The Aim of Pastoral Formation
To offer an integrated experience of Christian ministry which gradually focuses on the ministry appropriate to the ordained. It is designed to enable students to experience a wide range of pastoral situations and to encourage reflection on that experience in the light of their developing theological understanding and personal growth.
After ordination to the diaconate, the new deacons spend six weeks on a summer placement in the home dioceses before returning to seminary to complete their final year of formation as priests. They are then required to exercise their ministry as deacons within the seminary community and when they return to their summer placement. This enables them to be involved in the preparation and celebration of the Triduum in a parish before their ordination to the priesthood.
Throughout their time in seminary, students are allocated to pastoral placements alongside their other studies. Depending on their previous pastoral experiences, they are given placements that will broaden and develop their pastoral skills. These usually take place one afternoon or evening a week in the local area either doing general parish work or in specific ministries working with the youth, the elderly, RCIA, schools, hospitals and prisons etc. Each student is required to keep a Pastoral Journal in preparation for theological reflection in seminars and tutorials.
Each month, there is an open day on a Sunday where parishes groups and other visitors learn from students about seminary life and the history and mission of the college. The visitors then get the opportunity to pray with the seminary community at Sung Evening Prayer. There are also other visits throughout the year such as the North Staffs Football Competition and the large annual gathering for the Solemn Commemoration of the Faithful Departed of the College Cemetery. Then, after the exams, for a fortnight in June, the college opens it’s doors each day to 90 Year-6 children. The students lead the children in small groups through a variety of activities finishing with Mass in the main chapel. All these projects are ideal opportunities to evangelize, catechise and promote vocations.
At the beginning of the fourth year of his studies, each student spends 5 months in a parish in his own diocese. After the placement he is required to write a 3000 word assignment demonstrating theological reflection (theory and insight) on the nature and mission of the parish within contemporary culture. This placement also gives plenty of opportunity for him and the seminary to discern if he is called to secular priesthood. On his return to seminary, he begins his preparation to apply for candidacy which marks the final phase in his formation before ordination to the diaconate.
Each student undertakes a full-time placement in his home diocese in January. There are plenty of opportunities for students to experience at this time of year because so many parish activities are in operation, such as First Communion and Baptism preparation programmes. As soon as the students return to the seminary, there is ample opportunity for theological reflection in seminars and tutorials. In this way, the experience of the placement can be easily integrated with the rest of the student’s formation.