Formation Programme at Vianney
Vianney College adopts the four stages of
initial formation as outlined in the Ratio
Fundamentalis (RF) and applies
the programme as follows:
Stage 1. The Propaedeutic Stage
lasting 1-2 years, with emphasis on spiritual and human rather than academic
Stage 2. The Stage of
Philosophical Studies (2 years) during which the seminarian concentrates on
becoming a disciple of Christ.
Stage 3. The Stage of
Theological Studies (4 years), a time for the seminarian, having reached moral
certainty concerning his call to the priesthood, allows himself to become more
closely configured to Christ. Candidacy, lector and acolyte mark progress
though this stage.
Stage 4. Pastoral Stage (6
months or more) which involves a synthesis of what has gone beforehand and an
application to the practical pastoral situation.
Note: the times shown above could be lengthened and there
could be some further formation interposed between the stages.
This programme attempts to follow the
guidelines set out in The Gift of the
Priestly Vocation, the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis,
(referred to in this document as RF)
issued by the Congregation for the Clergy in 2016, which, in turn, develops the
Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis
of Saint John Paul II issued in 1992.
Before a student
is accepted in Vianney College it will be necessary that he undergo a
preliminary vocational discernment by a vocation director or another suitable
person appointed by the Bishop or Religious Superior of the diocese or
community for which he is to be formed. This discernment may include a
psychological test, if it is thought advisable. (A psychological test is done
by each student in his first months at Vianney College if it has not already
been done.) Vianney College is responsible for what is known as “Initial
Formation” in its four stages:
Stage 1. The Propaedeutic Stage.
The purpose of this stage is to “provide a solid basis for the
spiritual life and to nurture a greater self-awareness for personal growth”(RF 59). This is achieved by a programme
which helps the seminarian to practice personal prayer, to understand and
participate in the Liturgy, to become familiar with the word of God and with
Christian doctrine as outlined in the Catechism
of the Catholic Church. It will also lay the necessary foundations for
discernment in the later stages.
In this stage
steps will be taken to make up for anything that is missing in the seminarian’s
general education. This usually includes some study of English, an overview of
Christian Culture and History and the study of Latin. However this stage of
formation is considered entirely distinct from philosophical studies.
formation programme of the Propaedeutic stage has also been found useful as a
means of acculturation for seminarians newly arrived in Australia, even though
they may have commenced seminary formation elsewhere.
The students in
the propaedeutic stage are directed by a Propaedeutic Formator, appointed by
the Bishop. The Propaedeutic Formator works with the Seminary Rector and other
Formators to achieve the goals of this stage of formation. Together with the
students in the Propaedeutic Stage he strives to form a distinct community
within the larger seminary body. He helps the students under his care to learn
the art of community life and leads them to some initial experiences in the
parish setting and in charitable works. He also plays a major part in helping
to discern the suitability and readiness of each student to move to the
subsequent stages of initial formation.
Stage of Formation lasts at least one year and no more than two years. (RF 59)
Stage Two. The Stage of Philosophical Studies (or
At Vianney College, at present, this
period lasts typically for two years. The focus of academic studies is
exclusively on philosophy and related subjects. However, these studies form an
integral part of the formation of the seminarian as a Disciple of Christ,
helping the seminarian mature towards a definitive decision to follow the Lord
in the ministerial priesthood.
The study of
Philosophy at this stage of priestly formation is governed by the Code of Canon Law (c.250), the Ratio Fundamentalis (RF 66) and the Ratio Nationalis. The study of
philosophy at Vianney College is also regulated and monitored by the
requirements of the Pontifical Urbaniana University with which Vianney College
is affiliated. Although at this stage Vianney College cannot offer a degree in
Philosophy, these studies are a requirement for the Bachelor of Theology
degree, granted by the Urbaniana University through Vianney College.
period the seminarian will experience some apostolic work, in conformity with
his level of formation. There will normally
be several hours each week devoted to a task, under supervision. Before he
starts this period of formation (i.e. at the end of the propaedeutic period)
and again at the end of the first year of Philosophical studies, the student
will be allotted to a parish by the bishop, where, during the Advent
period, he will experience something of
parish life and assist in parish activities, insofar as he is able. At the end
of this period of formation, (i.e. at the end of Year 3), the seminarian will
usually be directed to enrol in a Clinical Pastoral Education programme at a
hospital chosen by his bishop.
in this stage of formation are assisted by a non-resident staff member who will
be available to them as a Mentor, who acts as an advisor and co-ordinator,
working together with the Rector, the Vice-Rector, the Spiritual Director and
the Dean of Studies.
