Four Dimensions of Formation

Spiritual Formation

“The spirituality cultivated in the seminary is specifically priestly” (PPF #109) which encourages the seminarians to grow continuously in their personal relationship with Christ and in their ecclesial commitment.


  • The final goal of spiritual formation in the seminary is to establish attitudes, habits, and practices in the spiritual life that will continue after ordination. Spiritual formation in the seminary is meant to set the foundation for a lifetime of priestly ministry and spirituality.


  • The means to attaining an ongoing maturity in the seminarian’s spiritual life include the following: active and consistent participation in the prayer of the Church, especially the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Sacrament of Penance; the annual general retreat and special retreats; monthly days of recollection, intensive spiritual formation experiences; personal prayer, spiritual reading and spiritual direction; participation in the devotional life of the Church, especially eucharistic, Marian and those devotions related to the seasons of the liturgical year; apostolic activity; spiritual conferences and discussions; optional participation in the various prayer groups within the Seminary community; and attempting, with the help of God, to live the Christian virtues and evangelical counsels within as well as outside of the community life of the seminary. (PPF #110).
  • “Since spiritual formation is the core that unifies the life of a priest, it stands at the heart of seminary life and is the center around which all other aspects are integrated.” (PPF #115).


  • The seminary Director of Spiritual Formation and the Spiritual Formation Team are immediately responsible for the planning, implementation and periodic evaluation of the program of Spiritual Formation, accountable to the Rector and in consultation with the entire faculty. The Spiritual Life Committee provides a forum for faculty and students to come together to reflect and offer consultation on issues of spiritual formation. All students and faculty are encouraged to attend meetings of the Spiritual Life Committee. Students with concerns about spiritual formation may approach the Director of Spiritual Formation and other members of the Spiritual Formation Team at any time.

Academic Formation

For a detailed description of all of the academic programs: Master of Arts, the Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry, and the Language and Cultural Studies Program, please consult the current Academic Catalog for detailed policies.

Privacy Information

  • Currently enrolled students may withhold disclosure of any category of information under the Family Educational rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended. To withhold disclosure, written notification must be received in the Academic Office. St. John’s Seminary assumes that failure on the part of any student to request specifically the withholding of categories of “Directory Information” indicates individual approval for disclosure. St. John’s Seminary hereby designates the following categories of student information as public or “Directory Information.” Such information may be disclosed by the institution for any purpose at its discretion.
    1. Category I: Name, address, telephone number, dates of attendance, class
    2. Category II: Previous institution(s) attended, major field of study, degree(s) conferred (including date).
    3. Category III: Date and place of birth
  • Students who are affiliated with a diocese or religious order are asked to sign a consent form, valid for the duration of the enrollment, allowing regular transmittal of grades and evaluation reports to specific diocesan or religious officials.


  • Each enrolled student is issued credentials to access the Seminary’s online course information website via SonisWeb ( The site contains information regarding the courses in which a student is enrolled along with a class schedule. For each course, instructors may post such information as a syllabus, required texts, course reading material, course assignments, etc. At the end of each semester, students may view course grades upon the completion of the evaluations for enrolled courses.


  • Students are responsible for acquiring their own textbooks. Textbook information is available online via SonisWeb for courses to which each student is enrolled for the incoming semester. Seminarians are to contact their diocesan or religious vocation directors for any arrangements regarding textbook allowances that may be available. The seminary faculty commits to keeping overall textbook costs down while being aware of prices for up-to-date and quality scholarly material. Students are responsible for assigned reading material for courses they add to their semester schedules after the initial publication of the enrollments and booklists, and even after the start of the semester, recognizing that textbooks for such courses may have to be ordered only after the courses have been added.

Pastoral Formation

Pastoral Character

  • That a comprehensive pastoral character should mark every aspect of seminary formation is clearly stated in the Second Vatican Council Decree on the Training of Priests (Optatam Totius) [Vatican Council II: The Counciliar and Post Counciliar Documents. Austin Flannery, editor. Decree of Priestly Training, 1975.] and again emphasized in the Program of Priestly Formation [Program of Priestly Formation, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Fifth Edition, 2006. (Hereafter referred to as PPF).]. The Pastoral Formation Program at St. John’s Seminary is rooted in these documents and is designed with attention to the needs and future ministry of the students. These documents make clear that pastoral field education is to be studied as the true and genuine theological discipline that it is: pastoral or practical theology.
  • The Program of Priestly Formation states: “All four pillars of formation are interwoven and go forward concurrently. Still, in a certain sense, pastoral formation is the culmination of the entire formation process.” (PPF #236) Through prayer and theological reflection, pastoral experience is integrated with elements of the human, spiritual and intellectual formation in such a way that they can be put to practical use for others.
  • It is the role of Pastoral Formation to encourage the students to take personal responsibility in conforming themselves after the heart of the Good Shepherd. As a laboratory for learning through practice, pastoral experiences provide opportunities for seminarians to exercise leadership in the Church and to learn the priestly dimension of pastoral ministry. An attitude of pastoral zeal, humble learning, positive effort and openness to receive feedback and learn from the experiences, should characterize each student’s approach to Pastoral Formation.

Theological Reflection

  • Essential to Pastoral Formation is learning and practicing the art of theological reflection, with an aim of forming a life-long habit of prayerful reflection and shared wisdom on ministry experiences. On all levels, through intentional journaling and group Theological Reflection, students experience the value of this discipline.
  • Supervision, theological reflection, and evaluation are necessary components of an effective pastoral program. Although theological reflection can help the development of pastoral skills, its primary purpose is to interpret pastoral experience or activity in light of Scripture, church teaching, personal faith, and pastoral practices. Reflection of this kind should become a lifelong habit in priestly ministry. (PPF #248)

Human Formation

Introduction to the Program of Human Formation

  • The principle task of the Human Formation Program at St. John’s is to prepare candidates for service as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The 5th edition of the Program for Priestly Formation (PPF) states that the Human Formation Program “…seeks to prepare men to be bridges for, not obstacles to, the spread of the Gospel” (PPF #83). A person who aspires to the priesthood must be a man of communion, someone who makes a gift of himself and is able to receive the gift of others. Integrity and self-possession are necessary qualities. Seminary formation, then, seeks to engage the seminarian in a process of self-discovery and personal growth which enables him to develop the capacity to foster “the affective ability to engage in pastoral leadership with Jesus as the model shepherd” (PPF #83).

The Formation and Evaluation Process

  • Once a candidate is admitted to St. John’s, he joins a community of formation which consists of faculty, seminarians, and staff. This community is designed to assist in a holistic integration of the four pillars of formation: intellectual, spiritual, human, and pastoral. Paragraph 76 in the Program of Priestly Formation enumerates ten qualities or characteristics that are essential for those preparing to be “apt instruments of Christ’s grace” (PPF #76). This is achieved by means of a three-fold process of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-gift” (PPF # 80).
  • In order to achieve this goal, seminarians participate in a process of ongoing self-reflection and personal assessment. This formation process has a two-fold purpose. Firstly, the seminary is responsible to the sponsoring bishop and the People of God to render an honest and forthright appraisal of the seminarian’s progress. Secondly, through ongoing consultation and assessment, the seminarian will be assisted in his vocational discernment and readiness for ministry. In some cases this may result in the realization that they are not called to priestly ministry.