Pastoral Formation


Priestly formation reaches its culmination in Pastoral Formation when the student enters into communion with the love of Christ, the Good Shepherd. It is the aim of the Pastoral Formation program at Kenrick School of Theology to assist the man who presents himself for sacred ordination to act in the community in the Name and Person of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church. After the model of Christ, the Good Shepherd, pastoral formation seeks to foster the knowledge and skill to teach and to preach, to celebrate the sacraments, to respond to pastoral needs, and to take the initiative required by leadership (PPF, n. 238). The heart of this formation is the priestly character, a life poured out in pastoral charity, with a sense of zeal and joy.

All the other areas of formation come together in pastoral formation so that the man who hears the call to the priesthood may truly possess the mind of Christ. Pastoral formation, however, does more than simply combine intellectual, human, and spiritual formation. It seeks above all to achieve a successful integration of these three so that the priest can be an effective instrument for the mission, message, and person of Jesus Christ.

The Pastoral Formation Program provides an anticipated experience of priestly identity, a true ministry of current service in the Church, and the confirmation of a ministerial spirituality, all of which lead to a continued growth in pastoral competency in the student minister. The program also fosters an integrated pastoral identity for the student through a reflection that combines the theological, spiritual, human, and pastoral elements of the Seminary program.

A Shepherd’s Heart: The goal of pastoral formation at Kenrick is to foster within the candidate a heart like that of the Good Shepherd, with the Shepherd’s particular care for the poor, the marginalized, the infirm, and the young. "The whole training of students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd" (Optatam totius, 4).

The grace to be a shepherd comes with ordination, but at the same time the priest must strive consciously and continuously to imitate Christ. Through this cooperation, the priest reveals Christ in his person and ministry and becomes, in the traditional expression, an alter Christus, another Christ.

The centerpiece of the Pastoral Formation Program of Kenrick School of Theology is a program of Supervised Ministry that combines site placements in an ecclesial, parochial setting, on-site supervision by an experienced pastor, and on-campus theological reflection led by members of the seminary faculty. Each site placement is designed to give the student first-hand experiences in a setting that anticipates what a new priest my find following ordination. The parish placement allows the student to learn about the local Church and to develop bonds with local priests and a local presbyterate. It also exposes him to the many salaries and volunteer lay persons and religious who help the parish run smoothly. In this experience the student learns to collaborate with others and to lead God’s people, directing a community under the prompting of the Holy Spirit in close cooperation with the local Ordinary.

All ministry follows the threefold pattern of Christ, prophet, priest, and shepherd. Accordingly, Pastoral Formation first emphasizes the proclamation of the Word of God, because the priest is called upon to interpret lived experiences in the light of God’s Word and the Church’s tradition. Pastoral Formation emphasizes the student’s participation in the sacraments and a limited leadership role in celebrating them, because the priest is called upon to love the sacraments by which he himself lives and by which above all Jesus Christ nourishes and sustains his people. Pastoral Formation emphasizes continuous contact with the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the dying, because the priest is called upon to show them the love of Christ the Good Shepherd, in whose heart they have a privileged place.

Through these experiences, the Pastoral Formation Program aims to foster the following:

  • The effective development in students of the ministerial skills of the teacher, the celebrant, the shepherd;
  • The ability to relate to people from various cultural, societal, and ecclesial backgrounds; and
  • A personal synthesis of human, spiritual and intellectual formation that the student can use in a parish setting and in the face of a variety of pastoral challenges.

The Activities of the Pastoral Formation Program

The heart of the Pastoral Formation Program is Supervised Ministry, an assignment to a particular parish in any of a variety of settings—urban, suburban, transitional, Hispanic, African-American, or rural. The assignments are administered under the direction of the Pastoral Formation Program of Kenrick School of Theology, with the active assistance of an assigned pastor-supervisor and, in some cases, of the staff of the parishes involved.

