House Life

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 of God's people (king). The Formation Program is a six year course of study encompassing academics, field education, communal life, and spiritual formation. Any introduction to what St. Augustine's Seminary 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. 

Seminarians admitted to St Augustine’s Seminary will receive formation in the following dimensions of formation: spiritual, human, intellectual and pastoral.


House of Prayer 


The Seminary does not hesitate to give prayer the first place in its Program of formation. Only in the raising of our minds and hearts to God in prayer can we advance in the life to which the Lord calls us. We cannot grow in intimacy with Jesus, we cannot know how to represent Jesus Christ and His teachings to the Church and to the world, unless we are growing union with Jesus through prayer.

There is another reason, existential if you will, why prayer is deliberately and consistently placed first in Seminary life. Given human nature, especially in our ever faster and more secular society, where efficiency and utility are the measure of life, spending time with God in prayer has become much more of a struggle. The seminarian, as a graduate student in a renowned university, might feel, like the busy priest, must be counter-cultural and have at the root of his person that friendship with Christ that expresses itself with interior dialogue in prayer and make prayer his first priority each day.

Prayer is twofold, public and personal. Both are crucial. Public prayer finds expression in the Liturgy of the Church, namely the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. The liturgy has always been the Church's major opportunity for forming and educating the people of God.  That is true in a parish, where for most people the only common experience of faith is the gathering for the Eucharist on Sundays and feasts. It is true in great monasteries; it was true in the Church of the Martyrs; and it is true even under fierce persecution, where people take huge risks to meet secretly and celebrate the liturgy. Above all, it is true in a Seminary where future priests are learning to foster communal worship in parishes, primarily through the representation of the sacrifice of Calvary in the Eucharist. The most crucial formative experience for a seminarian comes about in his commitment to the communal worship in the Church's liturgy at the Seminary. Thus, the celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of Seminary spiritual life and formation. It is the central act of divine worship of the Mystical Body and the source of spiritual nourishment for Christian life. Association with Jesus' Paschal sacrifice lies at the heart of priestly ministry and life. The community and each member of the community are called to foster an intense Eucharistic spirituality, which includes Eucharistic adoration.

Priests, deacons and religious are committed to celebrate daily the Liturgy of the Hours as ministers who praise and give thanks with Jesus and who intercede before the Father for the great needs of the Church and the world. The Seminary celebrates a portion of that liturgy in common every day.

Then there is individual personal, not a communal act but a community priority. The celebration of the Eucharist and of the Liturgy of the Hours will become a deeper experience for those who are faithful to private prayer.

The Director of Spiritual Formation coordinates the overall Spiritual Program for the candidates. He ensures seminarians, the availability of personal spiritual direction, selects appropriate topics to the formation needs of the class year groups, invites guest speakers to address the Seminary community and arranges retreats and retreat directors.

Chapel

The Spiritual Formation Program works in co-ordination with the academic, experiential and evaluative components of the total formation Program in preparing candidates for priestly service among the people of God. The Program's specific purpose is to foster the human and spiritual maturity of the candidates as they grow in relationship with and imitation of the person of Jesus Christ through daily encounter with Him. Without this deeper encounter, the seminarians run the risk of external routine and busyness without interior conversion and intimacy. Thus, seminarians are to see their lives as a daily, free response to the animating presence of the Holy Spirit who unites to the Risen Christ. This is a gradual and life-long journey of discernment, one that is encouraged and promoted in various ways during the six years of training in the Seminary Formation Program. It is the Holy Spirit who calls, forms, and transforms the seminarians in our care. Nevertheless, the formation faculty has the

responsibility in a human way for the training and formation of the seminarians by providing the context, climate, structures, and opportunities for them to do their part in disposing themselves and responding to God's grace through all the activities, situations, events, and persons that they encounter each day.

More Specific Goals

The Spiritual Formation Program focuses its efforts on developing the religious identity of the candidate within the understanding of the priest as one who grows in his commitment to become:

  • a friend and disciple of Christ, even more, another Christ
  • a proclaimer of God’s word and teacher of God's people
  • a servant of and shepherd within the faith community
  • a presider over the celebration of the Church's sacramental life
  • a prophet of God's justice in the world.

As these are all dimensions of the same person, the Program attempts to guide the candidates through an exploration of the human and spiritual foundations necessary for fulfilling such personal and ministerial commitments.

Spiritual Formation Resources

The following are the resources of the St. Augustine’s Seminary Spiritual Formation Program through the year:

Spiritual Direction

Spiritual direction offers the seminarians a primary relationship with a priest-director through which he can discern his priestly vocation, reflect upon his growing relationship with the Lord Jesus and his people, and assess the various ways he is responding to the Holy Spirit in personal prayer, communal liturgy, common living, academic progress and life experience. The seminarian is expected to meet with his spiritual director, chosen at the start of the year, every two weeks. In any given year, there are several priests of the Formation Council, including the Director of Spiritual Formation, who exercise the ministry of spiritual direction for the students.

Spiritual Orientation Days

The opening weekend Recollection of the Seminary year in early September for all seminarians is entitled "Spiritual Orientation Days." The purpose of the weekend is to re-orient the returning students once again into Seminary life after the summer period, and to include the new first-year candidates. This is accomplished by a series of four spiritual/pastoral conferences and three homilies based on a central theme and given by the Director of Spiritual Formation and other spiritual directors. After each presentation, the seminarians engage in personal reflection. Each year a new theme is chosen from a papal or bishops' conference theme or document, spiritual book or article, or other area with a focus on priestly formation and spirituality to give direction to the presentations.

