THRUST OF PRIESTLY FORMATION
St. Joseph's Regional Seminary prepares future pastors and missionaries, who are rooted in Christian faith and tradition and are able to bear witness to and proclaim that faith in the context of India, especially that of U.P., Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. What is that context? It is one of teeming population, massive poverty and illiteracy, a plurality of vibrant religions and diversity of cultures. It is also one of political uncertainty, rise of virulent religious fundamentalism, deep-rooted caste consciousness and the consequent degradation and exploitation of the underprivileged. Globalization, liberalization and consumerism make the situation of the poor more and more precarious as the gulf between the rich and poor increase day by day. It is mainly an agrarian society that we confront – a society that is steeped in obscurantism and superstitious practices. Yet traditional values and social systems are giving way to foreign values and mores because of the massive expansion of the means of mass communication. It is this context, which defies definition that the future pastors and missionaries will have to meet and deal with. Obviously they must receive a training that is adequate to the task. It must be forward looking and responsive to the signs of the times. Yesterday's answers are no longer valid for today's questions.
Insisting on the necessity of adequate human formation for the future priests, Pope John Paul II writes in PastoresDaboVobis: “The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation…. Future priests should therefore cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper concern for due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry” (43).
In a similar vein, the Charter of Priestly Formation for India says: “To be Christ-like the seminarian will strive to be fully human: a leader of people, gentle, kind, open and ready to listen, cheerful and patient, honest and true to his word, a man of respect, sincerity and courage, constantly concerned for truth and justice, unafraid to take decisions and persevering in carrying them out” (3.2.1.a).
Basing on this foundation, during his formative years, the seminarian learns to know, accept and respect himself with all his strengths and weakness, develops a positive self-image which enables him to face the challenges of life with self-confidence and without self-pity, discouragement or resentment. Besides emotional maturity, acceptance of others, listening and communication, leadership, responsibility and self-reliance are stressed so that the seminarian forms himself to be fully human as his Master. Two of the factors that are emphasized to foster human formation are community life, where love, understanding, acceptance and mutual concern prevail, and staff-student relationship on an adult-to-adult basis. To foster human formation, the seminary gives the required importance to discipline in life, asceticism and silence. Opportunities are provided and care is taken to see that they grow in these areas. They are counseled to grow in virtues like honesty, punctuality and cleanliness. Five days a week they have manual work and six days a week they have games. In order to foster sensitivity and concern for others, the students are encouraged to respond to situations like natural calamities, and they do respond by contributing a share of their pocket money and/or rendering manual labor.
In order to foster a sense of social responsibility, the representatives of students are elected to various departments involved in the smooth running of the Seminary. They have enough freedom and opportunity to show initiative, creativity, planning capacity and sense of responsibility. Likewise, organizing apostolic activities, conducting cultural programs, helping out in parish activities and interaction with the people of all walks of life during their weekend ministry in slums, hospitals, parishes and educational institutions enable them to grow in creativity and responsibility.
Interclass activities, meetings, picnics, birthday celebrations and other growth-promoting activities enable them to live and work with others despite personal differences and conflicts. Seminars and courses on self-awareness and integral growth, community building, sex education, male–female psychology, holistic health and pastoral psychology help the students to grow in self-knowledge and to attain emotional maturity as well as to function as good pastors in the future.
"For every priest his spiritual formation is the core which unites and gives life to his being a priest and his acting as a priest” (PastoresDaboVobis, 45).
“Spiritual formation should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Those who are to take on the likeness of Christ the Priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their lives. They should live his Paschal Mystery in such a way that they will know how to initiate into it the people committed to their charge. They should be taught to seek Christ in faithful meditation on the word of God and in the active participation in the sacred myssteries of the Church, specially the Eucharist and Divine Office, to seek him in the Bishop by whom they are sent and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, little children, the weak, sinners and unbelievers. With the confidence of sons they should love and reverence the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was given as a mother to the disciples by Jesus as he was dying on the Cross” (OptatamTotius, 8).
Spiritual formation, which is inseparably linked to pastoral formation, is aimed at guiding the students step by step to an ever increasing union with God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit (OptatamTotius, 8) so that they truly represent Christ. On the curriculum of the Seminary there are both theoretical and practical subjects, such as, Spiritual Theology, Indian Christian Spirituality, Christian Ashram Experience, Neuro Linguistic Program, Enneagram, Group Dynamics and Community Building with solid spiritual content and atmosphere that specifically serve the purpose of spiritual formation.
