Updated Guide Issued for Seminaries, Vocations Programs
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 21, 2022
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced the release of the updated Program of Priestly Formation in the United States of America (PPF). 
The sixth edition of this document, which was promulgated on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 24, is particular law in the Church in the United States and serves as the guide for seminaries and priestly vocations programs that form men for the ministerial priesthood. This document was released in accordance with the Holy See’s 2016 document, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutiones Sacerdotalis. 
For some time now, summaries of main points in the document have been communicated to dioceses. A part of those summaries explains: “There are four stages of initial formation: Propaedeutic, Discipleship, Configuration, and Vocational Synthesis.”
The Propaedeutic Stage, says the summary, is a foundational stage, including human and spiritual dimensions. “This stage allows the seminarian to lay a foundation for a new way of life through prayer, study, fraternity, and appropriate docility to formation,” it says. “Using a gradual approach, it is fitting to begin institutional changes with a focus on this mandatory stage, as it is always the first stage of formation and the first time a man is considered a seminarian. (This stage) must always be lived in community with a team of priest formators. This stage can be housed in the same building as other stages of seminary formation, provided it is a distinct community with its own living area, formators, horarium, scope and sequence.”
This stage should last at least 12 months, but can be extended. Introductory in nature, it focuses on significant times of growth in prayer, trust and fraternity, allowing the seminarian to lay a foundation for a new way of life centered in Christ and in communion with his bishop, presbyterate and local Church.
 The Discipleship Stage lasts at least two years and is a “systematic and rigorous” formation with a core goal of “growing in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the life of meditation, contemplation, philosophical study, and the training of one’s character in Christian virtue.”
The Configuration Stage of preparation has the seminarian modelling his life on “the self-donation of Jesus Christ, Shepherd and Servant.” A seminarian’s relationship with Christ should become more intimate and personal, and he should develop “an awareness and an assumption of priestly identity,” it says. The reception of Candidacy and conferral of the ministries of lector and acolyte occurs in this stage.
Formation for priestly spirituality involves evidence of observable benchmarks, including human formation benchmarks (interiority and self-mastery); spiritual formation benchmarks (internalized spiritual life, vocational permanence); intellectual formation benchmarks (academic integration and fidelity to the Magisterium); and pastoral formation benchmarks (pastoral leadership and docility to authority).
The Vocational Synthesis Stage is the formation time between diaconal and priestly ordinations. It is intended as a time of integration and transition into a seminarian’s diocese or ecclesiastical entity. It is distinct from a “pastoral year.” “Rather than ‘on the job training,’ this stage is living as an ordained minister in a new ontological and existential reality,” the summary says, adding, “the newly ordained deacon should be adjusting to the life of ministry before advancing to priestly ordination and the full weight of priestly responsibilities.” It lasts a minimum of six months.
“The primary formator of the newly ordained deacon during the Vocational Synthesis Stage is now either the pastor of the parish where the deacon is assigned, or someone delegated by the bishop or major superior who serves in their diocese, institute, or society. In this way, the deacon experiences the life of clerical ministry in an environment of openness and dialog with a person who can accompany him personally and directly regarding his ministerial experiences.”
The PPF includes much more than these stages, of course. It sets forth the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood, norms for the admission of candidates, norms for the formation of candidates and norms for the governance and administration of seminaries. 


Shop Religious items at HOLYART.COM