Dimensions of Formation
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The most recent version of Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis calls for the personal and communal accompaniment of each seminarian through the various stages of the formation process. The opportunity for personal and communal accompaniment has been a long-standing hallmark of the formation program at Theological College, which is inspired by the Sulpician tradition of priestly formation. That tradition, which began in 1645 with the founder of the Sulpician Fathers, Rev. Jean-Jacques Olier, emphasizes the importance of a balanced formation program. At Theological College, each seminarian meets twice a month with his spiritual director and his formation advisor. These relationships inform all four dimensions of the formation process.
Spiritual direction, also known as the internal forum, focuses primarily on the seminarian’s experience of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, his vocational discernment, the practice of the Liturgy of Hours, devotion to Mary, experiences of silence and solitude, and the cultivation of an interior disposition of contemplative availability to God’s action in his life. The spiritual direction relationship is a completely confidential relationship, allowing the directee to speak with freedom and confidence.
Formation advising is an external forum relationship in which the seminarian is accompanied by a formation advisor through the entire process of formation. In formation advising, the seminarian and advisor discuss issues related to the seminarian’s growing self-knowledge and affective maturity, his capacity for relationships, his ability to handle conflict, his emerging leadership skills, discernment of his vocation, and, in third and fourth theology, the promises made to the bishop at ordination. For those dealing with problematic issues in their background or family, formation advisors offer discrete and vigilant help through referrals for psychological counseling and other resources. Each formation advisor accompanies the seminarian with the support and guidance of the formation faculty and the rector as well as the sponsoring diocese.
Following in the Sulpician tradition, Theological College treats each seminarian as an adult who is an agent in his own formation. Every new seminarian meets with Theological College faculty members to choose the best personal match for each of these pivotal relationships in his life at the seminary. For spiritual direction, he may also choose from a list of area priests who have been approved by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington.