The process of formation for the priesthood normally takes six years, during which time the seminarians live in a community of formation built around prayer and study. The spacious buildings and grounds at Oscott provide an environment suited to this, while at the same time being located very near to the city of Birmingham, presenting plenty of opportunities for pastoral experience for those in formation.
In 1992, Pope St John Paul II published a document on seminary formation, entitled Pastores Dabo Vobis (‘I will give you shepherds’). In this document, the Pope defined four areas of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. While each of these are independent ‘dimensions’ of formation, they share the one purpose of forming each man who enters the seminary into a priest, whose heart must be conformed ever more closely to that of Jesus Christ. For more information on these ‘strands’ of formation, click on the relevant titles above.
The intellectual programme comprises two years of formation in philosophy, followed by four years of theology. The first three years of the academic programme are validated by the University of Birmingham as a BA in Fundamental Catholic Theology. In the final three years, the seminarians work towards a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology (STB) from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, within which seminarians in their final year present a 12,000-word paper on a theological subject of their choice.
During their journey towards priesthood, the seminarians receive two lay ministries known as Lector and Acolyte. The first focuses on the ministry of the Word in liturgical reading and catechesis. The second focuses on the ministry of the Eucharist in the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament during the liturgy and in taking Holy Communion to the sick and housebound. Both these ministries prepare a man for a vital aspect of priestly ministry. They are particularly exercised during the fourth year extended pastoral placement in the seminarian’s home diocese
Ordination to the Diaconate takes place in St Mary’s Chapel at the end of the fifth year, and then each man will be ordained priest in his home diocese at the end of the sixth year.
Full details about the guidelines of formation and assessment are
described in the following document, entitled Life at Oscott.