formally recognized by the Board of Governors as part of St. Augustine’s Seminary. The Director of Philosophy formation oversees the pre-theology in-house formation program. Due to renovation and expansion of the Serra House downtown campus, seminarians reside at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Scarborough campus.

The mission of Serra House is to provide a formative environment as seminarians initiate their first entry undergraduate degree or philosophical preparation for theology. The objective is to help residents grow in the areas of human and spiritual formation. It is a house of prayer and study where seminarians can practice the spirit of fraternity, sacrificial love and joy in community living and parish outreach.

The spiritual formation includes a schedule that allows space for personal meditation as well as common liturgies. The typical day consists of morning Adoration, Mass, Holy Hour with Evening Prayer, and Compline. Bi-weekly spiritual direction is the norm throughout the formational year, as well as periodic meetings with the Formators.

The curriculum of philosophical and theological studies (including Spiritual Year – Propaedeutic) at St. Augustine's Seminary of Toronto corresponds to the specific formation directives of the Holy See, integrated into a plan that includes human, spiritual and pastoral dimensions.

Configuration Stage (Theological Studies)

In this stage, the seminarian enters deeply into the contemplation of Christ the Good Shepherd. His relationship with Christ is intimate and personal and helps him grow in priestly identity. At this stage, the seminarian lives out the theological and cardinal virtues.

First Year:

The seminarian, being aware of himself, is able to identify his strengths and weaknesses and prepares to give of himself to God and the community. He embraces a personal rule of life and is open to feedback and criticism. His prayer life is disciplined and he actively engages in all aspects of community life: prayer, study and community.

Second Year:

The seminarian shows evidence of integrating the four dimensions of formation and takes initiative.  He is actively involved in the life of the community and readily volunteering his time and talents.  The seminarian develops the necessary skills required for the Parish Internship Year.  He possesses a disciplined personal rule of life and is open to all aspects of Seminary formation.

Third Year:

After returning from the Parish Internship Year, the seminarian shows a greater integration of theological courses and pastoral life. Significant growth in prayer and involvement in life of the Seminary community should be evident by this year. The seminarian is able to reflect on his years of formation with his pastoral experience and prepare himself for Sacred Orders.

Fourth Year:

The fourth year of formation brings to completion the requirements of the priestly formation programme at the Seminary. The seminarian/deacon should be ready and willing to “go out of himself” and be committed to a lifetime of service to God and the Church. He should be obedient to his bishop and must be continually formed into the likeness of Christ.

Self-Evaluation

At the end of each year, the seminarian prepares a self-evaluation according to Seminary guidelines. The annual evaluation provides the opportunity for the seminarians to reflect their ongoing discernment and response to the formation process. The seminarian is required to be honest and transparent and may discuss the self-evaluation with his Spiritual Director or Formation Group leader. On the part of the Seminary, it provides the opportunity to discern the motivations and qualities that indicate the presence of a true vocation to the priesthood.

Formation Report

An annual formation report is prepared by the Rector. The report summarizes the self-evaluation of the seminarian and comments from the Evaluation and Discernment Committee, resident and external Faculty and administrative staff (excluding the Director of Spiritual Formation and the Spiritual Director).

Call To Orders

The petition for ordination to the diaconate or priesthood is made through the Rector’s office. However, the seminarian must announce the date for his ordination only after he receives a formal letter from his Ordinary.

Four Dimensions of Formation

St. Augustine's Seminary prepares candidates for the priesthood, to be ministers of God's Word (prophet), ministers of the Eucharist and the Sacraments (priest), and servant-leaders to God's people (king). The Formation Programme encompasses four dimensions of priestly formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.

Human Formation

The aim of human formation at St. Augustine’s is the cultivation of the human qualities that enable the seminarian to become a mature, responsible, balanced person capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities. The seminarian should take an active interest in his own physical health.  Psychologically he is to have a stable personality characterized by self-control, and a well-integrated sexuality. In the moral sphere this is translated into forming a well-trained conscience that promotes the making of right decisions and judgments. Aesthetically the seminarian is encouraged to discover beauty in the arts, music and culture.

The Human Formation Counsellor is a full-time member of the Formation Council responsible for promoting the human formation, growth, maturity and freedom of every candidate, especially in the areas of intimacy, sexuality, and celibacy. This work begins with the co-ordination of the students' psychological assessments at the time of admissions and continues with the availability for individual counseling through the formation process as each seminarian may desire.

Other professional personnel are drawn upon for specialized aspects of the Program, including professional psychologists and counselors outside of the Seminary who are available for personal growth issues for individual students.

 

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