Keeping in mind the three great values of fundamental importance, namely, “a faithful meditation on the Word of God”, “active participation in the Church's holy mysteries”, and, “the service of charity to the little ones”, the students are urged to read the Holy Bible and meditate on the Word of God before the Holy Mass daily. Meditations are conducted even in smaller groups and efforts are made to learn Indian methods of prayer without, however, compromising the Christian faith. Steps are taken to celebrate the Holy Eucharist creatively and meaningfully so that “afterwards they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration” (PDV, 48). Further, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Sundays, exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesdays, Holy Hour on First Fridays and the daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament are conducted to instill in them the yearning to contemplate the Christ present in the Eucharist. Celebration of the Divine Office, celebration of Feasts, devotion to the Mother Mary and Way of the Cross with added devotion enable the students to be in touch with Christ. Daily examination of conscience, monthly recollections and penitential services, monthly spiritual conferences and frequent personal spiritual direction enable the students to cultivate within them the very heart and mind of Christ, the Sacrament of God.
Underlying the need for what it calls “an extremely rigorous intellectual formation” for candidates to priesthood, PastoresDaboVobis states, “If we expect every Christian…to be prepared to make a defense of the faith and to account for the hope that is in us, then all the more should candidates for the priesthood and priests have diligent care for the quality of their intellectual formation in their education and pastoral activity”. The present situation of the world “strongly demands a high level of intellectual formation, such as will enable the priests to proclaim… the challenges of the Gospel of Christ and to make it credible to the legitimate demands of human reason” (PDV, 51).
Emphasizing the relevance of intellectual formation, the students are exhorted to have a good command of English and Hindi, and a good grounding in philosophy so that they have a right appreciation and correct understanding of theology. Moreover, to be able to spot intellectual errors in whatever garb they appear, the seminarians are required to strike a right balance between faith and reason.
In order to plunge into the task of evangelization, it is necessary that the seminarians are equipped with study of Theology and Scripture so that they are able to impart religious and spiritual instruction to people. It means the ability to articulate one's faith derived from the Word of God, tradition and the teaching office of the Church in the context of the realities in which one works and witnesses. The intellectual formation is based on the study of the sacred doctrine of theology. A special emphasis is given to the study of Holy Scripture; a special note is taken of the challenges Moral Theology faces, and, also the study of Canon Law which will enable the students to deal with the ordinary ecclesiastic legal issues in the course of their priestly ministry.
Positively responding to the present day issues, besides courses on modern-day concerns like feminist theology, contextualized socio-political theology, ecumenism & dialogue, theology of religions, Dalit issues, social analysis, the seminarians are introduced to various disciplines and experiences like ashram life to complement the stress on the need of inculturation which springs from a respect for the cultural heritage of our people and from Church's insistent call for the need for evangelizing cultures.
Pastoral and Missionary Formation
“The whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd. Hence, they should be trained for the ministry of the word so that they may gain an ever increasing understanding of the revealed word of God, making it their own by meditation, and giving it expression in their speech and in their lives. They should be trained for the ministry of worship and sanctification, so that by prayer and the celebration of the sacred liturgical function they may carry on the work of salvation through Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. They should be trained to undertake the ministry of the shepherd that they know how to represent Christ to humanity” (OptatamTotius, 4).
Pastoral formation at St. Joseph's Regional Seminary forms an integral part of priestly formation together with pastoral ministry. Pastoral Theology brings about a deeper understanding of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation and pastoral practice gives them a practical experience of actualizing that sacrament in reality. Its aim is to obtain a realistic experience of what a seminarian will be expected to do when he is ordained a priest. The Catechetics and Homiletics enable them to proclaim and teach Christian faith in such a way that the faithful are nourished by the word of God and to build up Christian communities rooted in faith. Besides, the seminarians are trained to realize that they are sent not only to Christians but also to every human being living in the territory.
The Church being essentially missionary, and its presence being a minute entity in this region, the ministers are trained in a way that creates in them a deep concern for witnessing to and proclaiming the Gospel to people who have never heard of Christ and his message of salvation. In this context, the proclamation of the Good News in a dialogical, ecumenical, inter-religious and inculturatedmode, is the most practical one. In order to cultivate these traits, courses on missiology, inculturation, Indian Church History and missionary activities in India, together with the study of Indian traditions and missionary concerns, prepare the seminarians to understand and adopt missionary methods that are practical.