All growth whether human or spiritual, takes place with others in community. A diocesan priest is very much involved with a community, especially in parish settings. A priest’s spirituality develops and grows from the experience of being part of the parish community and through his ministry to his brothers and sisters in the parish. A diocesan priest must cherish being in a community and being for a community.
Fundamental to continued growth toward priesthood, and later as a priest, is the experience of being an active and integrated member of the seminary community and thus being accountable to others. Jesus called his disciples together as a community prior to sending them to bring the Good News to others. During that time they experienced a deep communion with Jesus and with one another as fellow disciples in him. During the years of seminary formation the seminarian is co-responsible with all the members of St. Mary’s Seminary to build this common bond based on a lived experience of the Word and the presence of Christ in the midst of his disciples.
This communal formation in Christ, together with contacts in field education and with others outside the seminary community, will prepare the seminarian to be an integral part of the local presbyterate. With the numerous ministries that are developing in parish communities, the seminarian develops the ability to collaborate with others and to bring all the ministries into an experience of communion.
Days of Recollection
At least two Days of Recollection are offered during each semester. These days are of utmost importance since they allow time to remove ourselves from the normal activities of the semester and to concentrate on our prayer life with the Lord. An individual needing a private Day of Recollection should contact his Spiritual Director for permission and to work out the details.
An annual retreat is offered each year. Seminarians in Pre-Theology through the Pastoral Year make a directed retreat led by a renowned, experienced director in January. This retreat may be on the seminary grounds in a time of Grand Silence, or at a selected retreat center. The seminary spiritual directors have designed a specific retreat for the seminarians who will be ordained to the diaconate at the end of Third Theology. This retreat fulfills the canonical requirements for the retreat to be completed before being ordained a deacon. Seminary deacons who will be ordained to the priesthood at the end of Fourth Theology make plans for their own canonical retreat.
Pastoral Spirituality Institute
Those seminarians on Pastoral Year conclude the Pastoral Year program in May with a Pastoral Spirituality Institute at a retreat center. The purpose of this Institute is to give time for the seminarians to reflect on their experiences both of C.P.E. and of parish life. Opportunity is also provided to share these experiences in a prayerful, relaxed community setting with fellow seminarians and spiritual directors. The Institute also helps the seminarians as a transition for their return to seminary life to complete their formation and theological studies.
The Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Nebraska
The Institute for Priestly Formation is strongly recommended to each diocese for their seminarians. This 10week program can be taken either before beginning theological studies or in one of the summer sessions. Our seminarians and young alumni priests consistently report about the spiritual benefits they have received from the content and experience of this program.
Devotion to Mary
The Second Vatican Council spoke of Mary as Disciple and Mother and Model. Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards Him, and, at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission (Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, March 22, 1986). Through a close relationship with Mary one experiences her maternal love and finds in her the model of Christian life for sanctification and daily exercise of priestly ministry. Developing a love for and a devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is integral to growth as a Christian and formation as a priest.
The Angelus throughout the year and the Regina Coeli during Easter season are recited daily before supper. Feast Days of Mary are celebrated, especially the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as patroness of the United States and Our Lady of Guadalupe as patroness of the Americas and the Philippines. Other celebrations include veneration of Mary under different titles, for example Our Lady of Lavang by the Vietnamese community. Praying the Rosary is strongly encouraged as part of the daily schedule for individual or small group prayer; and once a week the Rosary is prayed as a community in St. Mary’s Chapel.
Other Forms of Devotion
Spiritual reading, journaling and personal devotions are encouraged as important and helpful for personal spiritual growth. Different forms of prayer such as Taizé evening prayer, charismatic prayer of praise and worship, chaplet of the Divine Mercy are encouraged for use by individuals, groups and the community. During Lent the Seminary Deacons lead the community every Friday in the Stations of the Cross.