Selecting and forming future priests

Selecting and forming future priests

Michael Gilchrist

Apostolic visitations - arranged by the Vatican Congregation for Education - have been made to almost all the world's seminaries over the past three years. Reports on the visitations were presented at a three-day assembly in February attended by about 30 cardinals and bishops.

During his address to participants, Pope John Paul II pointed out that "the psychological sciences" should be integrated into the framework of a candidate's overall formation, safeguarding the "value of and time dedicated to spiritual guidance."

He emphasised that the formation given in seminaries must be "of the highest level from both an intellectual and spiritual point of view. Candidates must be introduced to the practice of prayer, meditation and personal asceticism."

He continued: "It is especially necessary to nourish the students' joy in their own vocation. Celibacy for the Kingdom of God must be presented as a choice that is eminently favourable to the joyful announcement of the Risen Christ."

The Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, cautioned that the admission of candidates to seminaries should not depend entirely on the judgment of psychologists or psychiatrists. "The challenges of the contemporary world," he said, "call for priests who are more solid in the faith, more united to Christ in prayer, more conscious of the indispensable role they play in the Church, priests who have more courage and more zeal in their pastoral activity."

It is encouraging that the trend in many of Australia's seminaries is already in this direction, while the success of those seminaries and religious houses (see report page 7) that follow these approaches seems a solid vindication of their wisdom and appropriateness.

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