Priestly and religious formation is not limited to only one aspect of the human person, but involves a total formation of the individual, heart, mind, body, and soul. As described in the USCCB’s Program of Priestly Formation, the formation of a candidate for the priesthood (and in general to the religious life as well) includes the development of four principle areas: human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral. Each component of formation is essential, and together they work to encourage the candidate to be the best person he can be. Each candidate to be an Oblate of St. Joseph will be formed according to these four “pillars” as well.
Human formation is aimed at developing the human traits necessary to be a good religious and priest. It’s principle focus is to assist a candidate to grow in the wide array of virtues necessary to live the religious life and serve the Church as an Oblate of St. Joseph. It is
Human formation is not easily accomplished, and tends to be presented in a less-than-formal setting. In the community life of Oblate seminarians (at times both enjoyed and endured), ample opportunity is provided to exercise the traits of a “good person,” whether in bearing with patience the defects in others, or in lending an attentive and supportive ear to someone in distress, or in going out with the Fathers for an occasional bite of pizza.
Intellectual formation includes all things relating to the education and intellectual training of candidates called to the priesthood and religious life. In the case of those preparing to be priests, intellectual formation is accomplished chiefly through their studies at college. In the case of those preparing to be brothers, the spectrum can range from college-level studies taken alongside the candidates for priesthood to specialized training in catechesis and religious education. The aim of intellectual formation is to encourage the candidate to train his God given knowledge and intellect to the greatest extent possible, and to learn to expand both his horizons and his abilities.
On the journey toward profession (and ordination), a man’s relationship with God takes on paramount importance, and so spiritual formation is also extraordinarily important. The process of spiritual formation takes place around rather specific activities, but it is also in part the responsibility of the seminarian himself. On the part of the formators, the Oblate community provides its seminarians with opportunities to enrich their spiritual lives through daily Mass, frequent confession, our regular devotions to St. Joseph & Joseph Marello, Eucharistic adoration, our monthly community day of recollection, and, perhaps most concretely in the seminary life, community prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary, as well as communal spiritual reading. In addition to these structured spiritual activities, candidates in formation are expected and encouraged to foster a private prayer life, and the constant availability of a quiet chapel is often seen by seminarians as a great blessing.
As formation continues over the course of years, formators will take notice that a candidate is comfortable at prayer, and that he has frequent recourse to prayer in his day-to-day life. The Oblates recognize that a good religious and a good priest must, first and foremost, have an unshakeable faith and a constant devotion to God.
The area of pastoral formation, meant not only for those who feel called to priesthood, but also for candidates to be brothers, is meant to help the candidate learn how to relate to people in a truly compassionate and Christ-like manner. One of the surprises often encountered by young men is the difficulty they have meeting the demands and expectations of the people they serve, while at the same time fulfilling their role as a student and a candidate in formation. This demand does not become easier upon profession or ordination. Pastoral formation is meant to prepare the candidate for the life and responsibilities he will encounter once he has finished his initial formation. A close involvement with the parish apostolate is the main vehicle for accomplishing this goal. In being given responsibilities at the parishes, such as teaching catechism and directing altar servers, candidates are immersed in an environment of service, and they gain real-life practical experience to help them handle the work that they will one day take on in full-time ministry.