Wednesday Community Evening

The most important aspect of the Spiritual Formation Program throughout the year is the Wednesday Community Day each week. The Wednesday program begins after lunch with an afternoon program from 2:30 to 4 p.m. (in the event of a schedule conflict, 7 p.m.), followed by a more solemn celebration of the Eucharist, then a formal supper served by seminarians. The afternoon programs involve a rotation among three separate exercises:

  1. Accompaniment Groups

       The Seminary community is divided into accompaniment groups consisting of a formator and seminarians.  The groups are constituted by the Rector.  The groups meet weekly on Thursdays for the celebration of the Eucharist and Evening Prayer, and monthly on a Wednesday for an evening program of Lectio Divina and a discussion on spiritual themes.

  2. Year Groups

    Approximately once per month, the seminarians gather in their particular class or year, first to fourth and, depending on numbers, the philosophy year as well. They meet with a faculty member or external speaker who facilitates participation and discussion on a scheduled topic for one hour. This meeting is preceded by the Rector's Colloquium, which is a half-hour gathering of the entire Seminary community for a presentation on a spiritual or communal theme.

  3. House Meeting

A guest speaker or panel from outside the Seminary is invited to address the entire community on a subject of various dimensions of priestly formation, or about a ministry in which they are engaged.

Days of Recollection and Retreat

During the Seminary year, two Recollection Weekends are scheduled, one in the fall semester and the second in the spring. The second Recollection, in the spring, takes place at the beginning of Lent to assist us to prepare for the Easter Triduum. Both are led by a director who guides the community in prayer and reflection through conferences and meditation. The Seminary year also opens with a Recollection Weekend, with conferences given by priest faculty.

At the end of the formation year, during the last week of April, the Seminary conducts its annual retreat. A retreat director is engaged to lead the philosophy, first, second, and third-year seminarians and parish interns, in a guided retreat at the Seminary (total silence, two conferences a day, and daily interview with their spiritual director). The fourth-year seminarians are asked to make their own directed retreat arrangements: in the summer in preparation for their ordination to the diaconate, and again in the second term in preparation for their ordination to the priesthood. All of these retreats are meant to be directed, five full days in length, and conducted in silence.

Daily Spiritual Life

The daily spiritual program expected of all seminarians consists of the following: devout participation at the daily Eucharist; prayerful chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours; a minimum of 30 minutes of personal prayer based especially on Scripture (Lectio Divina or Ignatian form); and the practice of the daily Examen Prayer. Beyond these daily essentials, spiritual reading (10-15 minutes daily) and one’s personal devotional life, (e.g., to the Sacred Heart and to Mary), are vital in the life of the seminarians. Frequent and regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is encouraged, and regular opportunities are provided to the community.

Devotions

The following devotions are part of the Seminary life and calendar, though attendance is up to the individual. Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament takes place on weekdays (except Thursdays) throughout the year. The Way of the Cross is conducted on Fridays of Lent. The Rosary is prayed communally each evening, and seminarians are earnestly encouraged to adopt the practice of reciting daily Rosaries.

Although this section describes the many aspects of the Priestly Spiritual Formation Program at St. Augustine's Seminary under a variety of headings, it would be incomplete if the overall goal of integration were not emphasized. Although a seminarian may be engaged daily in a variety of spiritual, academic and communal activities, with many different people, these experiences must be seen in their inter-relationships an integrated whole guided by the Holy Spirit and by the individual seminarian who takes ownership in docile faith response.

HUMAN DIMENSION

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.

INTELLECTUAL DIMENSION
A House of Study

Theology has been described as fides quaerens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding”.  The study of theology has many values, but the seminarian should see it primarily as a further opportunity to know and appreciate the presence of God's Word and self-communication in his life. To this intensely personal need for theology must be added the pastoral need of the priest who is called to form and govern the priestly people of God. The priest's role of service, of being a "man for others," is also one of teaching God's Word which the priest must make his own by meditation, along with serious study begun in the Seminary and continued throughout his ministry. The personal need for study and the pastoral need may be distinct, but they cannot be separated for this reason: the priest as teacher can lead men and women to Christ only insofar as his whole life is in union with the mind and heart of the Lord. Our house, then, is a house of study, the kind of study that is never far from prayer.

PASTORAL/COMMUNITARIAN DIMENSION
A House of Community Living

Seminarian Room

It is not uncommon to hear expressions of gratitude from seminarians for the sense of fraternity, support and affirmation that comes from the Seminary community. Though very often the spirit of fraternity is the most attractive thing about the Seminary, let us also acknowledge that community life is as demanding as prayer and study.

St. Augustine's community is enriched by the important factors of the priest-faculty themselves forming part of the community and of the seminarians coming from many different Canadian dioceses.

We must acknowledge that the Seminary is not merely a theological students' residence. Community life is an integral and essential component of priestly formation. Our house as a house of Christian community is irreplaceable in fostering the qualities of sacrificial love, mature obedience, celibate chastity and pastoral poverty.

Seminary Formation demands that, for the five years of Seminary residence and for the one year of parish internship, the seminarian give of himself generously in all circumstances to the Seminary community.

A House of Pastoral Outreach

St. Augustine’s Seminary encourages its students to participate pastorally in their local church and community on their own. However, to formalize the pastoral formation of each student, a field education program has been designed. In addition to the field education placement, the ordination candidates must complete a parish internship year.


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