"Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19) and "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world."
An Apostolic Exhortaion On The Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day
The formation of men for the priesthood has been the primary mission of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception since its foundation 72 years ago. In full harmony with the directives of the Holy Father and the Apostolic See, candidates for the priesthood are formed according to the mind of Christ who is Shepherd and Head of the Church, and as such, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception sees as its first responsibility the task of providing an integrated program that fosters the attitudes and skills necessary for effective priestly ministry. Candidates from the Dioceses of Rockville Centre, Brooklyn, and Charlotte, as well as the Eastern Province of the Congregation for the Mission, pursue their studies in an environment that harmonizes the mutual interplay of human growth, spirituality, theology, and pastoral practice. Through academic courses, formation conferences, spiritual direction, and field education experiences, each seminarian draws closer to the person and mission of Christ, on whose behalf he will be empowered to act sacramentally as an ordained minister. In essence, each seminarian is trained in developing a healthy and well-balanced rhythm of life, which must be carried on into ordained ministry.
Preparation for ordained ministry thrives in an environment that values the uniqueness of the vocation to the sacramental priesthood, which differs from the common priesthood "in essence and not only in degree" (LG 10). Yet that same environment can also be enriched when it draws on and aids in developing the gifts of religious and laity who desire to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic tradition and their living of the Christian life in the world. For more than 25 years, in the same spirit of Vatican II, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception has prepared men and women, both religious and lay, to assume various leadership and educational roles within the local Church. Far from being detrimental to priestly identity and training, the coordination of lay and religious formation programs has consistently provided candidates for the priesthood with necessary opportunities to interact with fellow Catholics, many of whom bring to theological discussion the fundamental realities of family life, secular professions, and lay involvement in liturgy and worship.
In all, the Program for Priestly Formation is a five-year program that includes a pastoral year "internship" (which takes place between the seminarian's second and third year of theology). In the course of the five-year program, seminarians learn to integrate the spiritual, intellectual, pastoral, and liturgical aspects of life appropriate and central for Christian ministers. Regular interaction with spiritual directors, counselors, and formation advisors are aimed at monitoring the seminarian's growth in these areas, and evaluations are conducted regularly.
The Program for Priestly Formation addresses and examines the seminarian's growth and development in these four specific areas: