Human Formation


Admission to seminary formation at Kenrick presupposes that the candidate has attained sufficient growth in the dimension known as human formation. “Sufficient human formation for admission means not only an absence of serious pathology but also a proven capacity to function competently in ordinary human situations without need to do extensive therapeutic or remedial work to be fully functioning, a psycho-sexual maturity commensurate with chronological age, a genuine empathy that enables the applicant to connect well and personally with others, a capacity for growth and conversion, and a deep desire to be a man for others in the likeness of Christ” (PPF, n. 37). It is understood that human formation in the seminary assumes that the candidate has

the potential to move from self-preoccupation to an openness to transcendent values and a concern for the welfare of others; a history of sound and rewarding peer relationships; an ability to be honest with [himself] and with others; and an ability to trust the Church and the agents of formation (n. 89).

Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is the “foundation and center of all human formation” (n. 74). He who was taken from among men to be their eternal High Priest (Hebrews 5:1) possessed a fully-developed humanity. After this model, human formation in the seminary seeks to assure that the priest’s personality is a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their encounter with Jesus Christ: “The humanity of the priest is instrumental in mediating the gifts of Christ to people today” (PPF, n. 75; PDV, n. 43).

A Man of Communion: In order to fulfill the mission of priest and to serve as a bridge and not an obstacle to the spread of the Gospel, the candidate for the priesthood must develop the identity of a “man of communion” (n. 76). This is the proper goal of the human formation program. The identity of such a man may be described as one who makes a gift of himself and is able to receive the gift of others. Human formation helps to provide the candidate with an affective ability to lead in the style of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Communion and the Life of the Virtues: Human formation in the seminary cannot be understood apart from a clear and authentic understanding of the nature and vocation of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, a communio personarum. Thus, the goals of human formation at Kenrick assume, as philosophical, anthropological and theological underpinnings, the teachings enunciated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church relating to the nature of man (nn. 355-421) and to man’s dignity and vocation (nn. 1699-1948).

Human formation is, to a large extent, moral formation, even though moral formation extends to the whole of man’s vocation, a life in the Spirit. On the other hand, human formation can sometimes be more remedial, especially concerning the obstacles to human freedom which inhibit authentic communion, such as duress, anxiety, habit, and other psychological and social factors. A knowledge of and growth in the moral virtues assists each man in attaining mastery of the will, and therefore, mastery over himself. Growth in the virtues gives each man a greater facility in choosing the good (n. 1803); therefore, growth in the virtues and growth in human freedom go hand in hand. Of particular importance in this growth is the virtue of prudence. Prudence is the virtue by which a man is able to discern his true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it (n.1806).

The formation in the virtues contributes to a proper ordering of the passions, the movements of the sensitive appetite that incline one to act or not to act in the face of good or evil. Passions are morally qualified to the extent they engage reason and will (nn. 1763, 1767). Satisfaction and joy are signs in the life a virtuous person who is able to achieve the good.

A student who successfully pursues the program of human formation in the virtues will exhibit the qualities of truthfulness, respect for others, justice, integrity, affability, generosity, kindness, courtesy, and prudence. He will demonstrate good self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-mastery, including emotional self-control (PPF, n. 76).

Communion and the Capacity to Relate: There are certain human qualities which should flow from human formation in the seminary. In order to be a “man of communion” the candidate must not “be arrogant, or quarrelsome, but affable, hospitable, sincere in his words and heart, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of opening himself up to clear and brotherly relationships and of encouraging the same in others, and quick to understand, forgive and console” (PDV, n. 43). He must also have a correct sense of justice and be a lover of the truth. He must be able to be loyal, to respect every person, to be genuinely compassionate, and to be balanced in judgment and behavior.

A student who successfully pursues formation in the capacity to relate will relate to others in a positive manner and will be able to get along with others and work with them in community. He will be able to demonstrate skills for leadership and collaboration with others. He will be a man engaged in the life of the community.

Communion and Authentic Freedom: At creation, God endows the human person with certain inclinations, both spiritual and corporeal. These inclinations, especially the spiritual inclinations of intellect and will, give rise to freedom which itself is capable of growth and perfection as a capacity of human nature. Freedom is the capacity for self-giving. The authenticity of the living out of one’s vocation to communion depends upon the capacity for self-gift. Thus, human formation as a man of communion is also a formation in authentic human freedom.

Human formation seeks to help each man understand and realize his capacity for freedom to the extent necessary for an authentic commitment to the vocation to which God calls him. In that sense, human formation is an aid to each man’s pursuit of the good in order that his freedom may grow (CCC, n. 1732). This freedom is properly characterized as a freedom for excellence in the pursuit of one’s vocation. Freedom is not indifferent to the notion of the human good; it depends on the good and is drawn to it. Formation is an education in the means to a clearer recognition of the good, as well as the means to overcome those obstacles which hinder its pursuit.

Clear signs of authentic freedom include prudence, acceptance of responsibility, acceptance of ascetical simplicity, and respect for truth and for legitimate authority. A student will demonstrate his freedom, also, by his self-mastery and self-control. He will have the capacity to receive and integrate constructive criticism.

Communion and Chaste Celibacy: Human formation is particularly concerned with that aspect of nature related to the person as one called to communion. In the case of the candidate for the priesthood, this communion is ecclesial and is marked by an understanding and commitment to a celibate life. The freedom with which one embraces Holy Orders is characterized by the capacity for loving others in affective maturity, possessing the ability to live a true and responsible love, modeled on Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.

The gateway to communion is self-gift in love. Chastity, which comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, sets the heart free for genuine love, to live the “nuptial meaning” of the body in authentic communion. As the Catechism puts it, “Chastity is the school of the gift of the person” (n. 2346). Men called to the vocation of priesthood are to live chastity in continence. They are to be lovers of chastity.

