Seminary Formation


Pillars of Priestly Formation

Dedicated to Priestly Formation

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary blends our rich history and solid foundation with new virgor in a priestly formation model designed to help form priests for the 21st century.

The priestly formation model has four pillars:

  • Human Formation: Gain self-knowledge

"The foundation and center of all human formation is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  In his fully developed humanity, he was truly free and with complete freedom gave himself totally for the salvation of the world." (Program of Priestly Formation 74)

Human formation is the necessary foundation of priestly formation.  The priest, in his humanity, is called to be an instrument of Christ and his redemptive gifts.  For this reason, Pastores dabo vobis describes the basic principle of human formation as such: "The human personality of the priest is to be a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the human race."  In his fully developed humanity, the priest brings others to an encounter with Christ.  He imitates Christ as a man of communion.  This means that the priest is called not only to enter into deep relationship with God, but also to communicate this relationship to God's people in the community that he serves.  It is the priest's human personality which allows him, in service to the Church, to share effectively the gifts of Christ with the community he shepherds.

Human formation prepares the priest for a life of celibacy, simplicity of life and obedience.  A proper program of human formation "fosters the growth of a man who is a free person, of solid moral character, prudent and discerning, a man of communion, a good communicator, a man who respects his body, who relates well with others, a good steward of material possessions and a conscientious public person." (Program for Priestly Formation 76)

Human formation also comes together in a particular way in the domain of human sexuality, and this is especially true for those preparing to embrace a life of celibacy.  Saint Francis de Sales Seminary has designed a comprehensive program on celibacy and human sexuality.  This program includes formation sessions on boundary issues, celibacy, chastity, self-knowledge, healthy integration of human sexuality and transparency, as well as a biannual fall workshop on celibacy and in-house and/or external psychological counseling.

  • Spiritual Formation: Grow in your faith

"The basic principle of spiritual formation is contained in Pastores dabo vobis no. 45, and is a synthesis of the teachings in Optatum totius: to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.  This is the foundational call to discipleship and conversion of heart.  Those who aspire to be sent on mission, as the apostles were, must first acquire the listening and learning heart of disciples." (Program of Priestly Formation 107)

Spiritual formation is an essential component of the program of preparation of priesthood candidates.  It works in coordination with the human, academic, pastoral and evaluative components of the formation program to prepare candidates for priestly service.  The spiritual formation program guides and encourages seminarians in the ongoing process of their own transformation in Christ.  Regular and frequent spiritual direction is at the heart of this process.  Seminarians are also provided with various opportunities to develop the capacity for awareness of the holy in the midst of their lives and ministry.  In addition, they are given resources to help them develop a personal prayer life that is meant to lead to an experienced intimacy with Jesus Christ.  Spiritual formation supports the student's commitment to attend more fully, accept more graciously, and respond more lovingly to a unique call to serve God's people.

  • Intellectual Formation: Deepen your understanding of Catholic theology

Study prayer and worship, spirituality, counseling, Scripture, morality, doctrine and Church history at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

  • Pastoral Formation: Build essential skills

Pastoral formation as related to the Program of Priestly Formation at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary provides multiple prayerful, intentionally reflective and trusting environments through which seminarians integrate personal and academic knowledge with the skills and abilities that will be needed in the future to "teach and preach well, to celebrate the sacraments both properly and prayerfully, and to repsond to people's needs as well as to take initiatives in the community." (Program of Priestly Formation 238)

In holding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' norms for the Program of Priestly Formation, pastoral formation goals, including seminarians' own personal formational or ministerial goals, are formulated each semester.  Pastoral formation provides opportunities for seminarians to practice these while ministering within approved and supervised sites, including an assigned Teaching Parish for all four years of theology, a social justice ministry site during second theology, and approved healthcare facilities throughout the United States for Clinical Pastoral Education before third theology.  Each year is accompanied by facilitated theological reflection, both formally and informally.

By its very nature, astoral formation invites risk taking and personal challenge, and therefore provides the support and encouragement at each step of the journey to become a more mature, affective and effective minister.  Theological reflection lies at the heart of pastoral formation.  By reflecting on situations and events in one's personal and parish ministry through a faith perspective that also includes the lenses of scriptural studies, systematic theology, church history, cultural and pastoral studies, and suggested minsterial responses, seminarians grow in self-awareness, confidence, competence and compassion.  They also gain an openness and ability to recognize how God is yet actively and profoundly present within every life experience.  Click here to learn more about our Teaching Parish Program.

Salt of the Earth

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary is dedicated to high-quality priestly formation. Our focus is:

  • Pastoral, weaving all aspects of formation into practical applications that prepare priests for service and leadership.
  • Individual, with one-on-one direction, mentoring and dialogue.
  • Local, forming seminarians within the communities where they will serve.

The Seminary provides human, spiritual and pastoral preparation in accord with our motto, "You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13a). Intellectual formation is carried out in collaboration with Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, through the Master of Divinity degree program

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