The goal of seminary formation is to prepare priests with a comprehensive pastoral outlook. The entire training for the priesthood must have a thoroughly pastoral slant, because the purpose of the seminary is to form pastors of souls and consequently the pastoral aspect must receive special emphasis in all the other areas of priestly formation (Optatam Totius, 19).
The seminarian should progressively acquire a pastoral attitude and try to develop in himself, along with a book-knowledge of the subject, those practical abilities that would enable him to bring Christ’s grace and teaching to all humankind. This demands that meaningful contacts be established between the seminary and the world outside, both in the church establishment and in lay society. It is there that the real field of the apostolate is to be found.
The pastoral training of a seminarian should include catechetics and homiletics, the administration of the sacraments, spiritual direction, parochial administration, pastoral joint action with non-Catholics, and other aspects necessary for the building up of the body of Christ. Seminarians should be imbued with a true spirit of Catholicism that transcends diocesan and national boundaries and barriers imposed by differences of rites, and be disposed open-heartedly to assist others (Ratio Fundamentalis, 94, 96).
Throughout the whole scholastic year as well as in vacation time, provided that the bishops think it fit, the seminarian should engage himself in practical works of apostolate that form a necessary part of the strictly pastoral training and should be introduced into them in accordance with his age and with local conditions (Ratio Fundamentalis, 97).
During the holidays and vacation periods, the seminarian is expected to help his parish priest in the liturgical functions and in the pastoral activities as necessary. He should offer this help willingly, gladly, and generously, with the sole intent of working for the glory of God and the good of souls, and not for any material gain or advantage.
The programme for a seminarian’s formation is an integral part of his total formation and growth in pastoral charity. Hence the seminarian’s pastoral activity is to be planned, accompanied, supervised, and evaluated. The Director for Pastoral Activities will meet regularly with the different parish priests to foster co-operation and assess the experience acquired by the seminarians in the exercise of the pastoral responsibility assigned to him. Therefore, at least every semester, the Director for Pastoral Activities will meet the parish priest together with the seminarian concerned.
A seminarian’s pastoral programme is carried out during the weekend and holidays in the parish church to which he is assigned. First year seminarians remain in the parish where they reside.
During this pastoral outreach the seminarian is to be involved as much as possible in the various aspects of parish life with the aim of getting first-hand pastoral experience in strict collaboration with the parish priest. Deacons follow a more intense pastoral programme attaining to their ministry. Besides preaching the homily and administering the sacraments proper to them, they spend four days a week in their assigned parish to work more closely with the parish priest and other priests residing at the parish house.
The main purpose of pastoral supervision is to assist the seminarian in becoming aware of as well as in affirming and refining his pastoral skills. The seminarian is to reflect on a particular pastoral experience and write a report on this encounter highlighting the positive and negative factors influencing his encounter. These observations should be the focus of the pastoral supervision. Under the guidance of the supervisor the seminarian assesses himself from the theological, social, psychological, and cultural perspective and explore ways for improving his pastoral skills and consequently to work towards becoming the best pastoral minister possible.
The process of doing pastoral supervision is as follows:
- a verbatim report on a particular pastoral encounter;
- a written reflection on the pastoral experience;
- a written theological reflection on the pastoral experience;
- a critical discussion of all reports.