Human formation for celibacy aims at an affective maturity that is indispensable for the person called to celibacy. This maturity is marked by personal integrity and the integral gift of self. The elements of the teaching on celibate chastity are similar to those for all forms of chastity, as outlined in the Catechism (nn. 2231-2359). Affective maturity is marked by prudence in relationships, by an ability to renounce anything that is a threat to chastity, by vigilance over body and spirit, and by a capacity for esteem in interpersonal relationships between men and women (PPF, nn. 78, 92).

In view of the priesthood, affective maturity should bring to human relationships “a strong, lively and personal love for Jesus Christ” (PPF, n. 79; PDV, n. 44). The student will demonstrate affective maturity and healthy psychosexual development. He will be clear in his sexual identity and will be able to maintain appropriate boundaries in relationships. He will have an ability to maintain wholesome friendships.

Communion and Obedience: The ecclesial dimension of the commitment to authentic communion requires formation in obedience. This obedience, while dependent upon grace, requires human effort. Formation in obedience is an education in moral conscience: “Such education calls from the depths of one’s own ‘self’ obedience to moral obligations and at the same time reveals the deep meaning of such obedience. It is a conscious and free response, and therefore a loving response, to God’s demands, to God’s love” (PDV, n. 44).

The obedience of the priest is made specific in the context of ecclesial communion. Priests can exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him. The promise of obedience they make to the bishop at the moment of ordination and the kiss of peace from him at the end of the ordination liturgy mean that the bishop considers them his co-workers, his sons, his brothers and his friends, and that they in return owe him love and obedience (CCC, n. 1567).

In the education for obedience, students should demonstrate a spirit of joyful trust, open dialogue, and generous cooperation with those in authority. The willingness to cooperate and to be held accountable are signs of maturity in obedience. Docility or openness to direction and a whole-hearted compliance with the seminary’s policies and programs are essential. As a result of human formation the student will have mature respect for those in authority in the Church and will be able to cooperate with them, especially with his ordinary and the Holy Father.

Communion and Simplicity: The student will develop a healthy asceticism demonstrated by the appropriate stewardship of resources and the avoidance of extravagance in the use and possession of material goods. In order to be in communion with the underprivileged, the poor and the weakest among us, the candidate for the priesthood must be “capable of witnessing to poverty with a simple and austere lifestyle, having learned the generous renunciation of superfluous things” (PDV, n. 30). The candidate to the priesthood should make manifest his intention to pursue the vocation to the priesthood without conditioning his “service to the Gospel and the Church upon the advantages and interests which can derive from it” (n. 30). He should be able to manifest honesty and integrity in the administration of the goods of the community. Moreover, he should be committed to an equitable distribution of goods among his fellow students and a respect for the common use of goods.

Another sign of simplicity for communion is a willingness to stand in solidarity with those who pursue justice in society and with those who are most at risk, especially the unborn, the sick and disabled, and the elderly. The candidate should be prepared to understand and discern the realities involved in the economic and social aspects of life and to promote the preferential option for the poor (n. 30).

Objectives of Human Formation

As a result of his engagement in the Human Formation Program, each candidate will demonstrate the following (PPF, n. 280a):

  • the human qualities of truthfulness, respect for others, justice, integrity, affability, generosity, kindness, courtesy, integrity, and prudence;
  • the capacity to relate to others in a positive manner and the ability to get along with others and work with them in the community;
  • good self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-mastery, including emotional self-control;
  • good physical and mental health;
  • a balanced life-style and balance in making judgments;
  • affective maturity and healthy psychosexual development;
  • clarity of masculine identity;
  • an ability to establish and maintain wholesome friendships;
  • the capacity to maintain appropriate boundaries in relationships;
  • skills for leadership and collaboration with women and men;
  • capacity to receive and integrate constructive criticism;
  • simplicity of life and stewardship of resources;
  • mature respect for and cooperation with Church authority; and
  • engagement in the community life of the seminary.

The Activities of the Human Formation Program

The specific components of the Human Formation Program include the twelve annual conferences and consequent formation sessions moderated by the formation advisors for each class. In the area of human formation, these conferences cover the areas of celibacy, simplicity of life, obedience, and the cardinal virtues. As part of the integration of the entire program, students meet monthly with their respective formation advisors.

While human formation takes place in a variety of settings in the seminary, a key component of the program is the formation class “Priestly Identity, Celibacy, and Ethics.”

From the Intellectual Formation Program, Human Formation draws upon and integrates certain aspects of the following courses: Pastoral Counseling; Marriage and Orders; Social Ethics (Justice); and Marriage, Family, and Sexuality—the latter of which is informed by a thorough introduction to the Theology of the Body. In the Pastoral Formation Program, Human Formation also benefits from theological reflection on the experiences of Supervised Ministry. Spiritual Direction and other elements of Spiritual Formation inform Human Formation especially in the reinforcement of the growth in self-reflection, self-possession, conversion and repentance, integrity, freedom, docility, serenity, obedience, simplicity, and personal maturity. The spirit of self-gift is reinforced in the understanding and celebration of the Mass.

Students are invited to discuss human formation issues with the members of the faculty, especially the Dean of Students, the Coordinator of Human Formation Services, and the Formation Advisors. Occasionally, students are referred to outside psychological services for more focused work.

Students are afforded other individual and group opportunities for growth in human formation in formal and informal settings. These include student interaction with others in extracurricular activities such as intramural sports, and in diocesan agency meetings, parish meetings, and inter-seminary days of theological conversation.

The seminary encourages attentiveness to one’s physical well-being through healthy habits of diet and exercise. The seminary encourages use of the well-furnished workout facility on campus and can arrange diet counseling and personal training.