The pastors and parishes involved in this program are identified in close cooperation with the President-Rector and the Archbishop of Saint Louis, who has a relationship with the pastors, the seminary, and the students in particular. The Pastor-Supervisor of the parish plays an utterly crucial role in the pastoral formation of men for the priesthood. In many ways, the Pastor-Supervisor is an extension of the faculty of the seminary. He respects the unique role of the priest in the life of the Church and can introduce candidates for the priesthood to pastoral ministry and promote within them the growth of pastoral charity—the very heart of Christ. Without dedicated pastors who are wise shepherds of their flocks and faithful to the Church, pastoral formation is impossible.

Structure of Parish Supervised Ministry: The student, in cooperation with the on-site Pastor-Supervisor and the Director of Pastoral Formation, completes a learning covenant designed to meet the student’s ongoing formational goals. With the assistance of the Pastor-Supervisor, the student outlines specific means of meeting the objectives through parish responsibilities and opportunities.  The student relies on the Pastor-Supervisor to provide guidance that best meets student and parish needs for growth.

The students work in the parish on a weekly basis throughout the school year, with formal supervision taking place on a monthly basis in one-hour sessions with the Pastor-Supervisor. During supervision sessions the Pastor-Supervisor may require specific means of assessing a student’s growth, such as focus reports, journals, critical incidents, or verbatim transcripts. The ministerial work in parishes is arranged according to the following themes:

  • Theology I concentrates on the pastoral care of the poor, working with the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society or another charitable outreach within the parish (e.g. Helping Hands, Christian Action Group, or Good Samaritans).  Students also have the option of working in the area of youth Ministry or another “special” ministerial project.
  • Theology II concentrates on the care of the elderly, homebound, sick and dying, including home visits, visits to hospitals, and visits to nursing homes.
  • Theology III concentrates on religious education in any of a variety of settings: a Catholic high school, grade school, parish school of religion, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children, adult education, etc.
  • Theology IV concentrates on ordained diaconal ministry in weekend parish assignments, in residence from Friday through Sunday evenings.
  • Additional “special” ministry projects might include a matter of special interest to the student and one that complements a need within the parish to which he is assigned (e.g., Pro-life activity, Evangelization, or Ecumenism, etc.). These additional projects are undertaken only with authorization of the Director of Supervised Ministry.
  • Over and above the regular activities of the Pastoral Formation Program, the seminary offers the option of a parochial internship to dioceses and students who may profit by such. Typically this program consists of a 10-month period of residential parish activity, supervised onsite by the pastor and from a distance by a liaison of the seminary. The parochial internship is considered part of the Ordination Program, but not a part of either the M.Div. or the M.A. Degree programs. Its details are adapted and particularized to each participant.

    Theological Reflection: The process of Theological Reflection is an integral component of Supervised Ministry. In one-hour sessions on a semimonthly basis, the students meet with designated members of the faculty in order to reflect on pastoral experience, to relate this experience to classroom learning, and to  monitor the achievement of priestly identity, ministerial skills, and a diocesan spirituality. The crucial question for reflection sessions is always the same: how is God at work in the student’s developing priestly spirituality, and how is the student responding to the divine impulse, especially at the deepest level?

    It is important to note that Supervised Ministry involves more than simply apostolic work. The experience of supervision is carefully designed to draw out the meaning of ministerial experiences and to offer challenge and support for ministerial growth. Sessions are structured and documented, and each unit of Supervised Ministry ends with a written evaluation by the Pastor-Supervisor and written self-evaluation by the student. These materials form an important part of the student’s annual formative evaluation at the seminary, and they are kept in his file during the entire time of his participation in the seminary’s programs.

    Objectives of Pastoral Formation

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

    • A missionary spirit, zeal for evangelization, and ecumenical commitment;
    • A spirit of pastoral charity and openness to serve all people;
    • A special love for and commitment to the sick and suffering, the poor and outcasts, prisoners, immigrants, and refugees;
    • A pastoral prudence, applying general principles to particular circumstances;
    • A range of appropriate pastoral skills and competencies for ministry;
    • An ability to exercise pastoral leadership;
    • An ability to carry out pastoral work cooperatively with others and an appreciation for the varying charisms and vocational calls within the Church;
    • An ability to work in multicultural settings with people of varying ethnic and racial and religious backgrounds;
    • A commitment to the proclamation, celebration, and service of the Gospel of life; and,
    • An energy and zeal for pastoral ministry.