At the end of
this period a decision is made as to whether the seminarian is ready for
advancement to the third stage of initial formation which involves the formal
study of Theology. This decision is made by the community of formators, with
the help of the seminarian himself, and passed on as advice to the bishop who
may confirm the decision or choose another course. Possibilities other than advancement may be:
i) a year’s pastoral placement in a parish; ii) a period spent working or
studying outside the seminary community but under some supervision and
direction from the seminary; iii) (especially for religious seminarians) a
return to the religious community to complete some stage of religious or
spiritual formation; iv) the termination of priestly formation.
Stage Three. The Stage of Theological Studies (or
“In this stage formation
concentrates on the configuration of the seminarian to Christ, Shepherd and
Servant, so that united to him, he can make his life a gift of self to
others.” (RF 68) Theology is
integrated with human, spiritual and pastoral formation to allow for the
gradual grounding of the seminarian in the likeness of the Good Shepherd. (see RF 69).
The study of
Theology and related subjects forms the core of academic life during this
period which typically lasts for four years at Vianney College. The first of
these years focuses on foundational subjects which are taught every year. The
remaining three years are covered in a cycle programme, every subject being
taught once in three years.
The details of
the academic courses in this period, as in the study of Philosophy, are spelt
out by the Urbaniana University which inspects our institute of Theology at
regular intervals to enable our affiliation with that university to continue
and thus make it possible for our seminarians to gain the Bachelor of Theology
at the end of their academic studies. To gain this degree, seminarians must
also complete three 4,000 word essays and sit for a comprehensive examination
at the end of their course.
At the beginning
of this third stage of formation it is possible to admit the seminarian among
the candidates for Orders. This decision is made by the seminarian’s bishop
following a formal petition from the seminarian and a recommendation by the
Rector and his staff.
Early in this
period of Theological Studies the seminarian is allotted a parish in his
diocese where he will gain much of his pastoral formation. The pastor of that
parish will assume the role of a formator, working in union with the seminary
Director of Pastoral Formation. The
seminarian will go to this parish for longer or shorter periods of placement as
arranged by the seminary formators in union with the pastor of the parish. The
seminarian will strive to get to know the parishioners who will also be
encouraged to contribute, under the pastor, to the formation of the seminarian.
period of theological studies the seminarian will receive the ministries of
lector and acolyte. Normally he will be considered for lector at the beginning
of second year Theology and acolyte at the beginning of third year. These
ministries involve liturgical and pastoral roles and the seminarian should be
given ample opportunities to exercise them. However, for seminarians, these two
ministries are seen more as a preparation for future service of Word and
Altar.(see RF 72)
As with the
second stage, the seminarians in this stage of formation are assisted by a
non-resident staff member who will be available to them as a Mentor, who
advises and coordinates, working together with the Rector, the Vice-Rector, the
Spiritual Director, the Dean of Studies and where applicable, a Diocesan
Director of Formation.
It is desirable
that at some stage during the period of Theological Studies that an Ignatian
retreat be arranged for each seminarian.
conclusion of this stage, or during the following one, if he has been judged
suitable by the bishop, after having heard the formators, the seminarian will
petition to receive diaconal ordination.” (RF
Stage Four. Pastoral Stage (Vocational Synthesis).
This stage is defined by RF
74 as “the time from leaving the seminary until the subsequent priestly
ordination.” It is normally expected that the seminarian will enter this stage
as a deacon, or receive diaconate soon after beginning this period, though
there could be cases where this plan is not followed. It will be largely lived
in a parish community away from the seminary, though under the supervision of
the seminary formation staff. Ideally,
the parish, which is chosen by “the Ordinary, by mutual agreement with the
Rector,” (RF 76) will be the parish
where the seminarian has done most of his pastoral formation, but this may not
always be possible or desirable.
Stage must last at least six months but can be extended indefinitely until, in
the opinion of all concerned, it seems appropriate to petition for ordination
to Priesthood. This occurs at a time determined by the bishop and his advisors,
including those who have played a part in formation.